You didn’t really even have to ask, but Bruce Perens stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In 1997, I wrote non-discrimination provisions into the Debian Free Software Guidelines, which then became the Open Source Definiton. While they still stand, they have been constantly under attack.
My personal experience with prejudice comes from how I was treated as a neurologically handicapped child. But I am also subject to ageism, and most bigots do not consider me to be “white” because of my ethnic Jewish origin.
There has been some (fortunately unsuccessful) movement to cast aspersion on Open Source as the product of “old white men”. This is humorous because of the explicitly non-discriminatory nature of the work, and its origin within the Debian team, which has always been very diverse. Nobody should be rejecting anyone’s work due to their skin color.
Of late, I have come out with my discrimination story. It wasn’t color, but my speech and motor handicaps (then severe). On my first day in first grade, the teacher, on hearing me speak, took me by the hand and led me to another classroom, leaving me there. Back then, they called it the retarded children’s class. We’d have a nicer name for it today.
The first-grade teacher did this without having me examined, and if she told anyone in the school at all, the message wasn’t given to my parents. One of the things they did not do in that class was teach reading. Eventually my parents realized, from my description of my classmates, that something was very wrong. They got a lawyer.
Back then, around 1962, it was not accepted that handicapped students should be mainstreamed with the other children. Some thought we would slow the other students down and would be an unacceptable burden on the teacher. So, there were special classes or special schools where we could be out of the sight of the normally abled people.
This did not teach the normally-abled people to be accepting of the handicapped. We were different and scary, and they were given no experience in interacting with us.
Some children with motor deficits find handwriting difficult or painful. Those who do may develop a very good memory in compensation – as I have. I can still see that 1st grade teacher in my mind today.
Once I returned to her class, under the threat of a lawsuit and without her willingness, she was filled to the top and over with resentment. Every time I interacted with her, she explained to me, in front of the other children, that I did not belong in her class. The other children were actually told by this teacher that I was retarded, which set the way that I would be treated by many of my school peers all through the elementary grades. A lawyer-required test determined my IQ was 140 at the time, but this didn’t matter to my peers or the bad teacher.
While today handicapped students have Individualized Education Plans, and Accommodations that help them, nothing like that existed back then. It wasn’t until junior high school that I was placed in a class with a speech therapist. I had that for a few years and then they put me in rhetoric class every year through 12th grade. It didn’t fix my speech, but made me a good public speaker. Many people, on hearing me speak, would ask what country I came from.
My speech and coordination issues diminished on their own as I got older.
As an adult, I have had the police called on me at least once, simply for being someone who moves differently, and was thus considered a threat. I still get problems – especially in stores – because of the way I move, ranging from a woman screaming in terror (just because of the way I walked in, no kidding) to extra attention from security guards. If you move differently, people will consider you “creepy”. That word originates from “creeping”, moving abnormally.
The biggest damage from school wasn’t physical, though. Having such a difficult time didn’t help me with some of the subjects I should have been learning, and I am still innumerate by the standards of the computer and electronic engineers I work with today. In retrospect, some of the scenes I remember read as neurosis – one teacher even damaging equipment in his rage. I hope the classroom is better supervised today.
So, if you wonder why some of those students with darker skin don’t do as well, when they seem to be given the same school opportunities as you, it’s because they don’t really have the same opportunities at all. What they face, beside you in the school every day, impedes them.
Black lives matter, and unfortunately the place where Black people might need the most support isn’t what anyone is trying to fix right now. K-to-12 schooling is at least as important, and is as painfully underfunded, and as likely to let them down, as it was in 1962.
The solution so far, because we just can’t spend the money to have good primary schools, is to take away learning days to do testing and penalize the schools whose students test poorly. No surprise that these are often ones where the poor people live.
So, I hope we fix the police and other adult prejudice issues. But let’s please fix things for our kids. Otherwise, we will have another generation of underprivileged people, and another generation of people of all colors who have so little understanding of politics and the world that they vote for quick fixes and tyrants. Other countries, many poorer than ours, have achieved great primary schools that treat people fairly and educate them well. The USA can too.