Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Voting Act Signing

Your Kids Don’t Actually Feel Like They Belong In School

Jose Vilson Jose 4 Comments

Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Voting Act Signing

Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Act Signing

Today, a friend forwarded me a report from the Pew Research Center that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. An excerpt:

But as historic as it was, a half century later many Americans — particularly blacks — still believe that the country has a ways to go in overcoming racial disparities.

A CBS News poll conducted in late March found that while 59% of Americans — including 60% of whites and 55% of blacks — considered race relations in the U.S. to be generally good, about half (52%) thought there was real hope of ending discrimination altogether while 46% said there would always be a lot of prejudice and discrimination. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) held the view that discrimination will always exist compared to 44% of whites.

In other words: people of color have a much different view of race relations in this country. Again.

The implications for this get even more complicated when we look at the accompanying statistics about public schools. When asked whether Blacks were treated less fairly than whites in local public schools, only 15% of whites, 35% of Latinos / Hispanics, and 51% of Blacks believe this. In other words, for every white person who believes this, 2 Latinos and 3 Black people are absolutely shaking their heads at the 85% of white folks who don’t.

Which makes the idea of speaking about institutional racism that much more important.

Unfortunately, many teachers in the classroom don’t “see” race when they see kids, and / or don’t see themselves as agents to an institution that makes many children of color feel like they don’t actually belong to them. They’re “colorblind” because they either don’t want to deal with it, don’t know how, or implicitly have a blind eye to their privilege. Or all of those.

That’s the thing about privilege: people like me often have to point them out in order to make others more reflective.

In the 21st century, we can no longer blame any one region of the country or political “side” for racism. One of the most left-leaning states in the nation, New York, also leads the nation in segregated schools, a function of the rise of charter schools and not-so-secret redlining. This may have shocked a lot of folks, but there’s a critical mass of us who’ve waited far too long to say I told you so.

We’re the ones in the other table you refuse to sit at. It’s cool. We got stories, too.

Jose

picture c/o

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 4

  1. Jeffrey Branzburg

    I’d like to commentabout “colorblind” when you write “Unfortunately, many teachers in the classroom don’t “see” race when they see kids, and / or don’t see themselves as agents to an institution that makes many children of color feel like they don’t actually belong to them. They’re “colorblind” because they either don’t want to deal with it, don’t know how, or implicitly have a blind eye to their privilege. Or all of those.”

    When I taught middle school math, 1970 to 1985, the thing to do was to be colorblind. It was a positive to believe all kids were the same and equal with no differences. That was what equality meant. I think part of that was the thought that I was teaching mathematics rather than teaching *kids* mathematics. So I did not “see” race in that respect, but I don’t believe that was because of any of the three reasons you mention – it was because being colorblind was to be equal. In retrospect, emphasizing *kids* would have necessarily implied recognizing what the kids brought to school – their races, their cultures, etc. The idea of differentiated culturally responsive teaching was not on our radar.

    1. Post
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      Jose Vilson

      Jeff, the problem with colorblindness is that, as study after thorough study has shown, people aren’t actually colorblind. If anything, they end up treating them like the “normative,” which, for all intents and purposes, means they get treated like white kids. With this sort of mentality, many teachers tacitly ignore a big part of what makes them human. To pretend as if kids of color aren’t “of color” is to deny them of their full humanity.

      Equality, on the other hand, works best when everyone understands cultural differences, and to a larger degree, embraces these parts of them. The period of which you speak saw an unprecedented gap closing thanks in large part to the closing of the investment gap by our nation’s education system (Darling-Hammond’s research is critical here).

      At some point, I thought I wanted “colorblindness” too, until colorblindness became an evasive strategy …

      1. Jeffrey Branzburg

        Agreed, Jose. Just providing a bit of historical perspective. Our intentions were good back then (well, the intentions of many of us).

  2. Pingback: reflection #10: {a lacking}; reviewing the blog entitled “Your Kids Don’t Actually Feel Like They Belong After All” | The Titus Two Teacher

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