Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?   3 comments

So (late) last night I decided to embark on a 24-hour Twitter fast after reading a testimony from @CandiceNicolePR. She openly shared how so many things had gone wrong during the past fews months, but then, almost suddenly things started to work in her favor. As I thought about her and her refusal to give up (even though she came close), I thought: I really need to take a break, sit and reflect on some things because I have been waiting for answers/direction for a very long time. And that’s exactly what I did today: No logging in to Twitter or Facebook. Instead, I rested and thought. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s code for I slept. All day, save for the few disturbances by the ringing cell phone. (FYI: You will see this post on Twitter, but I won’t be online until 12:01 AM)

When I finally got out of bed, I checked homework then logged in to check my email. Despite my protest last week, I read the contribution to the Huffington Post by my friend @TheJLV. Jose honestly tackled an issue that has become a talking piece amongst psuedo-edreformers, such as Arne Duncan: Increasing the numbers of Black and Latino male teachers. What’s really interesting is that I engaged in a conversation (not debate, not argument) with @rugcernie on Twitter last night on the same topic. But Jose’s piece made me think of the bigger picture: Race and its role in education, edreform, and everything ed-related. I couldn’t help but think about the blog post I wrote after I was shafted overlooked by the Huffington Post. Why are some people so obviously uncomfortable with talking about race? Better yet, why do some people get offended (defensive) when others discuss it?

PSA: If my frank discussions about race and class offend you, STOP READING! For those with a healthy and realistic view of the way things really work in this country, grab a seat and a snack because this one will be a little lengthy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on my perception on what I (key word) perceived to be a dismissive/rude/unprofessional handling of my request to write for the Huffington Post’s Education Blog Special. Like other recent news and media outlets, like Education Nation, the online news outlet decided to dedicate a section of its web to discussing issues related to Education. To its credit, however, the Huffington POst did do a much better job at selecting a few good writers (@TheJLV and @TeacherSabrina). On the other hand, they mirrored the Education Nation’s efforts (or apathy) in selecting some parents (with actual school-age children, who attend public schools) to contribute to the dialogue. In every recent debate or teacher-union bashing event, the voices of parents have been silenced. More specifically, the voices of Black and Latino parents. I can’t help but wonder if, I were a parent with less than a college degree (or three) and a proclamation that I am willing to do whatever necessary to ensure that my kids attend college, would they have accepted me? Silly me! I thought someone was genuinely interested in hearing diverse perspectives, even those from single parents, a.k.a., the downfall of the family unit and public education. I guess not.

I continued to think….then felt that there were a few things I needed to say, in reference to some of the comments left on that blog post.

1. At no point in that blog did I say that the Huffington Post did not choose me because I am Black or a single parent. I simply inferred that they are no more interested in the parental perspective than Education Nation, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, or Gates… Black teachers, a little. But Black parents, not so much. The same applies to Latino teachers and parents.

2. The title I chose for that post, ‘Ain’t I a woman…’ was a play on words and one of my (many) attempts at sarcasm (Definition: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual). By the way, my insertion of the definition of sracasm was also an excellent example of sarcasm. That’s how I roll: Go with the flow or get ran over. (Seriously) More importantly, if you didn’t recognize from whence the paraphrased title came, STOP reading this blog and go read this! I felt that my Blackness and my status as a mother were of little to no significance to the organizers of Education Nation. Being overlooked by Huffington Post magnified those feelings. So yeah, I was a little pissed. I had and have every right to be. How dare anyone assert themselves as leaders in Education, the ones ‘chosen’ to educate my kids, but not give any consideration to my viewpoint or what I can contribute to the discussion. The unmitigated gall!

But here’s what really ires me (I promise, I am almost done): People, Black, White, Latino, and everything in between, who refuse to acknowledge that the educational disparities we witness in present day, are in fact, directly correlated to race, which is directly correlated to the history of this country and every institution within it. Believe me, it’s a vicious cycle and it will not be broken until we have the courage to openly acknowledge and challenge what’s wrong, how we can fix it, and who needs to be involved in rebuilding it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

So, my question still stands: ‘Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post? But in all fairness, I will make an addendum and include the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and that woman. I guess if I decided to rile up some other ‘militant’ Black parents and start our own forum on education reform, someone would take me seriously. Doesn’t matter because I know what they spend millions to figure out. For the time being, that’s entertainment enough for me. So yeah, I’m a whole lotta woman.

3 responses to “Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?

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  1. Woo. I do like this new look.

    Obviously, race is significant or it would be… well, insignificant by now.

    But, once prosperity is attained, do the children have more barriers to success than white children? Eg, thought experiment… say the Obamas are not in the white house, but are just a regular super-successful professional couple. Would their kids have more or less difficulty getting into elite schools, finding great jobs than my bright but much more middle class (based on Obama’s def of <250K being middle class–I'm WELL under that) white male kid, do you think?

    I don't think the Obamas would get to stop being advocates for their kids for one minute… but neither would I, and neither does any white family I know with a successful kid, rich or poor. Some poorer white families have heartbreaking stories because they haven't been able to take time to be the advocates they need to be, or haven't been able to afford alternatives when their children didn't thrive in public school. But my point is, tentatively, that once you do have the money and the commitment, your kids have as much chance as anyone's (and that's another issue, because there are plenty of drugs and despair in middle and upper class environments, too, even if it is a quieter malaise, and any lost kid is a lost kid), no matter what your race. But it's a tentative point because that's only how it looks to me–that Black and Latino kids from good neighborhoods and privileged backgrounds seem to do fine in terms of educational and professional opportunities. But I am also not minimizing threats and harassment they might encounter… just for now want to ask if someone from an Obama-family background (current generation) would have obstacles in terms of admission, salary level, etc.

    So, in aggregate, race certainly matters. But family by family, I think class standing makes the most difference. Anymore that means everyone except a very few are struggling and too often the perception is that they are fighting one another.

  2. Thanks, Monise, for telling it as it is! Race needs to be dealt with head on–openly and honestly. And with compassion!

  3. Being a former teacher and a black male, yes, the input of Black and Latino parents are important. It is easy to become enamored with the advice and direction of education leaders and pundits. I agree with you that there is a correlation to the past. It’s not a mistake that school systems like in Florida just had desegregation orders removed because they improved their level of minority teachers to fit the level of minority students.

    In the past, there were black schools in the South that were intentionally underfunded. Black children were only required to attend school a few months of the year; meanwhile, most white children attended school on a normal schedule. Some Southern counties were so treacherous that black children had no requirements for schooling or no schools—black communities had to educate their children on their own.

    Today, as most know, in many inner city quadrants, the de facto has happened. These schools are underfunded and these children do not feel like the norm. They see it, they know it and they feel it. They are so highly aware of their bad situations that they just give up. Once they start falling in the wrong direction, they spin the cycle faster with further poor choices. Thankfully, communities can take over through charter schooling, empowering their own community. See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-compton-school-20101208,0,1038265.story

    Also, more than just having black male or Latino male teachers, there needs to be me more males around at home and in the community—the positive ones. It’s not manning up by the money but rather manning up by the presence, the presence not perfect but good is so needed.

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