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Dr. Nyle Fort discussed many topics with SUNY Fredonia students during a Zoom conference last week. Photo submitted

Students at the State University of New York at Fredonia and interested community members had the opportunity to learn about critical race theory, protests, democracy and other issues in the Dr Nyle Fort. Fort gave a Zoom talk titled “Black in America” last week, and shared stories and insights from his experience growing up.

Fort began by telling the story of his mother, who is an undertaker in New Jersey. He said his mother would come home every night, after a day of comforting grieving families, and sneak into Fort and his brother’s room to tell stories. The stories his mother told influenced Fort and provided him and his siblings with an escape from their reality.

“I doubt my mother followed the unemployment statistics, she knew that in our neighborhood if you are young black and poor, it is easier to find a gun than a job”, Strong said. “But in my mother’s stories, we were free to dream, free to be, free to fly above the turbulent winds of racial injustice. During the day my brother and I might be considered statistics, but at night we were free.

Although Fort wasn’t sure his mother knew how protective she was of them, she knew how difficult the struggle could be. Fort, who graduated from Princeton, came prepared with statistics. He said the United States was about 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population. Fort also said that every 28 hours a black person in America is killed by a police officer or vigilante.

“She knew not to let me out of the house without warning me 15 times to be careful,” he said. “I just turned 32 and every time I leave the house she always tells me to be careful.”

But the story that matters most is the story this country tells, according to Fort. A number of states have introduced bills that tell teachers how to teach racism, but some states are also expanding how to teach racism, which comes down to critical race theory.

“Critical Race Theory goes beyond understanding race as individual prejudice and instead shows how racism is a social construct, impacting all aspects of American society,” he said. “Including housing, education, health care, the economy and the criminal justice system.”

Fort went on to tell the story of Dr. Martin Luther King and how the Dr. King who is taught in schools is not close to the Dr. King who actually existed. He then gave more statistics detailing the injustices black Americans face, using financial numbers from his home state of New Jersey.

“The average net worth of a white family in the state of New Jersey is $270,000, the highest in the country,” says Dr. Fort. “According to the same report, the average income of a black family is $5,900. You might have heard these stories… Black people don’t work hard, it’s our culture, it’s the hoodies, it’s the music, white people are just more frugal with their money. The only problem with these stories is that they are just stories.

As for how white people can help the cause, Fort said the first step is realizing that supremacy is bad for everyone. Fort said people often think racism is only bad for black people, but that’s not the case, and more people realizing that’s not the case will be key in how society evolves beyond the current structure.

“Politically, most white people don’t benefit that much from white supremacy,” he said. “If you look at the history of racism, there’s a reason Italians, Irish and Jews weren’t considered white at one time in this country. Part of the need for these European ethnic groups to become white was that the potential for black and European ethnic communities to build solidarity against the elite was a dangerous possibility. So what are you doing? You graft them into this category of whiteness… There are a lot of poor white people, and you know who they vote for every four years? Someone who does not help them.

Dr. Fort ended his talk by encouraging participants to evaluate the stories their lives tell and to dream of the world they want to see grow in the future. “What story does your life tell? What story does our life tell? What will people say about us when we’re done? » he said. “Are they going to say we drove great cars and graduated from the best schools? Will they say we have been eloquent but silent on the most pressing moral issues of our time, or will they say we have spoken truth to power and stood together in the most vulnerable times?

“Dreaming of a world where Ahmaud Arbery can jog in peace, where Tamir Rice can play in the park and George Floyd can live to see his daughter grow up”, He continued. “A world where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live and pray in peace. Dream of a world where queer and transgender people can safely walk the streets and use the restroom of their choice. Dreaming of a world where women are not subject to less pay for more work. Dream of a world where black lives matter and every life matters. Dream of a world where walls are built to house the poor and not to criminalize poverty.

David White, manager of SUNY Fredonia’s Multicultural Support Services in Fredonia, was grateful that Fort was able to speak to school students and community members, as the topics discussed are always prevalent with what is happening in the United States. United.

“Dr. Strong, Inspiring, Enlightening,” said White. “We thank you.”

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