Friday, August 14, 2020

The Art of being Critical

 So after Biden announced his VP pick, a divide happened. Everyone started to critique the political record of Harris and the reason she may have been selected. Some African-Americans were joyous about her being the first African American VP pick. Some were not because they had questions about her record as a DA, AG, and Senator. And the questions and concerns are valid because there is lots there to mine and consider. Many questioned and wished for Abrams. And could not help but notice the presence of Colorism in the conversation. And African-Americans have the right to question and disagree. You know why? Because contrary to what everyone believes, Black people are NOT A MONOLITH! We do not think and breathe the same on every issue, problem, politician, or situation. 

But something that Black women do is VOTE...in...every...election...in...high...numbers. So if you are reading a critique or a compliment written by a Black woman about Harris or former President Obama or any Black or white politician, WE have earned the right to be critical and complimentary because we always show up, show out, and sometimes even save America from itself. 

And white people, are also asking questions but they try and keep it among themselves on social media or even worse get brave enough to tell a Black person that they should not critique another Black person. Yeah, that happened to me and I quickly said Fuck it, in the only way I know how. Byeee and block!

Once again, let me elucidate on why being critical is not a terrible practice. And why folks need to stop silencing people with, "Well the most important thing is to get rid of the evil that is in the White House and then we can blah blah blah." The problem with that either/or thinking is that it makes the flawed observation, that "evil" was ushered in with Trump and it will be eradicated if he loses. We were already living in the constant hail shower of racism and white supremacy since....wait for it...EVER! It did not start with Trump, it simply became more overt and forced many out of a false post-racial slumber. Even some famous Black people listed a list of items that Harris never did, but Trump is infamous for. Things like rip families apart at the border and doing other racist shit.. It is a wonderful meme if the people reading it are already aware that EVERY President we have ever had in the United States has done horrible and racist shit. And many of the same who did those horrible things to Black and Brown people also did wonderful and helpful things too. The Affordable Health Care Act...good. No Child Left Behind...bad. Race to the Top...bad. War in Iraq...questionable. The nuclear arms race...bad. Eliminating checks and balances for Wall Street,,,bad. The Marriage Equality Act...good. Because that is the textbook definition of being a politician. The reason is because most Americans cannot hear a person when they speak of radical change. Shit, they can barely hear you when you speak of gradual change. And remember the election of 2016 was a close one, which means that Trump's ideals and practices and opinions have lots of supporters...still.

So what do we do? So what can we do? We can start by being open to the criticism and debate. We can practice listening to other sides. We can also remember and listen to the words of James Baldwin, "I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." 

Local Elections are coming up. Who do you want to represent your city and state? Who do you want as a DA? And do you finally realize that the "top cop" position actually should serve as THE accountability partner to the FOP and not be sponsored by the police? Who are the judges in your city and state? What is their history and practice? Examine how your state has handled COVID, the state of poverty, wage inequality, immigration, LGTBQ+ rights, gun violence, internet access,  and public education. These are all items that can be legislated and argued at the local level. One does not have to wait for "better" leadership in the White House. We can also propose to our local government that we want to put rank voting on the ballot. In other words, how are YOU preparing for this? Besides gearing up for a debate on social media, how can you work towards creating ripples of change. Because let's face facts, no one is coming to save us. 

Critical Lens Development: Continue to read and listen to articles and interviews that came out before the primaries and after. Continue to read and listen to books and interviews about America's past. So that we can stop believing in a golden era that only every existed for the chosen few. Read about past movements and briefs and dissents written by Supreme Court judges on the last few laws and every one that has been passed. They reveal lots about the state of our courts. Read and actually speak with those you disagree with, sometimes the echo chamber is real but I do understand it is difficult to have sensitive talks with individuals you do not even trust. So do not reach out to strangers or people you only see on social media, talk with friends and colleagues. Or even better join a group that is actually doing the work so you can see who is being silenced and why. Develop critical networks. 

And remember the most important practice as a person who strives for critical thinking and development, being critical is a wonderful practice to develop those muscles. 

