“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
— Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems
Alex Hosey, a 15-year-old freshman at East Lansing High School, refuses to stand for the national anthem at his school’s sporting events in hopes that the city of East Lansing will recognize and apologize for wrongdoings go back to 1924. Then, it passed a deed restriction stating that “No lot or lots or buildings shall ever be sold or leased to any other person or persons than those of the Caucasian race.”
Alex had been sitting down at high school basketball games. His parents urged him to write an essay explaining his decision. In his essay, “Why I Sit,” Hosey touches on the history of racism, housing discrimination in East Lansing, and asks the city to apologize for its role in discrimination.
Mayor Mark Meadows made a formal apology on behalf of the city of East Lansing at the city council meeting on Feb. 27. Meadows said, “Alex’s actions are what East Lansing is all about. We are a diverse, welcoming city.”
Meadows opened up the meeting for discussion, giving an opportunity for citizens and other council members to voice their opinions.
“East Lansing is a city of diversity. White supremacy has no home here,” said Council Member Aaron Stephens. “I would like to commend Alex. You are an inspiration for a lot of people. Your passion and drive will take you very far.”
In his essay, Hosey wrote, “I would ask for the East Lansing School District to teach the history and effects of redlining of people of color both nationally and locally.”
He was motivated by a Feb. 25, 2015 article in the Lansing City Pulse by Bill Castanier. The headline was, “A house divided: The movement in East Lansing to open housing for blacks.”
Castanier wrote that despite protests by African Americans in East Lansing in the 1960s for not being able to own property, city and university officials did nothing to change that.
The essay also asked “for Mayor Mark Meadows of East Lansing to issue a public acknowledgement and apology to blacks and other people of color for the city’s role in redlining, mistreatment and discrimination.”
Hosey’s story received coverage to the point that ESPN affiliate “The Undefeated” named Hosey its athlete of the week on Feb. 7.
The Human Relations Commission is hoping to team up with East Lansing Public Schools and Hosey to plan an event on the topic of racism, diversity and inclusion, as well as creating a public forum.
Alex’s father Sam Hosey said, “We are currently working with the school district to develop a new curriculum to teach the history of redlining, its impacts and possible solutions. The city is going to have ongoing dialogue on race and racism, which is important. In the city, we think this ongoing conversation will help the community to bridge gaps and openly discuss a taboo issue like race.”
While Alex Hosey and his family work toward standing up for others who do not have a voice, he also has goals of his own.
“College. Stanford or Howard,” Alex Hosey said. “I want to go into computer engineering, but after all of this, not so sure anymore. People keep saying I should be a teacher or a lawyer.”