A couple of months ago, in the middle of a few good conversations, Leonie Haimson reminded me that I was one of the first NYC edubloggers to do “it.” By it, we all understood “it” to be using a blog to speak up and out about educational issues. People like NYC Educator, Norm’s Notes, JD2718, Pissed Off Teacher, and the now defunct EduWonkette, informed my early thinking about how best to approach writing to what seemed like everybody and nobody at once, namely the thousands of NYC teachers needing a voice. Yet, as is often the case, I saw a gaping hole in the middle of this conversation surrounding education (activism or pedagogy), so vacuous in fact, it might frighten anyone less persistent.
When it comes to race, or any marginalized group, those most affected (or disaffected, as it were) have to teach the privileged about its deleterious effects.
Even in a well-meaning group of educators, and trust me when I say I’ve rarely felt uncomfortable in any room of educators I’ve walked into, some of us have common misunderstandings, mistakes, and omissions about experiences that don’t fall within our line of vision. Sometimes, they honestly don’t know how to approach the issue of race. Other times, they thought about it right, but if they discuss race, then they might feel the need to have to expound and don’t feel informed enough to have the discussion. Then there’s just those who, even though they like to mention race every so often, look at writers like me and say, “What gives this guy the right to voice his opinion on race because he’s Black / Latino?”
It was evident then that writing this way wasn’t just pissing people off in general, but agitating their visions of a complacent educated negro.
When we write, we don’t just bring our use of the language with us. We bring an entirety of experiences, more often than not different from the other. The best we can do is come to the table with an understanding that we’ll actually read the arguments with two lenses: for what they are and for the lens that wrote them. Writing as an Black / Latino educator, I have to seek solutions rather than simply point problems, because if I can’t work towards them, then how can I expect my students to do the same?
We can also be honest and say that my color already puts people in a disposition to either lurk behind the writing or, worse, ignore it. The problem with, and the solution to, that is, you’re forcing me to come twice as hard, twice as loud, twice as “race-y”. Now that I subsist in the same domain that your favorite blogger elites do, in the same “lists” and “pages” they do, write in spaces that rarely gave us access, my non-violent protests can no longer be diluted to a simple sit-in. In fact, it’s as radical as anything any edublogger of color does.
This shit rare. We ain’t even supposed to be here.
Jose, who knows you’ll understand …