Final thoughts: America is a country that has and may never face up to her own demons, which is why I believe they continue to stir and leap out every chance they get. It is the equivalent of trying to chain a rabid dog, eventually they break free and must be put down. Is there a reason to be hopeful? Sure, but not in the way we often think. There are progressive candidates ignoring the money of lobbyist and running and winning in city and state elections. That is hope. There are organizations doing some amazing work to make sure that Black Lives Matter so that every life finally can. That is hope. There are teens speaking out and organizing against injustice and racism. That is hope. There are young people getting out to vote. That is hope. There are independent news outlets and book publishers that are getting the truth out. That is hope. 

And that is why like Zora, I write and speak aloud the critiques I have. I have also had my mind changed when I watch people change because I have seen it happen. We all have the ability and capacity to evolve and change. It is what makes us higher complex mammals. We also have the ability to listen, hope, critique, disagree, and in November still VOTE. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Looking for Lorraine - Reflections from the Book Chat



Each summer, the summer book series. brings an opportunity to discuss something new and interesting, but even more, it is an opportunity to connect the world of education to other parts of life. Housing issues. Art. Activism. History. Black feminism. Having conversations with fellow educators and parents. This summer I selected Looking for Lorraine because I am fascinated by Lorraine Hansberry and her life is now on full display thanks to the expertise and pristine research of Imani Perry. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in seeing how Blackness, socialism, communism, theater, writing, music, Chicago, New York City, housing laws, racism, womanhood, friendship, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, gender, and sexuality intersect and combine. Then this is the book for you. Before I share the words from some of the participants, I want to speak about Ms. Rosita.

Ms. Rosita joined us on Day 2 and she brought such an amazing breadth of history with her. She is a retired Philadelphia Public School teacher who was born and raised in Chicago. She attended the same high school with Lorraine but did not know her. We swapped stories about the city because, like her, my mother, grandmother, and aunt also attended nearby elementary schools. I saw my family in her stories. I saw myself. Chicago continues to live with me. Always a transplant.

We also had participants who remember seeing Raisin in the Sun at the movies when it first came out. The space was very inter-generational and it included fellow artists, educators, social workers, and retired educators. And this is why I am most grateful for the conversations and fast camaraderie. It was beautiful and necessary at a time when many of us are speaking in echo chambers with people who have similar backgrounds and beliefs.

Many of us only know Raisin in the Sun and truthfully, many of us only know the surface of it. When it opened on Broadway, the audience was filled with Black people. Black people! James Baldwin even quipped how many Black people came to see it. The construct of the play had no starring role, it was an ensemble piece. Each character and their moments were intricately connected and dependent on each other. She was the first Black female playwright to be on Broadway. Only because her mentor and friend Alice Childress another Black female playwright declined an earlier offer because she did not like the way the producers attempted to whiten her work. Her marriage and friendship with her husband was not traditional but he fiercely protected her memories and writings long after her death. And her friendships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone was a "Trinity" like no other. I truly believe they were both affected on a cellular level by her passing too soon. The book challenges and stretches our ideas of blackness and political action. It challenges our idea of blackness and class. But for me, it was a confirmation that art, writing, and political action are not separate entities. Like Raisin, they are also an ensemble predicated on the internal workings of an individual that provides illumination to how one truly sees themselves. One without the other, I dare say results in a fractured soul and spirit. And Lorraine's life was a testimony to that as she rode the ebbs and flows of joy, insecurity, confidence, passion, anger, and love.

Final comments and reflections:

(Kevin) After our discussions, there were two passages from Looking for Lorraine that stood out to me:

"Hence, there was no necessary tension between art and politics, according to Lorraine. She believed, instead, that great art required one to say something about society" (108).

"Though she was an internationalist, and something of a Black nationalist, a Marxist, and a socialist, she was also deeply American. She understood that to be a thing of beauty and horror at once" (183).

I chose these two because I think they speak to the tension at the heart of Lorraine's art. When she expressed her disappointment or rage at the country, whether it was through her art or speaking out about political issues, it was coming from a place of profound disappointment rather than scorn: this was her country, and it owed her so much better.

