A flirtation checked by realty, is over…

Ok, the “flirtation”; and ultimately the relationship is over (“Well”, I can hear LT saying: “That didn’t last long” :-) Two weeks ago I saw what I now know was a “mild” segment of: “Bring it!” (aka: The Dancing Dolls out of Jackson Ms.). I wrote to ______ that I thought it had some very positive aspects; i.e. working hard for a goal, positive mentoring of young people, providing young people with creative vehicles for artistic expression, service to others, etc. But last night I saw the show slip into the “traditional” ghettoization, minstrel reality show antics; complete with the negative and contrived ugly conflicts. The women instructors may be successful at teaching the young ladies good dance moves; but not so good in teaching the qualities of respect, reverence and the responsibility of giving one’s best for the competition, without exhibiting rancor. While watching last night’s segment my mind traveled back to the high school FIRST* Robotics competitions I attended and entered teams. No one who ever attended a FIRST competition could possibly leave that space and not know that the competition was powerful, intense and fierce. And yet there are some very clear ethical guidelines as to how student competitors, adult mentors-coaches, and spectators can behave with their own team, and with the student competitors of other teams. But FIRST takes it a step further. Both before and during the competition a team can earn points by helping another competing team. The idea being that: (1) All teams are in the ultimate “competition” of building STEM capacity for the betterment of our planet. (2) “Wining” is not a fixed and limited concept; winning can mean coming in first in the competition, but also coming in first as powerful moral and ethical practitioners. (3) Scientific invention and innovation best evolve, when it involves science practitioners communicating with each other. And it is that counterintuitive idea in our “beat down the competition’s personhood” society; that says, you actually do better when others do better; imagine that! I honestly believe, with a little more thoughtful effort, that we could teach these young ladies to be fiercely competitive, and at the same time display a recognition that the other competing team’s members in the final analysis are their sacred sisters, who like them are struggling to create sense out of the restrictive nonsense that our society inflicts on talented young Black people. The show also brought out what I now see is a very common trait in a place and people for whom “Church” and “Christianity” is more of a social, rather than a religious and spiritual experience. Here, people can act and be: “full of hell”; and then go directly into: “In Jesus name!” The role models: In places like Alabama and Mississippi there is a dominance of the “religious right” who are in control of the state’s legislative and executive branches of government. They profess to be Christians, at least let them tell it, as they invoke “God” all of the time. And yet there is little evidence of any kind of passion for a Christian compassion on behalf of the suffering poor of these states. Finally, I thought that the creative choreography, the rehearsal struggles & triumphs, the level of intensity and sacrifices on the part of all of the teams in preparing for the competitions, was more than enough drama for me. But then again the show is probably not created with someone like me in mind…. But, at least I watched it, and I tried to “bring it”. The “it” being of course, hope!

* http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/2015-game