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On Why It’s Lonely Out Here for a Black / Latino Teacher Blogger. Really.

Jose Vilson Jose 3 Comments

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Me Looking Out

A week or so ago, I ended a blog entry about my appearance at GothamSchools.org’s fundraiser likeso:

While at times in that gathering, while chewing on some wonderful chocolate chip cookies, I mulled over whether a Black / Latino man severely outnumbered ethnically and culturally in the many educational arenas I’m involved in even really belonged in this set, I couldn’t help but feel like part of a community genuinely interested in bringing positive change to life through this relatively new media.

That’s mostly true, and in my heart of hearts, I’d like to tone down the color consciousness in favor of understanding how many true and sui generis teachers and administrators, promulgating fantastic ideas, and continuing to push a larger agenda of honest education reform here and across the states.

And then it hit me: I might be in a small handful of Black / Latino bloggers who people consider part of this edublog echelon. That scares me.

I didn’t pay much attention to this fact until I saw the latest nominees for The Edublog Awards, a forum I’ve rarely ventured except when asked to do so. I often find that award nominations of this caliber in any arena often help to read the pulse of its constituents, sifting through millions of published bytes by the same process that a microwave heats popcorn. They have as little control over how people vote as the Black Weblog Awards does (except in how they choose nominees, I assume).

I’m neither claiming discrimination nor racism on the part of the organizers, simply because omission from the popular vote works just as well on the Internet as in real life. I’m simply stating that this digital divide even within the edublogosphere makes even the most popular among us question the representation of “popular” as a whole.

The digital divide here not only exists with Black and Latino children and children from urban districts, but also Black and Latino teachers, many of whom still fear the negative effects of putting their efforts on the Internet. Then again, if we think about the digital divide amongst Black and Latino children with access to technology compared to their White counterparts, we still see a big gap, even with all the initiatives used to decrease that gap. This will inevitably add another dimension to the already stratified experiences of education for different groups of students.

The same can be said for teacher bloggers.

Personally, I understand many of the questions Black and Latino teachers have about using blogs and other technology not under Microsoft’s domain. I thusly admit to a few advantages I have compared to other teachers of my culture(s):

  1. I have a degree in computer science, so I don’t have trepidations about technology or information.
  2. I have a good eye for web design, so I don’t worry too much about making things look presentable.
  3. I’m younger, so I grew up with some tech savvy.
  4. I’m also situated somewhere that has a strong union that (however controversial) actually fights to make sure I get due process for whatever I may say and / or do. (here’s hoping the UFT sticks to their guns here.)
  5. I have some serious cojones. Either that or I never developed a real off-switch.
  6. I’ve been told I can write.

Yet, my nervousness lies with knowing just how many strides teachers have made in helping build a movement online pedagogically, professionally, and technologically, evolving the image of “teacher” in many off-shoot but assorted versions that put holes through the silhouette of the aforementioned image with speed … and Black and Latino teacher bloggers have often been overlooked in that process BECAUSE we are so few and far between.

What’s more amusing about this whole thing is that the White educators who I have met have frequently validated and congratulated my work here. From The Weblog Awards of 2007 to the Teacher Leaders Network, these outlets where I’ve consistently found myself as the sole Black voice or 1 of 2 in a room have also helped me my voice as a teacher, something my other spheres of influence on the web haven’t done for me as effectively.

Maybe because of my role as the urban Black / Latino teacher in the edublogosphere, I’m able to have some influence in this dialogue and not leave it up to higher ed professors on TV or people who left the classroom long ago writing in popular newspapers. Maybe my continued focus on writing about that abandoned and desolate bridge where it’s not “edu-tech” and it’s not “edu-politics” will help sand the wooden figure that is our discussion on K-12 education just enough so more people like me see themselves talking more about their experiences.

Maybe I’ll find the answers across that bridge …

Mr. Vilson, who’s always willing to engage in this dialogue …

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 3

  1. EducationCEO

    Sometimes I worry because I almost always have something to say…certainly do not want to come across as a know-it-all,,so far from it, but working on getting close! Anyway, excellent as expected. I think the problem with education in Georgia (and 3 other states that have escaped me) is that not having a union seriously hurts our teachers, and eventually our students. So many teachers have complaints but are afraid to speak-up for fear of losing their jobs. I understand their apprehension, but there has to be a happy medium. I have been unemployed for 3 years because I chose to advocate for my child when mt administrators tried to tell me to keeo my mouth shut. I remember one (Black) female administrator saying to me: ‘If you want to move-up in this county, you need to watch what you say.’ My response: ‘To be honest, I dont give a damn about moving up in this county. There are two things you don’t mess with: My kids and my money. Dont you get paid your full salary every month?’ That pretty much shut her up. I have come to learn that a lot of Southern-born educators, of a certain age, suffer from the residual effects of slavery. No, I am not using that as a Blame-the-White people excuse. What I mean is that they were raised in families where ‘talking back’ (what we Northerners call standng up for yourself) against White folks was not taught or tolerated. When things go wrong in schools, no one says anything. Things stay as they have been for 50+ years because no one has the type of character necessary to make things different.

    I am proud to say that my openness and honesty on my blog are not only because I am unemployed. This is who I am..always have been this way and pray to God that I never change.

    Great job!

  2. Sherman Dorn

    Maybe the best way to frame the … hmmmn, invisibility of many African-American bloggers to white blog readers? … is as a missed opportunity. “We were here. Where were you? Sorry you missed us!” Some day I need to write an essay on why William James and Reinhold Neibuhr both missed the boat in significant measure because they didn’t read Henry Highland Garnet.

  3. NYC Educator

    Well, I’m sorry you’re lonely. But I was very happy to see you at the Gotham party. Maybe they should make it a weekly thing, and move it to the outer boroughs every now and then.

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