Thanks for all of your work leading this group. I found myself learning so much from reading Perry's book, but even more from the way you lead discussions. My copy of the book is annotated to death with ideas for how to teach Raisin. So, thank you.

(Jody) Tamara, thanks for much for a great book group! Every summer I've thought about joining one of these groups, but this is actually the first time I did, and it was a wonderful experience. I loved the book, and found it readable and enjoyable, and also deep and complex, so there was plenty to talk about. I really appreciated the facilitation, which helped us get to key topics and also allowed for relevant diversions. What a treat to hear of the connections you, Rosita, and others had with the place and other aspects of the material we were reading about. I also loved the way people put additional materials into the chatbox, and the related materials you sent us. And I was amazed at how in just three sessions we developed such a great group dynamic and rich bodies of knowledge.

(Danina) I actually highlighted quite a bit in this book, but a statement that really stood out to me is on page 162.

It reads, "...Lorraine emphasized self-determination for Black people. She was neither interested in status nor seeing Black folks manipulated by elites, whether said elites be Black or white. She wanted to be led by the people."

This particular quote drew my attention because it sums up Lorraine's overall philosophy about activism. She also shows that leadership is built from the ground up and that even as leaders ascend, they should do so in a manner that is uncompromising of their integrity and humility.....good leaders always center the people. Here Lorraine also shows her commitment to activism and the spirit of selfless revolution for and by the people.

This Summer Reading Series allowed me to take away some great insights with regards to what leadership looks like, and how we can apply lessons learned during earlier civil rights struggles to today's mission. I appreciate the various perspectives that were brought to the table and the opportunity to reflect on the past, for guidance as we move into the future. Special thanks to Tamara and Angela for creating an environment that fostered engagement, critical analysis, and a respect for various points of view! I am already looking forward to Summer Reading next year!

(Valerie) Thank you again for another awesome facilitation of the book, Looking for Lorraine. I have been in several book clubs in my life and have yet to experience one like this. Your facilitation is on point and lends itself to a variety of perspectives from art, theatre/film, literature, history, culture, and the politics of our time. The recommended readings and articles shared related to the topic and themes covered in the book and made for a lively discussion.

I did not get a chance to read the book but the rich discussion among the participants made me feel like I had. This was a well-read group and tonight to have Ms. Rosita share her personal experience and connections with Lorraine topped things off for me. The group was also inclusive and respectful of one another's opinions. I felt as a black woman comfortable and unapologetic in the comments I made. Thanks to you and the group for this wonderful experience.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

The truth about Brown vs the Board of Education

As I sit and catch up on the stack of magazines I have let pile up due to being busy and often overwhelmed, I keep hearing the same term when it comes to race and racism. Segregation. The ills of segregation and the light of integration. The truth is we have never achieved equitable and anti-racist integration. But we have tried time and time again to achieve the popular anti-black version, which is why it fails or works without a court order.

This is not a rehash of the history that we all know. So if you are seeking that just research the actual case and the briefs written famously by Justice Warren to defend its passing (which were very anti-black). This is an observation of a reality that very few of us speak about in public spaces.

The case itself was considered a "win" for the NAACP. But for Black educators in the south, it meant the loss of work and forced migration to northern cities that quickly placed them on the Colored teaching list. And resulted in long stints of unemployment. There was also no real practice of reciprocal integration. White students attending black schools and White patrons shopping at black-owned shops and businesses. In fact, integration led to a slow but steady decline in thriving black businesses with the exception of already thriving black towns or black communities. The only exception to this rule in regard to schooling was HBCUs. Even today non-black students are welcomed and nurtured in their spaces. Cannot say the same for PWIs.

This is because the idea of whiteness holds value over blackness. And one-way integration encouraged and solidified that idea. SO much so that even today predominately white spaces have higher housing values, more funds for public education, and are seen as having less crime. Poverty is seen as black, and with that comes lower housing values, fewer funds for public education, and increased incidents of crime. Despite the fact that white Americans account for more welfare recipients then Black people. And that white on white crime is just as prevalent as black on black incidents. And that we have several laws to protect against such discrimination. But even the Equal Opportunity Act benefits white women at a rate of 70% of court cases over BIPOC individuals.

