Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we created “Q & Abe” – a podcast that investigates real questions from visitors to the Cottage. This bonus episode accompanies the second episode of Season 2, If people saw that slavery was getting started, why didn’t they stop it?
In our conversations surrounding the questions in the show, we sometimes encounter stories that don’t fit within the main episode, but are compelling enough that we don’t want to keep them to ourselves. In talking through this question, several of our guests shared with us stories about their personal experiences encountering race and the other legacies of slavery. You’ll hear from Robin and Terry from Fort Monroe, and Catherine and Andre from Point Made Learning. In addition to the embedded media player below, you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts. You also can read below for a transcript of the episode (transcript coming soon).
TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE 2.3 BONUS CONTENT
Callie Hawkins: Hi everybody – This is Callie and Joan from Q&Abe, a podcast by President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Joan Cummins: In our conversations surrounding the questions in the show, we sometimes encounter stories that don’t fit within the main episode, but are compelling enough that we don’t want to keep them to ourselves.
CH: This bonus episode accompanies episode 2.2: If people saw that slavery was getting started, why didn’t they stop it? So if you haven’t listened to that episode yet, that would be a good place to start.
JC: In talking through this question, several of our guests shared with us stories about their personal experiences encountering race and the other legacies of slavery. Let’s start with Robin and Terry from Fort Monroe.
Robin Reed: I may have shared this story with Terry, I can’t remember, but, 6 years old in downtown Richmond at the Main Street train station, they still had Black and White bathrooms. And I didn’t know any different, and I wondered in to the Black bathroom, and I had a very nice older black gentleman escort me out, take me to my father, and, and deliver me to him. And my father now was stuck in the position of having to explain to me what that was all about. And it was like, oh my goodness, you know? Share with them Terry about your first exposure of having lived in a military family, then coming stateside, and that’s – a whole different perspective.
Terry Brown: Yeah, I, you know, like I said, I grew up in Germany and Holland most of my life, and then right around the time I started looking at colleges – which all my friends were white, or from Italy, and all that kind of stuff. They were going to go to Wisconsin and Minnesota, um, and my cousins called and said “Terry, we, we think you should look at this Historically Black College in Louisiana because we think you need some culture.” Um, [laughs] so I remember showing up at this Historically Black College, and the first thing I see is all these men working on the side of the road, and what struck me about that was that it was an all-black construction crew. I had never seen that in my life, and I tell that story to people sometimes and they go “that’s weird,” but I had never seen that. And I had never been in a space where all the lawyers and scientists were black, even the president of the college was black. So, that was a really fascinating experience those four years. And it made for a really interesting Superintendent because I bring all of those experiences into this space.
RR: I just want Terry to know that I listen to his stories. [laughter]
CH: Catherine and André also shared with us one of their experiences discussing their film “I’m Not Racist, Am I?”
Catherine Wigginton-Greene: We’re in a lot of different spaces, but we often go to schools, and there was a high school where we were showing the film and there are about 900, um, I think there were 900 juniors and seniors in the auditorium. We showed the film to them and we were in the Midwest, so a very nice, polite Midwestern community. They welcomed us when we arrived, they were all very nice and kind, and when we showed the film – which can be really challenging because it really takes a look systemic racism, but really, specifically at how young people are understanding it and what they are going to do about it. And at the end of the film, we ask people in the room to throw out one word to describe what they’re thinking or feeling, and the responses we got were really… [sighs]
André Robert Lee: Brutal and ugly, they were really, they were really nasty, you know, to the point where it was shocking. And it was sad to think that teenagers were thinking this way. You know, really complicated, and, and the one major incident that happened during that was, one kid yelled out and said the n-word. And it was directed at me clearly, because the two of us were in the front of the room having a, leading a conversation, and it was such a moment of pause. And, you know, in that moment, for me I said okay, we cannot not stop and deal with this – we have to deal with just happened. So I kind of turned to the room and said we all heard what just happened, let’s just try and deal with it. You know we sort of worked through it the best we can. Um, afterwards folks came up to us saying, “oh my gosh, we’re so sorry, that never happens here, this is not who we are.” And we both said, you can’t say that anymore. Because it did happen here, and it’s showing that it is who you are, and our idea of engaging in that exact moment was um, we saw that you know, we saw the love the room needed. We saw the care and concern the room needed. [siren in background] Because we both could have been like “you know what, forget about it” and really just called it in and had a conversation and ended the event, but we didn’t do that. We decided to stay and really lean in and engage the room in the conversation, and try and help them understand why someone may have felt comfortable calling that out.
CWG: Yeah, and André addressed it immediately in the moment, but what really was so, you know, just disappointing, deeply disappointing to us in that moment, was that no faculty member, no administrator, no adult, no other adult in that room, and no other student did anything to quiet that very vocal minority of students who were being so completely hateful. And, we were flooded with them coming to us at the end of the program, giving us hugs, some of them were in tears, saying, you know, “I’m so sorry, we’re so sorry this happened, this is not who we are, this is not who we are.” And, all we could say was, well, you didn’t show us who you were. That was an opportunity that was lost on them, to actually show us who they were. So, you can say who you are or who you are not, but we needed them to go from that moment and say, okay now though you cannot pretend that this is not a part of your community, that there is not this ignorance, in some cases bigotry, and I mean, outright hatred that doesn’t exist and is lurking within your, in the walls of this institution. And, now that you know that, what will you do? Now you have an opportunity to show us who you are by not letting those few voices be the loudest voices in the room. The next time, will you be the louder voices in the room? And, that was our challenge to them, and our challenge often when we’re out on the road doing this work and trying to get people to be prepared and inspired to speak up when they have those opportunities.
JC: We hope you’ve enjoyed these extra tidbits – we’ll see you in a week with our next full episode! This episode was produced by me, Joan Cummins, and Callie Hawkins. Music for Q&Abe was written, performed, and is copyrighted by Clancy Newman.
CH: Q&Abe is possible thanks to generous supporters of President Lincoln’s Cottage. To find out how you can support this podcast and other programming, visit www.lincolncottage.org. You can also write to us at [email protected].
JC: President Lincoln’s Cottage is a home for brave ideas. Stay curious!