Woke Wellesley

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/06/10/woke-wellesley/

Wellesley High School held its graduation exercise last week. It was the school’s 154th, according to the program, which was published by a local news web site called The Swellesley Report.

The graduating seniors marched onto the school’s football field to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance,” according to a video of the event. Next, as you might expect, came the national anthem.

But then, after presentations by two class officers, came a Woke eye-opener. The Wellesley Choral Department sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is sometimes called the unofficial black national anthem.

Why would a public high school during its 2-hours-16-minutes-36-seconds-long graduation ceremony in a town where less than 3 percent of the residents are black sing a song known as the black national anthem?

There’s a good chance that more Wellesley students have Scottish heritage than African-American heritage. Why not sing “Flower of Scotland”? (Which is sometimes called the unofficial Scottish national anthem.) It’s a better song – the melody is catchier, and the lyrics are more vivid and more singable.

The answer is obvious:  A song that’s about Scotland isn’t appropriate at a graduation ceremony where most people aren’t Scottish. The setting is limited. Whatever you pick has to have broad appeal.

So why “Lift Every Voice and Sing”?

We asked a school official that question earlier this week. As of this writing, we haven’t heard back. So let’s try to figure it out on our own.

To start with, there’s nothing wrong with “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The sentiment is laudable. It stems from a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 for a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday at an all-black public high school in Florida. It refers to the struggles of African-Americans under slavery, which had ended 35 years before, and was written amid government-mandated racial segregation and widespread racial discrimination against blacks.

Here are some lines from the song:


Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet,
Come to a place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears had been watered.
We have come, treading our path of the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last,
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.


To whom do these lyrics speak?

They surely have nothing to do with the lived experiences of the vast majority of students at Wellesley High School.

Seventy-seven percent of Wellesley residents are white. Thirteen percent are Asian. The median household income in Wellesley in 2022 was $226,250.

The last time a road in Wellesley got “stony” the DPW went out and repaved it before noon.

So why sing this song at graduation?

Why would Wellesley students want to pretend that they or anyone they know have undergone the trials of slavery? Why this self-loathing? Why this pretense of moral righteousness at a time when it costs nothing to condemn your ancestors?  (Or somebody else’ ancestors.)

Instead, why not celebrate the fact that Great Britain and America were the nations that ended the worldwide curse of slavery?

That answer is obvious, too:  Virtue signaling.

Here’s the underlying narrative:

America is a horribly racist place that treats black people horribly and must be chastised and distanced from. The national anthem, though it has to be played at a public gathering like this, must also be balanced by something not tainted by association with such an odious country. By singing this song that has nothing to do with us, we ally ourselves with the forces of justice and enlightenment, and not with the beknighted and backward masses in other parts of the country who plot in their hearts poverty and subjugation for people who don’t look like them.

These are lies, of course.

America fought a civil war largely over whether the worldwide curse of slavery could be extended into places that didn’t yet have it. More than 300,000 Union soldiers died to accomplish it.

Government-mandated racial segregation and racial discrimination were abolished decades ago. (The only places where officially sanctioned discrimination still exists in this country favor racial minorities.)

America is the only majority-white country in the world that has elected a black head of government.

The vast majority of people in this country judge other people, as Martin Luther King Jr. recommended, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

A character that gains nothing by empty gestures.

Privilege does exist in America. But it isn’t racial privilege. It’s the privilege of living in a rich town with a stable home that has a mother and a father – places like Wellesley, Massachusetts.

People who live in such places ought to be grateful for it. They also ought to try help people who don’t have what they have.

But why should they apologize for what they have?

For some reason, increasing numbers of people who live in such towns imagine that by acknowledging their privilege and attributing it to non-existent racial oppression they are somehow accomplishing something.

And in a way, they are. Their self-abasement earns temporary reprieve from never-to-be-satisfied race hustlers, which enables them to continue enjoying their privilege without doing anything useful.

The only cost is dignity.


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