We have had visionary leaders who have urged us to work together to achieve this kind of society. One of them is the great John Lewis who called upon people to speak up and work together to do something when they encountered injustices. And building inter-racial solidarity is vital in our fi ght against systemic racism, our common enemy. You have recently drafted a children’s book entitled “Mina Makes Some Good Trouble” and you have quoted Mr. John Lewis in that book. What inspired you to start work on this book? We have to move beyond one-shot “diversity trainings” and cultural song-and-dance routines and towards a sustained multi-pronged approach that is both reactive and proactive. I tend to disagree with people who are appalled by the brutal violence directed at people of color and who exclaim, “This is not who we are, as Americans.” Bigotry and hate have always marked who we are as a nation. Good Trouble as a Strategy for Addressing Injustices Ed Conn Interview with Lorna Gonsalves Lorna, thank you for sitting down with Toledo Streets. You’ve devoted much of your career to teaching and working with youth to examine and address racial bigotry. Today, as we witness increasing racial bigotry and violence, what are some insights that you would like to share? In recent years, we have witnessed a surge in violence directed by many descendants of older immigrants towards citizens of color as well as towards newer immigrants. First, we have to remember that the problem is not about a few bad apples. The problem of racial bigotry and the ensuing violence directed at various racial and ethnic groups is one that is woven into the very fabric of the United States. Racial bigotry is systemic and it is built into every institution in this country. Laws and policies to monitor and hold institutions accountable are necessary but not suffi cient. For long term change, we have to work with our children. We have to help them to think critically, act responsibly, and imagine new possibilities for a kinder, gentler world. This brings me to the next question. As a sociologist, educator and community worker, what insights do you have to offer? I have taught Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies and have facilitated a number of community forums in which people talk about matters related to race, class, and gender. I can tell you that the majority of my students as well as community members have never really refl ected on or discussed these matters. Many of them regretted not having done so at earlier ages and they are hungry for opportunities to learn more and do something about racial bigotry in their communities. If we are to build a just and equitable multi-racial society, then we must engage students at a much deeper level. We have to help them to develop their ability to recognize and appreciate their common humanity and their individual and collective responsibility to speak up and push for a society in which everyone feels respected and valued. Children, today, spend far too much time watching television or playing video games. Many of these shows and games reinforce bigotry and violence. A large proportion of today’s kids hardly ever engage in conversations about feelings, emotions, or the state of our world. These same children are also at a loss when it comes to handling diffi cult situations. Parents and teachers express the need for engaging children in these kinds of conversations. They help children to develop empathy and to reach out to others who are hurting. John Lewis’ call to make good trouble is one that has great signifi - cance in today’s world and it has to reach young children too. In recent years, children have been bombarded with images of large groups of people marching through streets. Some groups march and chant and hold signs that called for justice. Other groups march carrying weapons and symbols of hate. Children remain afraid and confused. It is important for children to distinguish between making good trouble and making bad trouble. The former helps to promote the common good while the latter is divisive and dangerous. “Mina Makes Good Trouble” tells the story of a little fi sh who could not bear to see other fi sh getting hurt. Remembering her grandmother’s stories about making good trouble, the little fi sh worked with her friends and they set out to make some good trouble of their own. Have you shared the draft with any individuals or groups? If so, what was the reaction? Yes. I’ve shared the draft with a few children and adults and am heartened by the ensuing discussions. Parents like it because it provides an entry point to discuss some important issues of our time. A couple of groups have spoken with me about reading the story to groups of children and following up with discussions. Are you concerned that for all the social justice awareness we can bring to our children there will be a continued push from others to teach their children hate and prejudice? Prejudice and hate are learned at very early ages. They are reinforced in many homes, schools, and places of worship. Sadly, far too many children feel left and left behind. The protagonist in Mina Makes Good Trouble is emphatic when she declares that “everyone belongs everywhere.” Teaching young children to appreciate our common humanity, to develop empathy, to speak out and do something about problems that they encounter, and to employ non-violent approaches to resolving confl icts might be some of the most important lessons that we can introduce in our schools today. Dr. Lorna Gonsalves,is a sociologiest, educator, and community worker Mina and Omar Page 9

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