race Archives - The Jose Vilson

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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

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Fight With Us Too, Damnit (Educators and Jordan Davis)

by Jose Vilson on February 17, 2014

in Jose

Jordan-Davis

When the Michael Dunn verdict came down, I fully expected him to get off on all counts. The Trayvon Martin case only created two pathways for future cases like these: either America – specifically Florida – would learn and do better for the next trial or it would give carte blanche to any white person to take the life of a young person of color on the basis of “threat.” The latter happened, and, while it hurt, I’ve long been desensitized to the tragedies, a condition created by the environment where I was raised.

For people of color, there was and never has been “the good ol’ days.”

As the constant observer, I just decided to peruse through my timeline, checking to see if, like the Zimmerman Martin trial, popular educators would quicker discuss listicles and Google Glass than the lynching of children of color. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Very few educators talked about it, and so I flipped:

The minute this tweet hit 20 retweets, a few educators got defensive, replying back, “Did you see my timelines?” A few others unfollowed. A few others still decided that retweeting was enough.

I laughed. Why people had such a visceral reaction is beyond me. I just wondered, aloud, why educators so active on Twitter when it comes to issues of educational technology, teacher evaluation, the Gates Foundation, anti-testing, lists that they did or didn’t get on, education conferences they attended, or what so-and-so said and how they replied so bravely, couldn’t dedicate a few tweets to discuss this tragedy.

Because Jordan Davis could have been one of our students, but we’re so mum on things, it makes us look willfully ignorant OR tone-deaf. It may be a beautiful day for some of you, but for those of us who have to live with this, we can’t just hug it out. There is this dimension of tragedy that’s rather hard to ignore on its own face, but the added dimension of race makes people feel unfuzzy, and they’d rather revel in anti-establishment talk and feel warm in that pocket forever. Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say.

The temporary sadness of understanding white privilege as a white person is nothing compared to the existential melancholy of understanding racial oppression as a person of color.

So, to that end, in moments like these, I’ve learned that I don’t always to do the speaking up. Plenty of folks, allies in this work, can speak to it, a level raise from the last few years of “Vilson, what’s your opinion on this?” Even with my infinite patience, I don’t feel like explaining race all the way because, as it turns out, I don’t want to have to explain my humanity to you. I don’t have to hold court and put myself on trial every time a racial incident happens. I may have some part to play, but I’m not on trial.

But Jordan was. Trayvon was. Renisha is.

In some respects, maybe I shouldn’t care if you don’t speak about Jordan Davis. Just know that another flare-up happens, when Arne Duncan says something to upset teachers, when a local protest against the Broad Foundation occurs, when Apple steals your students’ data for their own profit, or when you ask me to respond when a person of color says something profoundly anti-child, I’ll remember.

Jordan Davis is my son. Jordan Davis is me. And you didn’t fight with me.

Jose

p.s. – This was inspired also by Melinda Anderson, Kelly Wickman, and Jennifer Lawson. Yes, that Jennifer Lawson. Thanks, ladies.

image c/o http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/02/michael-dunn-guilty-lesser-counts-jordan-davis-shooting/

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arneduncaninhaiti

A few months ago, I walked past a “successful” charter school here in Harlem, NY, speed-walking to get my school supplies for the coming school year. I noticed a huge crowd of mostly Black and Latino families all waiting to pick up their children when a taut, pony-tailed White man came out with a clipboard and yells, “Alright, parents, we need everyone to line up!” My inner voice yelled “What!?” at the entire scene. No one protested. A few snickered and rolled their eyes. They all got in one straight line, parallel to Malcolm X Boulevard to pick up their children.

This would have never gone down at a suburban school.

Think about this in contrast to what US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a recent speech:

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

Oh. The HORROR. The racial and mansplaining undertones of this statement deserve the attention (read: outrage) it’s gotten in education circles. Yet, I can’t help but feel odd about the outrage about this racialized comment, benign compared to Duncan’s Katrina comment. When the Katrina comment happened, I was happy with the idea of holding Duncan accountable to his statement. I wanted Duncan to see that it’s immoral to suggest that passing his agenda via the deaths of close to two thousand people in the Gulf Coast region was a good idea. Many politicians and pundits profess that education reform is for all students, but the general public understands that ed reform comes on the backs of our most disadvantaged students, many of them poor children of color (and poor whites as well).

Context matters.

The outrage to his latest comment about white suburban moms only underscores the threshold for who we speak out for and who we don’t. My recent post about white privilege brought out supporters of all colors, many of whom were people who identify as White. For that, I’m appreciative. Yet, a few dissenters (all of whom profess to want better for children) either argue that it’s not about race, but about the kids OR won’t respond period, as if having a discussion about Trayvon Martin is equivalent to having a discussion about the way we approach race in life as a whole, or within people we ought to consider colleagues. I would have loved to hear a similar outrage about the way parents in poor urban schools get thrown into a web of bureaucracy and behaviorist politics.

I get the offense, and understand the need for flexing a bit of political muscle to hold Duncan accountable again. The package deal of the Common Core State Standards has me, at best, leery of the nonsense. Just don’t expect me to get riled up, either. I’ve been mad. Perhaps you should have been angry with us, back when the levees broke …

Jose

*** photo c/o http://www.pih.org/blog/u.s.-secretary-of-education-arne-duncan-meets-emgirl-rising-em-star-in-hait ***

p.s. – What Melinda said.

p.p.s. – What Mike Doyle said.

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Excuse Me, Your Privilege Is Showing (White Privilege in Ed Reform)

November 14, 2013 Jose
emperorssecondtransition

It always starts when someone brings up a point about race within your “own” ranks. Whatever that means. I’m OK with taking on the role as education’s Race Man, but the more I write about it, the more prevalent these discussions become. It’s almost as if people are waiting for [insert name of favorite White […]

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Diversity and Openness at the Bammy Awards, From Errol Smith

September 5, 2013 Jose
Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 2.05.43 PM

An exchange flared by between Errol Smith, executive producer of the Bammy Awards in my post about race within the education reform movement. My point in highlighting the Bammys wasn’t to hate on it, but assure that, as someone vested in true diversity, I would spare no one, liberal or conservative, from facing racial issues […]

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Embracing The Elephant (Race and Education Reform)

August 15, 2013 Jose
A Man and His Elephant, by Paula Bronstein

When I first saw Michael Petrilli’s list of influential education policy tweeters, I laughed. As usual, it’s as important to see who’s left off the list as to see where they rank. We see through whichever lens is given to us at whatever time we read any piece, as well as create it, so this […]

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