privilege Archives - The Jose Vilson


This is the post where I almost started off with a “Dear White People.”

This is going to lean towards education, but applies pervasively.

I’m referring to the educators who still want to save the children, the ones who still think they’re teaching their subjects and not actual students, the ones who see teaching as a segue to administration or a central office job, the ones who use euphemisms for kids of color to advance their profile amongst their so-called liberal friends, or the ones who won’t acknowledge their privilege because it’s way easier to hide behind the first clause I just stated.

Unfortunately, for those of you who fall under this category, there are those of us who aren’t just your colleagues at work, but sat in similar seats that your students did, didn’t appreciate your attitudes then and really don’t appreciate them now. Your insistence, whether conscious or otherwise, perpetuate the legacy of seeing children of color as deserving less. You also paradoxically think that by lowering your expectations of those students, you’re helping them meet or exceed the requirements set forth post-you.

Then, when you move up or on, depending on your purview, you tell these tales of your few years of experience in the classroom and claim yourself expert of these experiences. You simultaneously know what’s wrong with public schools (or at least the one you actually know of, briefly), yet blame everyone else during your tenure as an actual classroom teacher for your particular school’s woes. You never stayed long enough for anyone but that one administrator who “had an eye for you” to actually become a good teacher, but you’ll tell everyone within ear shot just how tough your experience at a school was.

Worse still, you have the nerve to tell teachers who actually do the work on a daily basis that their opinions matter very little. You say you want education reform and loved that teacher voice video, but only when it doesn’t preempt any of your so-called progressive opinions. You like to wonder aloud why these types of educators don’t give you much weight, or look at you skeptically when you contribute your off-center opinion. You reveal your true intentions when people who’ve actually lived that life contribute even a drop of their hard-won wisdom about a situation you’ve never actually seen. Your ears don’t perk up; your eyes roll. You doth protest too much.

In the words of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, “You think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.”

We get that you’re OK with all this. You’ll continue quoting your edu-hero rather than expounding on your own, and you’ll keep making snide comments about anyone who doesn’t fit within your (very narrow) line of vision. You can keep throwing those darts, but theatricality and deception are powerful agents for the uninitiated.

But you and I (and so many others like me) are initiated. Ain’t that right?



The “The” in The Jose Vilson … and You

by Jose Vilson on September 30, 2011

in Jose

Thank you, and you, and you.

I know I don’t say it enough, but all the RTs, shares, and praise keeps me going at times when I’ve wanted to stop writing. This blogging, written from one’s gut instead of one’s throat, takes a certain amount of people power to fuel the writers’ engines. This writer in particular. If only one person reads this, and they felt it necessary to tell their circles about it, then I’ve made a dent.

A discussion about my blog’s name between Michael Doyle and John T. Spencer prompted my thanks. I didn’t have the words to reply to any of them on first read. Now that I do have the words, I’ll start off by saying that the “The” in “The Jose Vilson” came from an early need to claim my place in the vast blogosphere. I went from having a well-defined space in a network that didn’t grow with me to this independent space where I didn’t know how I’d generate any interest in what I had to say. Harmony, Amber, and a few others encouraged me to get my own space because they thought I could. I think the general consensus was that, if I wanted to become a writer that mattered, I’d have my own space to do the writing in.

I had much less faith in my own abilities.

For one, I had a sea of frenemies who sought to comment on my blogs for self-righteous purposes, and at the time, I let too many of them influence the way I discussed my word. Critiques like “My blog gets read by college professors and really intelligent people” and “You’ll never get published at the rate you’re going; you’ll just get tons of comments and that’ll be the extent of your work” got under my skin in ways that it shouldn’t have. In my youth, I didn’t build enough resistance to the snide comments, the people who called me cocky when all I ever did was keep my mouth shut during my most triumphant moments, or the indirect shots at my character. I insulated my retorts, quipping under my breath “AsifIdidn’tactuallyworkhardforeverythingI’vedonelikewtfseriously?”

I lacked for confidence then, and didn’t understand that I had a duty to share my talents, wherever (or whomever) they came from. If I had something to say, and a way of saying it that few others did, then I better share what I have, because otherwise it’s a disservice to the spirit that gave it to me.

Thus, I leaped headfirst into finding my own niche. I first did some research about blogs that might inspire me for this new platform, of which there were few. Then, I did a quick Google Search on my name and noticed that, according to the search engine, I was the only Jose Vilson. Brazil had a Jose Vilson, but Vilson wasn’t that person’s last name. I started saying “The Only Jose Vilson” aloud a few times, but it sounded nuts. Then I contracted it to “The Jose Vilson.” I think I told Harmony and she said, “That’s gangsta!” or something reminiscent of that.

I don’t enjoy the same amount of comments I did back then, but my writing makes bigger ripples now. I might write a post about the New York Times not having enough teachers in their panels and they give teachers premium seats at their conferences. I might bring hip-hop to an audience usually anemic in diversity and they’ll put it on the front page of their mags. I still get props from entertainment blogs and education blogs alike. With the “the,” I gained influence amongst a crowd that, frankly, has to privilege to need no such introduction. With the “the,” I get to be honest as possible where others might shy away from such topics. In a way, I subconsciously had to lay claim to a space with a bold statement about who I was … and how I preferred my efforts to be taken seriously.

In the immortal words of Rakim, “I ain’t no joke.”

As such, I continue to stay grateful for the comments and love I receive. The only way to let people know I appreciate it is to keep sharing, keep talking, keep doing. If I’ve inspired someone to push on, fight on, write on, live on, then we’ve made each other that much better.

Mr. Vilson, who wishes you all a GOOD Friday