A Letter to the Editors

In February, The Polygon published a feature piece about issues concerning race at Poly. At the end of the piece we asked our readers to contact us in order to initiate a conversation that is desperately needed for the betterment of our community. Here is English teacher Eva Freeman's response.


Blythe Poor

Eva Freeman, Featured Writer

Dear Polygon Editors,

In 1992, when I received the news that I had been admitted to Yale University, a white student in my school told me that I had, as a result of affirmative action, taken his place. This, of course, was ludicrous for the following reason: He was a C+ student. We all knew this because, much like our students here at Poly, we routinely swapped information about grades. But perhaps most telling was the fact that those who made academic distinction semester after semester had their names posted in the school’s central corridor. Mine had appeared there every semester of my five-year tenure. It was haunting that someone could so easily with a simple phrase render those achievements invisible.

A few months ago, I traveled to Ghana to visit a company that my grandfather founded there sixty years ago. At dinner with their Executive Team, I was told that I was “black culturally” but that I had “a white mind.” They asked me (as evidence of my condition) why I continued to engage my fellow countrymen in the same argument over and over again. “The African,” one explained, “sees an obstacle and goes around it.” There was a chorus of head nods. We, Americans, both white and black, see an obstacle and, regardless of the results, confront it over and over again. I remembered thinking almost the very same thing when I visited South Africa ten years before. It seemed, in the aftermath of apartheid, that both sides had been complicit like gladiators in an emotionally abusive relationship in an extended argument.

In other words, why continue this fight for recognition of my race’s worth? Why not simply disengage? Perhaps because, at the end of the day, that African Executive was right. I am an American, and I believe that I, like my white counterparts, am entitled to equity and with it the unhindered “pursuit of happiness.” After the recent presidential elections, a noted scholar took a long, hard look at America’s past. In his award winning book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi wrote about what he discovered. “I saw,” he explained, “a dual and dueling history of racial progress and the simultaneous progression of racism. I saw the antiracist force of equality and the racist force of inequality marching forward, progressing in rhetoric, in tactics, in policies.” In other words, the struggle is real and the struggle continues. Like my student and Polygon staff member, Jamila Blair, I believe there is joy to be found in solidarity and, with that joy, ultimately hope.

All the best,

Ms. Freeman