Just off of Interstate 40 in Arkansas, there is a small town called Clarksville with a dark past. Like the rest of the state, it is primarily composed of smaller sized, rural towns with pre-dominantly white populations. Even the capital city of Arkansas is smaller than most major cities across the country. Like other states in the south, Arkansas has places like Clarksville, towns with bad race relations issues.
I attended Clarksville High School between the years of 1998 until 2000, after moving back to Arkansas from Decatur, Georgia. In my first year attending Clarksville High School, in the tenth grade, I was made aware of something very sickening in the school. During my sophmore year, I began to see flyers for a fundraising event that the school was hosting in the basketball gym, not only was the fundraising event mandatory but offensive.
Their fund raising event was a slave auction, in which they brought in a real auctioneer to auction off students standing next to the auctioneer as slaves, in front of all the students who attended. Not only was I in total shock, but I was completely offended that my school thought it was funny to re-enact a slave auction and laugh about it at school.
A slave auction that so many of the students’ ancestors were subjected to, and were then cruelly treated as property. In my outrage, I contacted my family at home as soon as I could, to inform them what I was being for to experience. By the next day my father came into the school and had a very heated conversation with the principal and his staff at the high school about why this event needed to end, and why it was a horrible decision. The school finally agreed not to hold this event again, but not of their free will, they debated it for a while. They claimed that they had been doing it for eighteen years, and they had not received any complaints.
Later that day, it was announced to all the classes over the intercom system that the slave auction event would not be held again. While I was rejoicing on the inside, and irate that it was taking place to begin with, most of the white students in my class were angry that it would not continue. Keep in mind that this town has a long history of racial hatred and is conveniently located less than two hours from Harrison, Arkansas; a town used as a base for the KKK national headquarters.
This experience taught me several things:
- A lot of white people have a serious issue being confronted about doing something that is clearly racist, and refusing to admit it at all costs, for the sake of their conscious.
- A lot of white people have a serious problem with black people standing up for themselves, even when the problem is legitimate.
- Just because a white person is in a position of authority, leadership, or have attended/completed an institution of higher learning, it doesn’t mean that they actually became more civilized or more open minded. So many white people attend college and will refuse to accept anything that contradicts what they learned growing up about being open to diversity; changing their minds about racism, stereotypes, and prejudice; and making ethical decisions that affect minorities.