If you had a similar upbringing as me, then you were exposed to the Aesop Fables. Aesop, a man who lived roughly 2600 years ago, is credited with writing hundreds of short stories (fables) that were designed to teach an important moral lesson. One of those fables is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“.
There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said:
“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”
As the moral states, the boy cried wolf so many times that the people stopped listening to him. Unfortunately, it seems someone in my Virginia did not read or hear this fable growing up. I would like to introduce you to Sharon Brooks Hodge.
On April 23, 2013, students from the Piedmont Governor’s School in Martinsville, VA presented a quilt to the Martinsville City Council representing their learning process during their course. During their presentation, a student was describing a panel which they made representing a trip to the Martinsville hydroelectric dam. The exchange is as follows (account from the Martinsville Media):
Each student made a square for the quilt of an event that impressed them during the course. The square in question illustrated a field trip to the Martinsville hydroelectric dam. “…The small black person represents us before we learned all the information and then the bigger gold person is how he feels after he’s been enriched with all the different knowledge” a student said as the quilt was being displayed before Council.
“Excuse me. Um, why is the small black person the negative image?” Hodge said.
“It’s not negative. It’s just showing how much we increased” said the student.
“I take offense to that” said Hodge.
After the rest of the squares were explained, the student who made the square that upset Hodge approached the podium and told her “I didn’t mean to make it offensive.”
“Whoever reviewed that to make a small black person the before and the gold which you are afterwards, considering you only talked to 10 percent of black people in a city that’s 45 percent African-American, I take offense to that and I hope that you do not display that” Hodge said.
Is this quilt square racist?
In the eyes of Councilwoman Hodge, racism hides around every corner, or in this case on a quilt. It’s true she could have taken issue when the kid said “small black person” instead of “the person on the left”, but her reaction was totally uncalled for and represents the issue with people crying wolf over racism.
This is an innocent project. There was nothing in what the kid said or represented to show that the stick figure was anything but a generic person. Hodge projected her “racist” beliefs upon the image and the child’s intention. By reacting on her false perception, she not only ruined the good intentions of the students, but has once again distracted the world from future cases of real racism.
Racism will happen. There is no doubt about that. As long as there is differences in skin tones, there will be people who will fail to look past it in the hopes to see the glowing golden person inside. I hope that those people, and Councilwoman Hodge herself, will visit the hydroelectric dam within their souls in order to come out enlightened on the other side and cast off the ignorance of racism.