Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Problem We All Live With

The Problem We All Live With - This American Life

This reading/listening is hard for me to reflect on.  On the one hand, I like the way text readings are broken up my title and sub titles, etc.   But on the other hand, hearing the people's voice in the interview gives it one more level of "realness."

 Jones focuses the interview on desegregation and the trouble with school systems in the lower level class.  She states that the only way to really and truly escape from poverty and racism is to desegregate the school systems.  It has been attempted at various schools and various times but because it is hard and the results are long term versus immediate - most people give up on that idea after a short time.

Part I of the video sounds SO harsh to me.  The things that these grown up says about children had me simply overwhelmed.  The Francis Howell parents talk about the arrival of the Normandy students like they are wild animals - as do the school officials.  At one point the administrator of the school speaks to the parents and instead of calming them down she seems to incite them even more.  She says, "those students' scores will become our scores." (24:54) And following this, the crowd gets all hyped up!  One parent stands ups and asks where metal detectors and drug sniffing dogs are going to be and closes her argument with, "Because I shopped for a school district. I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed or taking a drug or getting robbed. Because that's the issue." (26:27)  If this statement does not define white privilege (and ignorance) I'm not sure what does.  This woman truly believes that because she had the LUXURY (b/c that's what it is!) of "shopping around" for a school district that she liked/approved of that the Normandy students should not be allowed in the school.  I'm sure if the Normandy families had the luxury of choosing their school district, they may not have chosen the district they were in.  This again speaks to our discussion of achievement gap vs opportunity gap.  

It would be interesting to see how things would have worked out with the integration had the Francis Howell parents/administrators handled the integration differently; in a more welcoming manner.  I've mentioned it in class and I will mention it again as I am a big believer in the self fulfilling prophecy.  I just imagine all these Normandy students and parents sitting at home listening in on the meeting that was aired on the radio and them feeling so unwanted and belittled.  As a teenager if I were hearing an adult say the things about needing metal detectors and drug sniffing dogs its, it would only make me want to do those things to "prove her right."  I would have the mind set of living "down" to their expectations.  Potentially, if they were welcomed into the school, and felt supported, they would enter with a happy/positive attitude and the opportunity gap could be lessened for at least one small area. 
I want to wrap up Part I with this meme because it is obviously very fitting.  The image itself represents what was one a huge step - a black student entering a white school.  I think that most people thought that was just going to fix everything - that because black students are not legally secluded to a separate building - that all would now be right.  While this image does represent progress in racism, there is still such a long way to go.  Sure, black/minority students are not legally secluded to a certain school BUT since school district is based on where you live, those students really do not have much of a choice in their school.

Part II
The second part of the audio was a little more relatable for me as a parent.  I have been blessed that my parents have done a lot of the child care for my kids but we did send my daughter to pre-school part time, just to get her used to the socialization and structure of it.  When we sent out birthday party invitations for her she asked me if we invited the one little boy in her class, when I told her we did not (he was new and the only boy), she asked why and I explained that she had been with the other kids for 2 years and he had just come to school like 2 weeks earlier.  Her immediate response was something like, " oh. I thought it was cuz he's bad." I asked why/how he is bad?  Does he have to go in time our a lot? does he not share?   I listed a bunch of different logical reasons, she may have though this little boy was "bad."  Lo and behold, she finally came out with it.  "he is bad b/c he's black."  My jaw dropped! I could not believe she had said this!  We had a long discussion about it and sure enough a friend at school told my daughter that.  That was in June and I still talk to her about this almost every day.
This image ties in perfectly with what the speaker shares about her experience in a white school.  He friends are obviously all white and probably at first, they didn't even notice a difference but soon they were told by their parents that they couldn't go to her house to swim/play but that she could go to theirs.  By telling your child that - you are basically saying that your friend is "beneath" us.

As an aside...not related to the text - but very related to class...
On Saturday morning I was at my daughter's dance class and my mom was there with me.  We were discussing something we had seen on Facebook posted by an old teammate of mine and my mom whispers quietly to me, "I think she is married to or dates her roommate."  Now the statement itself didn't really bother me as it was just a fact.  What bothered me was how she said it.  My mother is by no means a quiet person, but she lowered her voice super quiet when making her statement, and when I asked why she did that she replied with "I don't never know who is listening!?" I again challenged what if they are listening, you are not saying anything wrong, you are simply stating what you think to be true.  But the fact of the matter is, our society is one where being gay is not the norm and therefore it may not be accepted in place and people feel nervous talking about it -- but we must talk about it!  We must get the "elephant" out of the room and actively talk about the things that make us most uncomfortable!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Colorblind vs Color Insight

Colorblindness is the New Racism - Armstrong & Widman

Let me start by saying that this article was definitely a struggle for me to get through.  I found myself re-reading the same things several times.  The other readings we have done, I have found to be more interesting because they were more of a personal retelling of experiences whereas this seemed to be a lot of interesting, but dry facts.  That being said.... this meme made me laugh because I think it is a great portrayal of white privilege.   Those of us who have it are able to just cruise through life oblivious to what people around us may be going through.