This is why mentioning segregation as being a problem without context or historical nuance is dangerous and can result in anti-black sentiment. Poverty and a lack of access are symptoms of white supremacy, not Blackness. Seldom are the conversations about how vehemently white Americans protect their white spaces, white schools, and whiteness from everyone else. No one speaks on how all-white spaces are actually more toxic then any other affinity or single race space, mostly because even in Black spaces, whiteness makes an appearance. Especially when it comes to law enforcement and capitalist systems like banking. Even today despite the Housing Act of 1968, Black families are still turned down for mortgages at a higher rate than whites.

And when we use terms like grit or saving money and raising credit scores, we forget that racist financial institutions still offer higher interest rates to Black borrowers with high scores and low debt. Because Blackness is equated with debt and irresponsibility, despite the fact that much of this is caused by the lack of generational wealth that exists for Black families due to enslavement or if they are Black immigrants from other countries, the reparations that their countries paid to their colonizers renders many with little to no financial start.

I hope that this encourages you to research the inherent problems in one-way integration. So that we can actually create reciprocal integration, and stop blaming segregation for what is wrong. Or even better create an actual anti-racist system.

As Zora Neale Hurston wrote on her 60th birthday in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel about Brown v. Board of Education, "I regard the ruling of the US Supreme Court as insulting rather than honoring my race." As I age and study it closer, I concur.

Why Black Lives still don't matter? 2020 Edition

Here is the good news. The School District of Philadelphia officially endorsed and will support Black Lives Matter Week of Action - Philly, which is now a part of the National Black Lives Matter at School. The work that went into this becoming a reality should be applauded and celebrated. But when I heard it, my stomach instantly sank. Because I knew it was a symbolic gesture devoid of what it actually means to fully support Black Lives. I know that the School District of Philadelphia lacks the moral will to fully realize what it looks and feels like to make sure that Black Lives Matter. 

Over 100 speakers were ready to speak at the Philadelphia School Board meeting this past Thursday. Many of them were rejecting the reopening plan. Many spoke to the dangers of placing students and staff in such uncertain conditions. Many highlighted what the district still has not done to remedy the current toxicity of the buildings that include unsafe levels of asbestos, unmaintained HVAC filters, poor cleanliness, rodents, roaches, a lack of AC in some spaces, and the overall nastiness that comes with older buildings and a lack of funding. They want to open so that millions of dollars worth of corporate contracts do not go unpaid or unfulfilled. Contracts that have little to do with improving school safety. Just look at the state of the sanitation workers, the water department, and other essential services in Philadelphia to see how COVID is way more serious then what is being reported or shared in the media, and many of them work outdoors.

Many also supported the ten demands written by the Racial Justice Organizing Committee for Radical Education Transformation which includes everything from anti-racist training for staff to the development of culturally responsive curriculum and everything in between. It is a ten-step plan that if followed could actually result in a better school district for everyone. But our history continues to show us that no one actually wants public education to work for everyone, just the chosen and often privileged few. Consider the "pandemic" pods already being advertised. 

Many of the students that spoke continue to share the ongoing racist incidents that have been happening in Philly schools for a very long time, unchecked and without consequences. Students have suffered racist terrorism and trauma in their school buildings by the very educators who they should have been able to trust. And removing police from the school is just one step in the right direction, and yet we can't even agree on that without sanitizing them to "Safety Officers."

