When Can We Talk About Race? (Michael + Trayvon + Renisha + …)

Jose Vilson Education, Jose, Race

This is often the way education conversations go:

Higher-Up: Hey, so what do people want to talk about?
Teacher 1: Can we talk about teacher evaluation?
Higher-Up: Sure, what’s on your mind?
Teacher 1: Well, here it goes. [long diatribe about how great / terrible Danielson is] Higher-Up: Well, OK. Anyone else?
Teacher 2 (of color): Can we talk about race now?
Higher-Up: Sounds complicated. We need a more appropriate forum for th …
Teacher 2: But this is urgent. We’re having serious issues going on and so many of our kids are of …
Higher-Up: OK, OK, OK. We’ll get to it in a more appropriate forum. Anyone else?

Teacher 3: Let’s talk about Common Core.
Higher-Up: What about it?
Teacher 3: My thinking is [even longer diatribe about Gates’ involvement and how great / terrible standards are for kids] Higher-Up: I hear you. That’s relevant. Anyone else?
Teacher 2: Can we talk about race now? (with a little more emphasis)
Higher-Up: I still don’t think we’re ready. We’re really dealing with this issue and I’d rather we be better informed and nuanced about race before dealing with it.
Teacher 2: But half the people here don’t actually know what the CCSS is, the layers, and why they’re either for or against any of it and …
Higher-Up: SO everyone should have an opinion on the CCSS, so I allowed it.
Teacher 2: UGH!

(skip to the last teacher on the list …)

Higher-Up: Anyone else?
Teacher 100: I want to talk about the deleterious effects of poverty …
Teacher 2: OK, so are we going to talk about race here?
Higher-Up: Now, I said we needed the right forum …
Teacher 2, agitated: NOOOO! YOU WAIT FOR THE RIGHT FORUM! ALL Y’ALL HERE TALKIN’ BOUT ALL YOUR SINGLE LITTLE ISSUE BUT DON’T WANT TO FACE UP TO THE REALITY THAT OUR KIDS LOOK A LOT DIFFERENT THAN OUR STAFF, THEY DON’T WANT YOUR STINKING MIDDLE CLASS / UPPER CLASS VALUES, AND WANT TO KNOW WHY PEOPLE OF COLOR JUST LIKE THE ONES THEY SEE IN THE MIRROR ARE GETTING SHOT WITH NO CAUSE BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THEM!
Higher-Up: Now, now, let’s stay professi …
Teacher 2: YOU CAN STICK YOUR PROFESSIONALISM UP YOUR …

And scene …

So, not that this has happened before, but I wonder, too frequently, why people always want to wait, wait, wait on discussing issues of race, even ones as point-blank (pardon the pun) as this Michael Brown tragedy. Whether on or offline, people always want to find the “right forum” for this conversation. I get that, with some discussions, we need to have certain protocol so people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences and, in many cases, unpacking their privilege. But then it always feels like people put off certain conversations until people forget them.

All the while, I must openly question how folks can go so hard when it comes to Common Core State Standards and all the reforms that come with it, and not dedicate a few minutes of their time to learn about, if not ask those who know something about, some of the tragedies affecting our kids, both locally and nationally. I refuse to stand in solidarity with those who won’t do so with me.

Because the death of children of color at the hands of our executive branch takes more precedence than any set of standards.

I won’t wait.

Jose

photo c/o