 While I did find this text very hard to get through I picked out a few quotes that resonated with me.

"The law prohibits segregation in public schools yet inequality in opportunity and caliber of education remains rampant," (p. 64)

This quote brought me back to our discussion about achievement gap vs. opportunity gap.   At my school we often discuss how we can make our community more diverse and really reach out and serve the poor as the founder of our school did and at the same time squash the rumors and such that the only way to get into the school is if you are an athlete and the many other things that are said about getting into various private schools.  Although I've never said it aloud, I have always thought, "why not just stop asking for race on the application?!"  It seemed like a simple solution to the problem.  If race was not listed on the application then how could the school be "accused" of picking its students based on color.  Luckily, I am not the person in charge because after our various discussions in class based on the texts, this would be a terrible idea.  If the application were color blind, our school population would most likely be even less diverse, because of the opportunity gaps in the applicants.  How could one possibly compare the opportunities given to an upper middle class student of say...Barrington, to a lower class student of say South Providence?!  You simply could not.  But on paper, it would not show an opportunity gap, but rather an achievement gap.  The South Providence student who may have to work at least part time to help pay bills at home, and may have no food at home who therefore cannot complete all his homework and/or focus to study for a test, cannot be compared to the Barrington student who may never have to work until after college, who has minimal responsibilities at home and who has plenty of food to spare.  But if the application were colorblind the test scores would say the Barrington student is a higher "achiever," and would be accepted over the South Providence student.  

"Whites often do not think of race and racial justice, except when they notice people of color are present." (p. 66) 

This quote reminded me of something a friend texted me about the other day.  She just recently moved to New York and got a job teaching Italian in a high school in the Bronx.  The student body she is now teaching there is very different than the student body she taught at La Salle.  After her first day of actual instruction, she texted me and said something like "Wow! I never realized just how white my lessons are until today!" I asked her what she meant and she went on to explain things like her vocabulary words for profession are jobs that typically held by middle class (white) families: things like doctor, lawyer, police officer, firefighter, nurse, teacher.  Of course some people in her classroom could relate to those professions when talking about their families, I'm sure a lot less students related to those words than the ones in her classroom at La Salle Academy.

In this example, being colorblind was problematic.  If she had had color insight instead of colorblindness, she could have listed a better variety of professions.

So, as the quote points out, my friend did not think of race being an issue with her lesson until she was in a room full of students of color.

"Color insight recognizes that a racial status quo exists in which society attributes race to each member" (p. 68)

This quote relates to the first quote but is sort of it's opposite...the first quote emphasizes the negative result of being colorblind while the second quote points out potential benefits of having color insight. The fact of the matter is that despite vast improvements over the decades, race does still matter and does still play an important role in our society.  Therefore, everyone, especially those in the culture of power, need to be aware of the status quo.  If we are all more aware of the injustices that surround us, we are more likely to be able to make changes in the world and the status quo that exists.

All Lives Matter - Kevin Roose

This was obviously a much quicker and easier read.  I found it very interesting because if I'm being honest, when the Black Lives Matter hashtag began, I, being of white privilege (and ignorant bliss) was a bit annoyed, because like others who said it, I believe that all lives matter...and they do - but that's not the point of the hashtag.

I found these two memes and I think they sum up very nicely what Roose is saying in his article.  Yes, all lives DO matter...but unfortunately, there is typically no question about whether white lives matter therefore, the hashtag all lives matter is not necessary and only takes away from what Black Lives Matter is trying to do.

By spreading that hashtag we are basically doing the same thing as the picture from 1965 is showing.  Once again, trying to push people of color down.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Can you please put your shoes away?

Other People's Children - Lisa Delpit

You may be wondering why in the world I titled this post as I did....This idea of how white people parent stuck in my mind through out the whole text....because I could related to so easily.  As a matter of fact, just after reading for a little while, while the kids played outside, we were gathering up all our belongings to head inside and I asked my daughter Laura, "Laura, can you please take your shoes upstairs for me?"  She looked at me and deferred the chore to her little brother and I just laughed at myself!

