5:41 PM

As you all so very well know, I am a bit obsessed with education. But, what some may not know, is that I work at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, as a part of the Teen Program.  How do the two connect? Tune in for some more mod-podge on my own experiences at MOCA, the importance of language, the institution of education, and the disparity of opportunity between races.


The major premise of the MOCA Teen Program is to plan "Teen Night", an event that showcases student art, with activities, live music, and more. However, a good portion of our time is spent talking about art and social issues. This is one of the parts of the program I especially enjoy, because it gives myself and the other teens an opportunity to voice our perspective and learn others'. MOCA Teens has made me ponder a lot of underlying themes that affect us daily-- especially race. (As has debate. On another note, I recommend seeking out extracurricular activities that encompass your passions and provide the means to speak about real world stuff. I have learned so much from MOCA and debate. Anyways.) Race is a huge topic at MOCA, from the conversations we have to the space we are in. Let me get to it: MOCA Teens is 47% white. Comparatively, every school I've ever attended has had minority rates of 90% or higher-- my high school, HTPA, is currently 98% minority. So, it is fair to say this is my first major experience being and interacting in a majority- white space. It has been...enlightening. At one point I had a sort of epiphany, realizing that life is not HTPA. That, for a while (at least until Hispanics become the majority in the U.S., hehehe), this is what life in American society is going to be like. That realization, to me, has been a tad problematic.

My experiences at MOCA concerning race have been a little uncomfortable, but, unfortunately, very necessary. Warning: this might border on expose', but we'll get to my thoughts later. During the first couple weeks of the Teen Program, the things I noticed were petty observations. All the white people hung out together, sat together. There was even, dare I say, tension?, between the POC and white people there. At first, I thought I was being an annoying social justice warrior again. (This is also a fundamental problem! People shoving their concerns away in fear of being scrutinized! But that's another post for another day.) But, as we started participating in more conversations, some more race related observations had inevitably graced my thoughts. Some are outward, some have to do with my own experience. First, let me clarify that the things we talk about in MOCA are very intricate, complex, scholastic things-- which I think is really cool! But, when tackling such mind-boggling themes, the dynamics of race become very clear. The people who participate are mostly white. The things they say are interesting to hear, but that is besides the point. For myself, participating is difficult. I feel like I have nothing substantial to say, or that I cannot word it correctly. I sometimes do not understand the art, and constantly inquiring about its meaning is exhausting. Personally, I do not think it should be my responsibility to do so. I think it is our responsibility as a society to tackle the underlying problem that comes with minorities lacking nuanced language and thought, which leads me to my main point: education. 

Race and Education

While letting these problems sit in my head for a while, an "Adam Ruins Everything" video graced my YouTube recommendations feed and, contrary to the title, saved my day. It tackled my seemingly minor concern of feeling uncomfortable when discussing art and social issues at MOCA, and highlighted how my concerns were not only justified, but part of a much bigger, systematic problem. Wow! As I am writing this (did I break the fourth wall or something? Sorry, anyways), I am also realizing that the "Adam Ruins Everything" video also explains why all the white people hang out together. Cool stuff. So, to keep you guys in the loop, "Adam Ruins Everything" is an awesome segment on the College Humor YouTube channel, and just recently got its own show on TruTV. The show basically explains commonly held beliefs and debunks them. It explained how women made the West prosperous, why we don't need as much water as we think we do, why the moon landing couldn't have been faked, why funerals are a scam, and so much more. Really entertaining and fascinating show, I recommend binge watching it-- totally possible, the videos on YouTube are only 3-6 minutes a piece! So, the video I watched that blew my mind was "The Disturbing History of the Suburbs." It explains how suburbs were made with white people in mind, how minority communities have been displaced to accommodate white communities, how white suburbs get more resources (organic markets, cough-cough) because of location, how minority communities to this day are stuck in a cycle of of poverty and living in ghettos...lots of heavy stuff. I would say go watch it, because I could never explain it efficiently on here. 

The biggest point, for me, was how these segregated communities differ on the quality of education they give. Since schools are funded based on property value, schools in minority communities do not get the same funding as whiter schools. Thus, minorities get poorer education. Additionally, the property system also resulted in segregated communities (it possibly can NOT be a coincidence that Compton is black and Hispanic, and that Palos Verdes is white), so that explains the subconscious need to interact with your own race-- it's just the way were raised in America. That was just a minor point I wanted to touch on. My more pressing problem was the white people participation thing. Minorities get poorer education. They do not receive the same sophisticated, probing education white people receive. They are not trained in the same school of thought. Therefore, the level at which minorities in America think and speak is not as developed. This statement sounds ridiculous, but here goes: white people have received the privilege of thinking deeply. But, who cares? Why is language and thought so imperative?

Why is This Important?

Another YouTube video can answer that question. I have been attempting to read 1984 by George Orwell. You know, for the culture. I am sorry to say, and this is besides what I'm talking about, that I simply cannot finish it. It is boring. BUT, these Crash Course videos are a really cool analysis of the novel-- watch it! To sum it up, the world of 1984 is a dystopian, totalitarian world in which the government's major weapon is language and thought. They, bit by bit, diminish the nuance of language, reducing everything to the bare essentials. Instead of bad, there is "ungood". Individualism is "ownlife". By stripping their society of nuanced language and thought, the government strips them of their ability to criticize, organize, and think for themselves. It is an evil, ingenious way of oppressing the people and maintaining government power. 

This major point that I took away from John Green's analysis, I feel, perfectly explains the importance of language. We need complex language to have productive conversations, we need it to voice our thoughts specifically. And, in some ways, I think that a byproduct of minorities receiving poor education is a lack of this nuanced thought. It is more than me complaining about not understanding the art at MOCA. Conversation is the first step to change, and being able to dismantle a society built on white supremacy requires minorities to SPEAK about their concerns, to THINK critically, and to come up with sufficient solutions. And the way to develop complex language and thought starts in the way we are educated. If we don't change this, white people are bound to dominate and speak over POC forever.

What Can We Do?

Now what? What are we supposed to do? For myself, these thoughts that have been swirling my brain for weeks have revealed one of my biggest passions: education reform. We need more resources for minority communities and schools, we need to reintegrate. Such change will take generations, but it is completely possible. You may not be as passionate about education as I am, but another thing I want this article to be about is the battles you choose. Not everyone can tackle everything, and that is okay. I feel that everyone should have one issue they are passionate about, learn everything they possibly could about it, and help solve it. At the risk of sounding like a college personal statement, I leave you with this: we can all make the world a better place if we criticize, organize, and speak up!

OTHER NOTE: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am very grateful to MOCA Teens for having a conversation about this! These topics are so needed, and I am proud to work under an institution which cares deeply about social justice.

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