Saturday, August 15, 2015

From the town square, to the edge of town, to the prison cell and the ghetto...

The spacial arrangements and social psychology 
of white supremacy
Across the three systems of control (slavery, Jim Crow/segregation, and criminalization), the way that white denial has evolved is connected both to spacial arrangements and to the social psychology of how each racial system of control views the humanity of black people.

Under slavery the racial order allowed whites to live closely with blacks and commit open acts of terror and torture because the dominant order classed blacks (and by extension other communities considered "black" by the white power structure) as non-human property. 

Under segregation the racial order pushed blacks (and by extension other communities considered "black" by the white power structure) to the margins both physically and psychologically in the white mind. Blacks were seen as human, but as inferior and therefore deserving of being locked by segregation into a sub-caste status. Whites policed the borders of white and black spaces. Attempts made by blacks to challenge the physical nature of segregation and thus the psychological order of inferiority were met with racial violence.  

Today we have a racial order that ascribes criminality to blackness and at the same time insists that we live in a post-racial color blind space. The dominant discourse is that we are equal, but the racial order ascribes criminality to blackness and by extension to other people of color. In order for whites to believe this racial narrative, the violence of the racial social order is even further removed from white consciousness in ghetto spaces and behind prison walls. This allows for the psychology of white denial. If we are actually all "equal", whites must either hide the new form of racial violence (behind prison walls) or justify it based on the perceived "criminality" of blackness (ie, they did it to themselves) or code words for blackness.

When I use the term "racial order", I mean the social narrative which has created white supremacy through history. With this in mind, my basic observation was that as the oppressed have been more "humanized" on paper on the one hand, white supremacist thinking and continuing structural racism has pushed racial violence further and further into hidden spaces and at the same time created different psychological spaces that allows whites to "blame" structural violence on deficiency in black people (from non-human, to inferior human, to criminal human).   

Each system uses white supremacy to frame the racial order in a slightly different way and therefore where the violence takes place is different (from the town square, to the edge of town, to the prison cell and the ghetto). Each system justifies racial violence and a racialized social order, but does it in a slightly different way which alters where it takes place. It also creates different forms of white denial. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Multiplication is for White People Meeting #4

Sadly our time together as an amazing intellectual think-tank for racial justice in education is coming to a close.  Meeting #4 took place on Wednesday and the conversation was hotter than ever.  We touched on issues from anger at the corporate reform movement to testing to project-based learning to talking with our colleagues about the importance of recognizing white privilege and racial-bias in every aspect of educating children.  Whew! It was intense.

Thank you to all who participated.  A shout out to Jason Javier-Watson who came to every single meeting!  And another shout out to Tomika, Delilah and Sheila for facilitation.  And finally a shout out to everyone who brought snacks because they were so tasty.

Attached are a couple pictures from the last meeting and a mind map that illustrates some of the things we created.  Please email me if you would like to protest photos of you being posted.  I will take it down.  (Just FYI, mind-mapping is something I use with my students which is especially great for doodlers, but it takes a little training to help them get and connect all the main points. The end result is always powerful.)

Be sure to read the Next Steps part of the email you received.  Thanks!


Thanks Jessica Shupik and Tomika's Daughter for taking photos!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Multiplication is for White People Meeting #3

During our third meeting we began to dive deeper into the text and make connections with our own classroom experience. Some of the prevalent themes throughout our meeting were the absence of teachers of color, white privilege, making authentic connections with students and critical thinking in the classroom. Throughout the third section of the book, Delpit identifies the massive failure in test prep for standardized testing. Delpit states “Some instructional approaches focused solely on repetition of decontextualized bits may “work” temporarily to raise test scores for children in urban settings, but if the children’s minds are not engaged, then the programs are failures”.  We began to discuss failures and successes in our classrooms. Some teachers spoke of thematic units in their classroom in which they incorporate the Common Core State Standards while engaging students in authentic learning. Others admitted that our focus on test preparation made our classrooms one of the environments that the author warned against.

Our discussion then moved to encouraging critical thinking and authentic learning from our students. I was deeply moved and troubled when I posed the question “How are we supposed to engage our students in critical thinking when we as educators aren’t encouraged to be critical thinkers?”  Prior to this meeting I had a discussion with a veteran teacher who recently retired. One of her major concerns was the focus of standardized testing and the top-down control of her teaching practice. As an educator, she felt stifled by the major erroneous changes that were made to her classroom instruction. The veteran teachers of color who are being pushed out of the classroom and the current teachers who are constant targets of attack and harassment dishearten me. I am troubled by the lack of respect for all educators and structural racism that is a constant slap in the face. In many ways I am feeling that same animosity. Delpit states, “Only those who are authentically and critically literate can become the independently thinking citizens required for any society’s evolution”.  This new school year will bring more control over teacher instruction and less value in teacher creativity. The dilemma is how to navigate in a system that seems to destroy the natural talents that educators bring to the classroom. Based on the text, the group suggested the importance of teacher collaboration to find your voice. The WE & TAG Summer Book Groups are the perfect opportunity to collaborate with other educators.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Multiplication is for White People Meeting #2

Meeting # 2 Sheila's Mind Map of our discussion based on Sections 1 & 2

Building Critical Context: Responding to a definition of Structural Racism