Lisa Delpit's excerpt brought several topics and situations to my attention that I am "guilty" of yet never even knew it - which is ironic because she says that those who are in the power culture are usually unaware of it or don't like to admit/acknowledge it.

I really enjoyed reading about and her specific examples/interviews with people from different cultures and relaying their experiences. I picked out a few different quotes that really stuck with me.  "My kids know how to be black - you all teach them how to be successful in a white man's world!" (p. 29) As I read this line, my jaw literally dropped open.  What an awful feeling that must be to send your child off to school where he or she is supposed to be "taught" how to be white! What message does that send to the child?  He/She has to be taught to be something he/she is not, because who he/she is, is not good enough for the greater society.

Similarly on pages 42-43, Delpit shares a conversation that happened between a southern black student, Joey and his teacher.  In the dialogue Joey has just read a book that is written using the language he would use/hear on a daily basis.  When the teacher discusses the book with him, Joey says that he doesn't think the author should write like that because it doesn't sound right and if he talks or writes like that he won't do well in school.  That must be so confusing for a child to feel like what he/she hears and how he/she speaks on a daily basis is wrong and means he/she will not have success in school and life.

Joey says, " Maybe they ought to come up with another kind of of ... maybe Black English or something.  A course in Black English.  Maybe Black folks would be good in that cause people talk, I mean black people talk like that, so ... but I guess there's a right way and wrong way to talk, you know, not regarding what race.  I don't know." (p. 43)

This part strikes me for a few reasons.  The first thing that sticks out to me is that way Joey corrects himself, he first says "people" talk and then adds in the specification of "black people."  It is crazy to me that he has to make that specification in his dialogue but at the same time, I totally can understand why he feels that way!

Returning to my starting point of Delpit's explaination of black parenting  versus white parenting/discipline hit home both as a parent and as a teacher.  The parenting level, I explained earlier but I have also made the same assumption as a teacher to black students.  Just the other day, I was working on introductions in Spanish with my class of level 1 students.  We had gone around the room and I had randomly called on students to follow the pattern of the conversation we had practiced.  When I called on one of my black students, I looked at him and expected him to follow the same pattern as the rest of the class had, but he stared at me blankly and said "I don't know what you want me to do." Admittedly, I did an internal eye roll and assumed he was not paying attention!  After reading Delpit's text I will definitely be keeping that in mind for the next interaction!

One more thing I noted while I was reading this section is that when Delpit discuss's parenting - she only talks about white mothers versus black mothers!  I feel like by talking about just mothers, she is making her own assumption that the mothers are primary caretaker.

Once again I would like to refer to comedy to bring this post to a close...because 1. why not end with something funny? and 2. I think all comedians use the "it's funny because it's true" idea.  Although when we look at what is really being said, underneath it all, it's more sad than funny.

In this clip from Kevin Hart's stand up, What Now, he is talking about a time that his mom gave him permission to cuss out his teacher.  The story starts off with him explaining that he was "bad" at school that day so the teacher stapled a note to his chest to bring home to his mother.  Now, I would assume the note was not actually stapled...however, the first thing that comes to mind when he says this, was "well, what was bad?'  Was he really "bad," or was it really just a miscommunication between "Ms. Green," who we assume to be white and him?  Could it have been a situation like the black student I misinterpreted last week?  He goes on with his joke/story and his mother told him to tell his teacher a few not so nice words and being a child in the story, he admits that he embellished what the mother told him to say and added a few extra cuss words in his "message from his mother."  He, of course, gets in trouble at school and when he gets home he is in trouble with his mother as well because he did not follow out the direct instruction that she gave him.  She had given him permission to say a certain number of cuss words and he went "above and beyond."

While this is of course, meant to be a joke and a funny situation...and the way he is explains it, it certainly is hysterical.  But it makes you wonder how much of this type of scenario actually goes on.  How many times does the teacher who is part of the "power culture" mistake a cultural difference/miscommunication to be rude or disrespectful?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Blog 1: Johnson

Privilige, Power and Difference (Johnson)

This reading was very easy to relate to.  My mind went in several different directions, relating to the text, as I was reading.  The first thing that came to mind were seminars/professional development sessions I have attended at school.  Whenever the topic of diversity comes up, it is a difficult topic to discuss in our school since the vast majority of our staff is made up of middle class white people.  It's exactly as Johnson describes the "elephant in the room" situation.  We all know there is clearly much to be discussed and improved upon, but everyone is afraid/hesitant to "say the wrong thing."

