Parts II and III Discussion group, week two.
Some general discussion at the start led to comments about the rise of hate groups in America, as stated by Southern Poverty Law Center, and mention of their great resources for teachers and others. Also, mention of thoughtless comments by folks, like, “ You don’t act Black,” as if that were a compliment.
Appreciated segment about “White” identity, people feeling uncomfortable talking about race. Do not want to offend. Feel awkward, uncomfortable. Antiracist conversations are needed. Understanding of “White” privilege, with- out guilt, which is not productive or proactive. Action needed, not wallowing. Courageous Conversations by Greg Singleton, was recommended. Also, I, Racist, an article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-metta/i-racist_b_7770652.html
Important to have conversations across difference, and to be authentic self, to really root out problems and resolve some things. Uncomfortable is needed, dissonance, for example, creates growth. Yet, too uncomfortable shuts one down. So, all need to be able to be true to selves, stow the guilt and hostility, and have the productive conversations.
Identity Molecule or Who Are You activity explained. Briefly: everyone in group gets 5-6 cards. On the cards are written each person’s race, sex, for example, and two blank they fill in for selves of something that is essential to their identity. One by one each person is asked to give up a card that is not as essential to one’s identity. In mixed race groups, it is found that “Black” people hold onto that card at end and “White” people give it up immediately. Take A Step activity: all begin on a line and move forward if experienced this or that, suggested by leader. Soon apparent what one has had in life. Affirmative Action is controversial, and many feel they didn’t get a leg up either, etc, but awareness activities and conversations prove “White” privilege even when really hard to believe or see. It is difficult for folks to see beyond their own eyes.
The dominant group, the norm, in society is devoted to keeping this status quo. So much societal energy is put forth, and media supports it.
Attempted to converse about one thing you would erase from human legacy if could. Kathy brought up fact about previous discussion of integral part of who we are. So, for example, it sounds good to us that we would remove the enslavement period from history, if we could, but what would that mean? Being “Black” in America, what does it mean, and from whose perspective would we erase that history? It would ease “White” guilt, but it is part of the identity of “Black” people. Thought provoking idea.
Also, what enslavement period would we choose? There has been slavery for all time and what would it change? The fact of rising on the back of someone else would emerge some other way. Money is at the heart of evil, inherent in human condition.
However, many, including our youth, want to know what to do about it. Rise in dystopia stories with hopeful endings. How do we right society? The children want a say in this. Important to have conversations in our classrooms and to share battles won, the hope, the actions that can be taken. Mass movement, unions, achievement stories do exist and must be shared.
Discussion was had on charter schools and public schools. Lots of talk about Black History Month. So limiting. Some fear that charter schools are detrimental to the disenfranchised of our city, yet they are being sold the idea that these schools are the way to get noticed in the curriculum. Our public schools do need a serious revamping, but not a disbandment. The students do need the space to freely talk about their identity and issues. Could be done within the school, as was mentioned by Dr. Tatum, and be supported to succeed. We need role models, “Black” staff. There are increasing roadblocks to this in our schools and this must be dealt with. (A reason why charters are on the rise.)
Deb mentioned, “We don’t need anther hero.” True enough. Our students need to be learning the history of our people, not the same names over and over, and limited to that and only those few folks and to the month of February!
Help the students know we are all the movement. Help them spot racism. Raise awareness through books, talk, actions and role modeling. Show them how to make the connections.
Activism can be had in classrooms, such as service learning. Groups like Need In Deed help with this. Also, Teaching Tolerance from The Southern Poverty Law Center.
What does it mean to protect our children? Do we keep silent? If they are hearing about it in the news, or on the streets, then conversation would protect them, help ease the fears. Needs to be constructive talk, with ways to act upon the information. This can be quite sensitive, so must be handled with care in each situation. For starters, though, don’t see it as you teaching. Rather, starting the conversation. Critical conversations in your classroom. Could use articles or books as a stepping stone. It matters who is telling the story. “Was that a riot or a protest?” Identify bias, for example, use perspective, situate in time and place, from whose point of view, use different points of view on same topic. Example: use article from Inquirer and Tribune and compare and contrast. (How very P.S.S.A. and Common Core of us!) Connect with other writing, use pocket activity. (artifacts)
So many assumptions, judgmental attitudes, bigotry. The society has a lot of work to do!