This is a paradoxical situation. Visiting creative writing instructors conducted an exercise in which they invite students from the Horace Mann School, supposedly a prestigious school in the Bronx asked students to write words anonymously on index cards — remembrances, colors and references to pop-culture icons — that would then converge as poems which their peers would read out loud. It was supposed to be an exercise in free thought and these poems were to be read out loud to a group of illustrious people. Well it appears that the students took the exercise seriously and delivered some very provocatively harsh against blacks and gays. Everyone was dumbstruck, no one did anything to stop it and the poem was read in its entirety. In confusion there was laughter and nonplussed looks amongst the adults in the room. The principal took responsibility for what followed and apologized to parents.
Some students from the affected group felt the sting of racism and teachers and those present are left in shock and now its couldda wouldda shouldda self-recriminations.
I say it is paradoxical because if students are asked to be provocative, to give their free opinions in poems can we deny a student the right to his or her opinion just because it does not mesh with ours or the politically correct version.
The content of that poem does not define blacks or gays but it define the person or persons whose opinions they are. It allows people to show who they are and to be out in the open so that others know who they are dealing with. Those who do not subscribe to such beliefs might want to avoid people like these particularly if they run into them in a dark alley.
I think society has to come to an understanding about free speech. What is stifled goes under and evolves into something else. It’s either we have free speech or we do not as a society. It is for society to determined. What are we prepared to sacrifice for all our free speech. What are we prepared to sacrifice for democracy. Democracy and free speech go hand in had.
Perhaps those students or the one student who wrote such words is/are crying for help. He himself may be gay and he himself may be fighting his own internalized oppression which stems from a belief that someone lied to him as a child by telling him s/he is better than blacks and when he finds blacks better than him in some ways perhaps intellectually, physically or whatever, he is confused. This might be a confused child who needs help.
Are we there yet?