In our cafeteria, there is what the students call the "black table."  Obviously, the black students are not forced to sit anywhere specific, but they do tend to gather and sit together.  There are certainly a few white kids who join the table, specifically those students who play sports, but they typically joke that they are sitting at the "black table."

This "black table" that has formed in the cafeteria stuck out in my mind throughout various parts of Johnson's text.  When he talks about the diversity wheel and how changing one piece of it not only affects the physical trait but also the thoughts/feelings associated with that trait.  For example, if we were to change the skin color of a student, from black to white, he/she would most likely not feel the same way he/she does when selecting a lunch seat as a black student.

Similarly, a white student, who as the "unearned advantage" of being white, may dismiss a black student's decision to sit at the "black table" by claiming it is his/her choice to sit there without really taking into account the emotions and feelings that are attached to this decision.

As I continued reading, I kept thinking back to a discussion I ofter have with a colleague and friend of mine.  The beginning of Johnson's text, talks about how we are groomed to believe these types of segregations occur because it is human nature to stick to things we are familiar with versus the unknown.  My friend and I always have always used the example of attending out professional development, but it would apply for any new setting.  Typically, if you are showing up to any type of event alone, where you don't know anyone, it is instinctive to look for someone similar to you.  As a young white female, if I were to attend a professional development of some sort, I would look to sit with a table/group of other young white females.  I, like most, had always assumed it was just our human nature.  However, I found Johnson's dispute of that belief very interesting.  He says that the opposite is actually true.  By nature, we are actually intrigued by what we don't know and he compares it to the curiosity of a toddler- which I am *very * familiar with.  He takes even further by explaining that we are not afraid of we don't know, but rather afraid of what we THINK we do know. My mind immediately went to being afraid of the dark.  (Yes - at 31, I am still not a fan of the dark!) Some people are afraid of the dark and we always say/assume it's because we do not know what may be there and lurking.  However, what Johnson says makes much more sense - our minds start racing and fantasizing about what MIGHT be there and that is what actually scares us.

I decided to include some links to some songs I think relate to this text and topic.  When it comes to music, there is really so much out there relating to this topic/text, but I just picked a few that stuck out to me.

White Privilege - Macklemore
This song by Macklemore talks very closely about what Johnson does in his text.  He discusses how being White is a privilege granted to him just because of his ancestry.  He says, "and most whites don't want to acknowledge that this is occurring, cause we got the best deal, the music without the burden." I thought this lyric was very interesting because he is a rap artist and this song talks about white rappers changing the face of rap.  Previously rap was dominated by black artists and white people are making a big move in the industry.  Black rap artists typically rap about the oppression and difficulties they have faced in their effort to make it into the industry.  Macklemore's lyric of getting the music without the burden is profound because he is pointing out that because he was given the unearned advantage of being white, he is able to make it in the music industry without having gone through the oppression and hard times as other artists.

Chris Rock - Rich vs. Wealthy *EXPLICIT Language*
This second link I was hesitant to include because of the explicit language used by Chris Rock but I decided it was important enough to include it.  I love stand up comedy and one of the things i have always noticed is that racism/discrimination is almost always the topic of some sort of joke.  In this skit Chris Rock jokes about the difference between being rich and being wealthy.  He says that black people may become rich, but that wealthy is for white people.  He jokes that the wealthy white people sign the checks to give to the rich black people.  Although the content is delivered through comedy and the crowd laughs at the jokes, there is a lot of truth to what he says and it's really sad to make this realization.

If I Were a Boy - Beyonce
For the last clip, I stepped away from the racism category and jumped into gender.  Especially as a mom to both a boy and girl and growing up in a household where it was my brother and I, it is easy for me to see the double standards for males and females.  Growing up, my boyfriends were always scrutinized more than any of my brother's girlfriends.  He was allowed to stay out later and when he was in college his girlfriend was allowed to stay the night at our house.  I was engaged and my now husband stayed in a nearby hotel when he was visiting! This song exemplifies the double standards for boys and girls in relationships.  Beyonce goes through the whole song explaining what freedoms/liberties she would have if she were the boy in the relationship.  A lot of the examples in the song are small scale compared to what Johnson talks about in his text, but nonetheless, I think the song works simple because it was written.  There are not many songs (if any) that portray a man who would seem to be happier/better off if he were the woman in the relationship.