Domino, Domino, Only Spot A Few Blacks The Higher I Go - The Jose Vilson

Domino, Domino, Only Spot A Few Blacks The Higher I Go

by Jose Vilson on August 29, 2011

in Jose

Jay-Z

My good friend Brent reminded me that Diane Ravitch tweeted the notorious article by Michael Petrilli comparing Klout scores of some of the biggest names in the online education world. It has the effect where people can take a macro-view of the education world and have some discussion of what it means to have influence in this sphere. Klout’s a rather crude measure for influence, but it’s as good as it gets. Because of the limitations on Klout presently (like ranking a la WeFollow), it’s hard to do a fair list that includes everyone who’s in the sphere.

Having said that, there’s a shortage of people of color representing educators, and Michael did exactly what I expected and let it be.

With all due respect to the racial sensitivities of my readers, the article felt like looking into a conversation full of White people deciding amongst themselves who will speak up on behalf of all online educators, and who can be isolated from the conversation. People of color become akin to spooks, darkies, and shadows, in an almost literal sense when educators of color don’t see any real representation of themselves. I’d also love to say that the list excluded people whose views diverged from Petrilli’s, but he puts Ravitch #1, and includes friends like Mike Klonsky in there.

So it’s not just me. It’s that there’s a lack of color.

You’re well within your bounds to say that the list missed a ton of people, including friend Chris Lehmann, the movement SOSMarch, luminary Angela Maiers, and math extraordinaire David Wees. You’re also safe to say that the list against signifies the ridiculousness of making such lists. These are all sound arguments, and I let it go after I made my comment. It’s like the further I get in the education sphere, the fewer people of color I see representing us.

Naturally, it also irked me because of the context in which it was tweeted to me. It’s no disrespect to those who tweeted it out in the last few days, but if the list represents the comeuppance, or the recognition of the voice of the voiceless, then I’d like to officially appoint myself the color of the colorless. As evidenced by some of the conversations I’ve had lately, people of color don’t have to agree with me on all my views, but the experience of ostracization in this country seems to count.

What up to Milton Ramirez? And semi-nod to Michelle Rhee. These two were the only people of color in this edu-sphere to make it on this list. If Michael Petrilli and others believe this is a legitimate list, then we’re gonna need a million more …

Jose, who went from murder to excellence …

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Ivey August 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Put this together with Nancy Flanagan’s excellent piece at “Teacher in a Strange land” entitled “Boys’ Town” and you get a pretty bleak
picture. And I don’t know of many if any prominent LGBT edu-bloggers. There’s a lot of silencing, intentional and unintentional, external and self-imposed, going on here, and not just among educators online or not. I feel like there’s more hope for the next generation, but we just advance so frickin’ slowly, and in fact seem to be regressing right now. What should/could we be doing?!

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Mike Fisher August 29, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I just recently had a similar conversation about educators on Twitter. There’s definitely a lack of diversity in this tool that is supposed to have a global impact, but doesn’t (visually?) represent the global masses. It reminds me of an activity I did with my students years ago in North Carolina when we looked at all of the folks running for offices at the local, state, and national level. The government is supposed to represent the people right? My kids picked apart pretty quickly that 95% of the candidates were old white men. The discussions we had that day were pretty powerful–the girls, anyone of color–felt underrepresented and were openly discussing how we could shift the diversity of our elected officials. In response to your post, Jose, part of me wants to say, “Really? This is the 21st Century and we’re still dealing with this?” and part of me wants to concede to the realities of separating ourselves by classes, colors, privilege, hegemony, politics, sexuality, age, access, economics, and justice. Is it just ridiculous, or is it a mirror for the 21st Century version of decades old social mores? How do we grow globally capable and connected kids when the adult models are still trying to figure out what is beyond a tolerant society…is it acceptance? Is it appreciation? Or is it fully integrated representation without judgment? #steppingoffsoapboxnow

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Jose August 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Bill, I’ll have to check that out. I know what to do: promote people from outside our “silos.” It’s been the main thrust of my work since I’ve been blogging, but I’ve regressed to just education. Now, I’d like to get back to that in a major way.

Mike, that’s too true. I thought at least one other comment might address this, and none of them did. Many just included more people from those silos. If I include just myself in the (very incomplete) list, then I’m #4. If I include myself with the other educators from the comments, I’m somewhere between 3-7, depending on the day, which would still mean that only three of us of color would have made it on this magical list.

So this is the 21st Century still, dealing with shadows of a past we didn’t create, but we unconsciously perpetuate. Our work will inevitably come from the things we do in the classroom and how we live our daily lives. Let’s never forget that, guys. And thanks for your comments.

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Mona Davids August 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Hallelujah! Thank you for writing this. Thought it was just me asking this question about educators and parent activists. Considering Blacks and Latinos are now the majority, especially in NYC, you’d expect to see more of us speaking to educating our children and representing their families in the education policy debates and shaping public policy.

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Bill Ivey September 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Like Mike, I sometimes find it hard to believe we’re still dealing with this. I just finished rereading Pat Conroy’s “The Water is Wide,” written in 1972, and the realistic optimism he expressed about how we were finally breaking free of our ugly racist past and moving toward what we would call today a “post-racial society” was not the least depressing aspect of the book given where we really are nearly 40 years later. Mike’s insight about disagreement of where we are going makes me also think abiut this. There are people who think, while we’re still on the path to a post-racial society (where specifics about an individual’s gender, sexuality, class, etc. are also less subject to assumptions and/or judgments), we need to elevate role models other than straight, white, economically comfortable white men so all these people’s experience, success, etc. are visible. Others think the way to move forward is to act as though we are already there. Whenever I’m facing an either-or question, I usually look for a “both-and” answer. Here, what renders that especially tricky is each approach undermines the other. (Hmm. Maybe…) Anyway, myself, I know I just want people everywhere to treat all people with dignity and respect. Whatever our other goals, whatever paths we are choosing to get there, maybe that is a starting point on which most of us can agree.

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