WestSouthwest: E-book explores race past and present in Battle Creek (rebroadcast)
This week's WestSouthwest is a rebroadcast from October. It features the Battle Creek Enquirer E-book We Are One.
Battle Creek Enquirer reporter Justin Hinkley opens We Are One with a story about his fourth grade class at Post Elementary School. In the forward to the e-book Hinkley describes how his mother made him write a letter of apology after he used a racially insensitive term in class. It was in response to something an African-American classmate said. So Hinkley says the first draft of his letter to his teacher, a black woman, tried to shift responsibility. Hinkley says his mother made him write the letter again.
"I still say to this day that's the most important lesson that she taught me."
Hinkley says his mother made him write a proper apology, and accept responsibility for his actions. He says he chose to start the collection of news coverage with that story because it's important to discuss race and the mistakes everyone makes.
The e-book We Are One chronicles stories of race and diversity. That includes the reaction of students at Battle Creek Central High School after a shooting. Students held a march to protest the negative perception of their school. The march was called "We Are One." The title of the e-book comes from that march. It also includes stories about the decision to close Albion High School and send students from the predominantly African-American district to predominantly white Marshall High School. Stories about an incident where a student held a belt shaped like a noose at African-American students outside the Calhoun County Career Center and the reaction are also in the e-book.
Calhoun Race Impact Alliance Director J.R. Reynolds (who is an occasional contributor to WMUK's Arts & More) says those events are troubling. But he says they have prompted dialogue about race and diversity. Both Hinkley and Reynolds say having a conversation about race is uncomfortable and people will make mistakes. Reynolds says he tries to show his own foibles on race and diversity on his blog 4 Humans being. Reynolds also writes occasional columns for the Battle Creek Enquirer.
The e-book also includes a series of stories produced for Black History month in February. Those include stories about Battle Creek's involvement with the Underground Railroad that brought slaves to freedom in the north. But also stories about prominent citizens in Battle Creek, including John Harvey Kellogg, who promoted eugenics, and other troubling stories about race in the Battle Creek area.
Both Hinkley and Reynolds say understanding history, the good and the bad, is important for understanding race relations today.