And let's chat briefly on why the current SDP Harassment Policy #248 may do little to nothing to protect future incidents of racial or sexual harassment. The policy was last updated in 2013. It has the SRC or School Reform Commission, which is now defunct, as the governing entity. There is no reference or inclusion of the Philadelphia Federation Contract Article 6, Sections C and D which provides a consequence but not detailed steps regarding when a union member takes part in harassment. It is only a few sentences, but at least it states one could be discharged. But no mention of how and why the assignment to the "rubber room" may or may not be an adequate measure. Especially when one has been sent several times for using racial slurs towards students, at the same school. But I digress. Policy #248 encourages teachers who observe these behaviors to report it, but there is no anonymous or protected reporting process outside of the form that is solely for the victim. And the School Board is not even referenced in the policy nor has it been updated to reflect the change, which means it is pretty much rendered toothless and null and void if it ever went to court. Policy #249 for bullying and cyberbullying is similar in that it also includes the SRC and not the school board, but at least it was updated in 2016. And policy #252 for LGTBQ+ students is new and robust, but like the others, there are no actual consequences when it is not followed, and it is often not followed.

Other union contracts in large cities like LA and Chicago have recently expanded the processes for educators that engage in harmful behaviors, and both include more protections for their union employees to fight harassment in the workplace. Some even include parenting boards like Local School Councils as conduits for input about professional conduct. Imagine that! Parents and the community being invited in as accountability partners. That sounds like Black Lives may matter a bit more there, not perfect, but definitely a move in the right direction. Chicago Public Schools till has police, ugh! We tried that here to uplift parent voices with School Advisory Boards (SACS), and then just like that. they had no power or pull whatsoever. The same will occur for Equity Boards, which are not only unpaid, but the language is so sanitized it might as well just be written in invisible ink.

These are just some of the examples of why Black Lives don't really matter to the leaders of the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). Over 70% of the students in the Philadelphia School District are Black and Latinx/Hispanic. And we are also living through a pandemic where Black and Latinx adults are dying or testing positive at an exponentially higher rate. (Blacks make up 13% of the population, but in most urban centers Blacks make up nearly 50% of the COVID-19 cases). Even Superintendent Hite mentioned racial justice as a reason for why our students benefit more from a face to face interaction. True! But, as usual, the idea and hue of racial justice are offered up to defend something that is actually placing BIPOC students and staff in danger. 

We need to call all of these inequities what they have always been, a civil rights issue, or even more accurate,  a state of educational apartheid.

Between the marches, actions, rallies, and protests that have been occurring across the City of Philadelphia and across the country, I believe America is ready for yet another reckoning. I said another because we have been here before. We have seen this anger and push back each time that Black people in the words of the Fannie Lou Hamer "Get sick and tired of being sick and tired." When they get exhausted of death and all that racism brings to their doorstep each and every day.Today is different because there are no clear leaders, which makes everyone nervous. No one to murder or maim in order to silence the masses. The students, organizers, educators, and protesters are great examples of this. Each day a new voice is uplifted and another wrong is thrown into the light. SO much so that none of us can sit back any longer and pretend as if bullshit isn't actually bullshit. 

Each time is marked with an uprising. The murder of Emmett Till in 1955. The student walkout and march of 1967. The MOVE bombing of 1972. The murder of Trayvon Martin 2012. Ferguson in 2014. Black Lives Matter Week of Action 2017. Police Free Schools 2020. No PILOTS. Black educators and students speaking out about racism in their schools. Each time there is an uprising, voices screaming, "No More!" And a city trying to cash a check that has been returned one too many times marked "insufficient funds."

It is time to connect the dots and stop telling half histories of how and why we got here. It is time to say aloud that no one is stopping or going anywhere until we see big, sustainable changes. NO more optical gestures of goodwill laced with white guilt. NO more placing our children in the eye of the storm praying that they will be okay. NO more ignoring the actual problems by always offering up band-aids and watered down antiseptic. And finally admit that it is un-American to be generous, kind, and anti-racist. America has yet to achieve a new personality, and today she continues to live out her racist legacy violently and with purpose because that's the image she was created in. My hope is that I live to see that day. Unlike Baldwin, King, X, Parks, Baker, Hurston, Angelou, and Morrison who spoke and wrote about that day, but also died waiting. I hold my breath for the day that America is un-American. We fight so that our children can stop waiting and finally breathe air filled with liberation and freedom. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

After COVID

Today we are in the midst of a national and global pandemic that we have never seen at this scale. It has highlighted constitutional law, which provides states local control with federal oversight. Checks and balances. We have also received lots of myths and dangerous information that can lead to more harm or simply embolden us to not pay attention to the CDC and WHO. For the last month, most of America has been on a home quarantine, practicing  social distancing, and safety precautions that include hand washing, protective masks, and limited public interaction.

