First, one middle-aged white woman walked up to her to say that her students "were an embarrassment and need to learn some respect." Then a second woman jumped in saying, "you know, I'm a teacher too. You need to learn to control them. It's not that hard. Make them go outside." All this with her students and their parents watching. In Cava's own words, "It was unbelievable to experience that kind of condescension and entitlement only five minutes prior to us going on stage. I was shocked by the lack of compassion and respect for myself or my students from those particular guests."
Needless to say, this is a horrifying blight on our community. Such condescension and entitlement on a day of celebrating tolerance and humanity — the irony here is grimly poetic. And, of course, this was not just an assault on Cava, but also on the 32 students who had dedicated their day to serve our community by sharing music with us. Let us remember that these students commuted to us from East and West Oakland to participate in our event whose purpose was to promote and celebrate diversity. Is this the message we want to give our young people of color that come as visitors?
You may be tempted to downplay the racial overtones of this incident. Please don’t. What is not communicated in the summary of the encounter is tone of voice, body language, and overall demeanor of both women while speaking to Cava. Clearly, beyond just the language that was spoken, the way in which she was spoken to in front of her students was unacceptable. The specter of two privileged white women vying to put a successful black woman in her place, and to shame a talented group of student performers, most of whom are black, is blatant. The message, "You folks don’t belong inside here” is inescapable. We don’t know if these two women are racist or even if they are Piedmont residents. But the impact of their actions is undeniable. And, unfortunately, this behavior is not completely atypical in our community.
I'm sorry to hear about the distress experienced by Ms. Menzies and I hope we convey to her our sorrow at the incident and our plans to improve staging for next year's event.
I hate to hear and read things like this because it puts a lot of anger inside but unfortunately it's reality!
This is a very complex situation containing so many internal issues on both sides
Lesson learned--we need to be very conscious of the staging areas for performers
How very rude!!! ... Until more people have more experiences with people who don't look like them, I fear these incidents will continue.
Public shaming is not acceptable. No true educator should undermine the authority of another educator like that. Piedmont has a problem with its image in Oakland. Nobody will want to perform here if they are spoken to like that.
This gets to the heart of my previous request that we reexamine this event. The idea that this celebration needs to be reclaimed and realigned with Dr. King "The Man and The Work" is trending and this incident highlights why. I'm thinking service learning, a series of commonwealth-like conversations with social justice leaders
Our membership has been very vocal and thoughtful in their responses, ranging from embarrassment and outrage to questioning the organization and the focus of this annual event. We’re also reminded that, as an organization promoting diversity and inclusion, we have a responsibility to give the two aggressors the space and opportunity to reflect on the events in a constructive manner.
The logistical issues identified are obviously straightforward to address. The existential challenge to the event itself - the idea that the celebration may need to be "reclaimed and realigned ..." - also seems to be a tractable problem.
But there also emerged some questions with no obvious or straightforward answers:
Cava Menzies herself asks,