Shut Up and Listen

The gym is filled with kids. The entire student bodies of the three schools that make up North Eugene High are in the bleachers. I keep hearing the words of a Face Book “friend” telling me what a joke it was that I’ve been invited to be the keynote speaker at an assembly about racism.
A few hours later at Sheldon High School I’m at a smaller assembly but the message is quite similar.
Kids from different cultures talk about how people still put them down for being “Mexicans.” A young African American told of how he has to try much harder to do the same things his white counter parts have to do.
I am not an expert on racism but I am an expert on the effects of labeling. Racism and Labeling are distant cousins.
Labeling is still accepted while racism is something no one wants to admit to. So, that is what I talked about. I learned a long time ago only to talk about what I know.
Hate is hate and it comes from racism or from labeling. Both are created to prevent relationship and put our differences above similarities. Both are prisons that aim to keep the bickering alive and prevent us from ever hearing the other side.
The white culture gets tired of hearing about racism but from what I heard yesterday we’ve got nothing to complain about.
I have great hope after yesterday’s assemblies with kids. I don’t think the world will change because of what was said but I think some people’s worlds were shaken.
I can’t change the mind of the guy who tells me I can’t speak about racism but I can ignore his attempts to label me and use that anger as a tool for change.
And so I did and in many ways should thank the naysayers and the labelers for helping me speak the truth. The truth will set people free but you have to be willing to shut your mouth and listen to find that freedom.


  1. Jake on April 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    You are one of my heroes Mr. Dancer. The words that you spoke at the assembly did indeed shake my world, but in a different way. I now realize that I need to step up for the people who are facing this kind of discrimination, the people who feel alone and isolated for being different in any way. As the assembly came to a close, I realized that I was going to run for ASB president at my school in order to start making changes and to start representing everyone. Of course I was faced with criticism, I was laughed at and was told I wasn’t popular enough to run, that I had no chance unless I was unopposed, and that due to my social status, my chances were limited. Even though that is not the same kind of discrimination that was discussed, it was discrimination nonetheless and is another thing that I hope to put a stop to. I want everyone to feel they are “popular” in some way or another, to feel they have friends, that they can do anything they want to if they truly have the ambition and drive to do it. So I thank you Mr. Dancer for the inspiration to stand up for everyone and represent everyone, you are a true hero in my eyes.

  2. Rick Dancer on April 28, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Your words touch me deeply. I too was a kid who had little social status and would have been laughed at had I told anyone I wanted to make the world better for other people. Today it is me who is laughing not at them but at the limited vision so many people have. Do not allow anyone to put you in a box. Run for office to win but if you don’t win you don’t necessarily lose. I don’t know if that makes sense but losing my run for office is the best thing that ever happened to me. I may run again I don’t know but I learned so much and it did make a difference. Pick your platform and stick by your beliefs and your principles. Do not allow others to stop you. In standing up for what you think you will find, as I just discovered from you, that you touch people you don’t even know. I was never popular in school and I believe popularity is a ridiculous goal. Jake, just be yourself. I can tell my your writing that you have a huge heart and an amazing ability to communicate. Go use what God has given you and do it naturally and He will use you to touch the world. Thanks for making my day. Rick Dancer

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