So I ask today, who will we be after COVID? What will be? And how will history remember this pandemic?

In the midst of talks regarding states reopening by May 1. The pros and the cons of that. There is an opportunity for us to do what’s right for all of us or just some of us. There is an opportunity to put people before profits and creature comforts. There is an opportunity to create a new normal that doesn’t ignore our most vulnerable citizens. An opportunity to actually develop a public health policy that is prepared for future pandemics because let’s face it, there will be another.

Unfortunately, many of our states including the President, want to quickly reopen. They say that they are preparing for a new normal but in reality they are running to the same normal disguised as “doing something different.” I understand that small businesses are losing money and some may never see the other side of this. The bailouts are not effective nor sustainable. Unemployment is crashing due to antiquated technology and lack of preparedness. And humans need and desire human contact. But you know what, none of this matters if we get this wrong and more of us get sick or even worse, die.

740,746 confirmed cases, 39,158 deaths, and 66,676 recovered just in the US.  The virus makes the schedule according to Dr. Fauci. According to virology, this is how viruses function.

Not one state that has started the process of reopening has created a plan. A universal health and safety plan that includes access to testing, access to antibody testing (which is still being perfected in a lab), and a universal cleaning plan for all businesses from stores, to schools, rec centers,  to movie theaters, to production sets, to office spaces, and everything in between,  Nothing. No public health plan to avoid or face future pandemics. Nothing. No perfected test that the CDC and FDA approve with high marks. Nope. No vaccine. No cure. Some jobs have already created paperwork stating that if you come to work in a hotspot, you are coming at your own risk and there will be no company liability for your health. But please come and work anyway. Undocumented people have not received ANYTHING close to a plan or a solution. And there are no procedures in place to protect them at “work.” Prison safety has been mentioned but nothing more.  Positive tests are already being seen in some food production plants like, Smithfield sausage, and in some markets, like Whole Foods.

And let’s not forget that we still are not sure how accurate the numbers are because we do not have enough tests, nor do we have unlimited access to the chemicals to make more. Most countries had triple the testing by this timeline when the pandemic hit them. That requires a better international relationship with China. Add that to the list of things that need to be done before we reopen.

We are not ready. We need a universal solution, a multi-pronged strategy that takes into account all of us not just those who are losing money. This is not fear, this is common sense. When you are faced with a problem, you first assess it, and then you start brainstorming possible strategies, then you troubleshoot, and finally either select a solution or you succumb to the problem.

Do we want to succumb or do we want to survive and make sure that our future selves do better than we are actually doing?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Power of "The Photograph"

I am convinced that movie critics who are often white, do not get The Photograph and they may never get it so please do not let it keep you from seeing it. This movie is unapologetic Black Love, Black Joy, and Blackness. From the soundtrack that features Al Green to Luther Vandross, you know the songs that many of us used to have on a mixtape. Or if you are younger, the songs that you were probably conceived to during senior prom or college. Why does Kendrick make us feel guilty? Drake makes us feel like he is our cousin? And we just worry about Kanye...since his mom died.

These memorable moments are just the surface. This is a story that I have been waiting to see my entire life. I have seen it in my actual life and in the lives of my melanated friends, but never onscreen or onstage. I have never seen a mother show her love for her daughter by being, "An arc of a woman." I have never seen a Black woman be complex in her need, her wants, her desires, and her art while raising a child. THIS is why we should all be clamoring to see this film. And we should take everyone with us to share in this journey.

The critics say the story is "disconnected" or that the leads "have no chemistry." All untrue. The story is simply not a linear one. It is one connected by photographs, laughter, music, and silent moments. Some of the details are simply presented through the mouths of children and the physical beauty of Louisiana and New York City. And it's a Black story told through the lens of Blackness and Black feminine nuances. 

During the movie, I cried. Not because it made me sad or melancholy, but because it made me remember when a love like that was in my own life. It reminded me that we are not all "broken" or "waiting to be seen." It reminded me of me and Maya. In fact, there is a photo in the film that is a replica of one I took with Maya right before I left Chicago to move to NYC, uncanny. This story is not only about intimate love but it is also about the first love many of us ever experienced, which is the love from our mothers. Some of that love is incomplete due to us, as daughters and sons, not always seeing our mothers as full human beings outside of motherhood. Or the flaws that make us who we are. And how a mother's flaws or mistakes can make their children shine like diamonds or fall into the abyss until they reach adulthood and are able to reflect back. Imagine what that means. Imagine how that informs love for each of us. Especially in a world that is constantly telling us that love is out of reach or impossible. 

As Luther sings:

If this world were mine, I'd place at your feet
All that I own; you've been so good to me
If this world were mine
I'd give you the flowers, the birds and the bees
For with your love inside me, that would be all I need
If this world were mine
I'd give you anything


More films like these need to be made and produced for us and by us. Written with our full Black lives, bodies, minds, passions, and soul in mind. So go grab you a little love

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Why be Antiracist

Why be an Antiracist in the classroom? Because it matters to ALL children that we actively work on our biases and our conscious of them and especially how they materialize in our work with children. But it’s hard work and it’s often masked in a watered down diversity training or something less effective. There are some excellent trainings and trainers but they are not consistently available to all schools and regions. And while we are trying to figure it out,  Black and Brown children are screaming for help.

In the words of Jamilah Pitts, “We may be uncomfortable talking about race, but we can no longer afford to be silent. We have chosen a profession that—like parenting—requires us to put our comforts second to those of children.”

We also can no longer sidestep or carefully confront it. For many of us that are actually old enough we have seen history repeat itself time and time again. For those that have been fighting for many years, the exhaustion of the status quo and the few spikes of change are not enough. Not to mention the loopholes that exist in all the Civil Rights Laws, that are constantly taken advantage of to keep us at the status quo. In order for us to make change, we must uplift those at the very bottom and recognize that the laws and policies that keep them there are inherently racist. And every oppressive act is a symptom of white supremacy. In fact,  say it three times in a row just in case you still think it’s just classism.

None of us can no longer afford to be a neutral non-racist. We must be anti-racist, which implies action. Action to dismantle race as a social construct and all of the protections it provides for those in power. Yep! Newsflash! You have to be uncomfortable in order to transform a society. Very uncomfortable.

Right now in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City there are less than 30% of Black Educators working with majority Black and Latinx students in highly segregated and zero equity school environments that are further divided by school choice and magnets. Despite the thousands of studies that confirm that students being taught by teachers who look like them increase their academic achievement, and that the presence of Black teachers increases academic achievement for all students regardless of race and ethnicity. 

Anti racism policies also include indigenous populations and immigration protections, versus jailing policies. 

Now imagine what could happen if all teachers undertook a complete Antiracist Training and continue to build knowledge and understanding of race and gender studies. There may be a shift and we may stop hearing teachers call students the N word or continue to have a lack of understanding for our LGTBQ + students. Imagine if we didn’t find Black Women threatening or even worse as disciplinarians. And we stopped feeling threatened by Black boys and girls. We all had a deep understanding of Ethnic, Black, and Latinx Studies. This all happens when you are dedicated to an Antiracist approach. Or more importantly,  being an actual educator committed to checking their implicit biases. 

As if your life depended on it. 

And as educators, we should immerse ourselves in the study of developing an Antiracist lens so that our students can actually “thrive and not simply survive” (Bettina L. Love). 

“I have learned that we (POC) need a community of support...We need to speak up against racism and other forms of oppression,  but we do not have to speak alone” Beverly Daniel Tatum

But please know that many of us are exhausted of always pointing out the obvious so start doing the damn work!