race Archives - The Jose Vilson

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donquixote1

Last week, I delved a little deeper into this issue of teachers of color, hoping to sow some of the prevailing narratives up and construct something more cogent.

Yet, when it comes down to it, the lack of teachers of color is a symptom and not a cause of the education gaps we currently see.

Time and again, we get reports from former teachers of color about why they leave, and often, it’s the same symptoms for why teachers in general leave: lack of empowerment and autonomy, working conditions, and low pay. With teacher of color, education systems only exacerbate this problem because many teachers of color come back so they could give back to similar communities that they grew up in. Yet, they see some of the same deficiencies from their childhoods manifest in teachers’ lounges and observations about their colleagues. Because many teachers of color who come from similar neighborhoods they’re serving don’t have a family-established wealth to fall back on, they tend to leave at faster rates than the average teacher, too.

But there’s more. This research by Ivory Toldson done on this topic suggests that lack of teachers of color isn’t for lack of want, and that systemic elements of our education system will continue to put people of color at odds with their education system, regardless of whether it’s public, private, or hybrid (charter).

I’d take it one step further and say, why bring in more teachers of color into a system that continually ostracized the already disenfranchised? If teachers of color want to “give back” to the places they grow up in, then we have to consider why the neediest schools consistently get shut down, “turned around,” or transformed into a charter school, replete with uncertified teachers. If teachers of color want to go to schools where the children have similar experiences to them, then we have to wonder why we don’t make all teachers, regardless of race, culture, or gender, take cultural competency classes so teachers of color don’t have to teach both their students and their peers.

Because even the prospect of having more teachers of color threatens the status quo in a way that those who currently staff our schools aren’t prepared for. Too many folks think TOCs might take “seats” (see this comment by Renee Moore here). We aren’t. We can create more seats.

Because “education progressives” are perfectly OK with diversity as long as it doesn’t affect their specific school. Then, it’s a question about “dynamics.” Uh yeah. You should hope so.

Because some folks get mad at the new-found attention teachers of color have garnered, so someone quips, “Teachers of color are equally capable of being assholes.” If so, then why bring it up unless you’re nervous someone will take your seat?

Because we can’t address any of the shortcuts to equity without actually addressing the pillars of race, gender, and class across our education system. Without those honest conversations, I don’t see policies as anything more than a “We’re doing something for the sake of doing something” scheme.Because the symptomatic failures of our education system often doubly affect teachers of color: as the students they once were and the teacher they wish they could become. We can do better. Jose

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slidingplaneseats-dd

I called someone a racist this past weekend. And a sexist for good measure.

I don’t have much authoritative experience with the latter as I do the former, and I don’t go throwing around such a title lightly.

I won’t go into the incident, but it was a long string of events that triggered me using the word, and, soon thereafter, people started opening up about some of the latent racist comments said person made. It was revelatory in that I had this hunch for a long time, but, because he’s respected in some of our common circles, I decided to let everything play out, letting karma mete out justice accordingly.

That moment never came, so I handled it myself.

Time and again, I’m faced with having to bring up conversations that made people’s collars tight around their necks. It’s not the happy-go-ISTE convo, the hipster affectations, the “standardized testing” is the devil conversation, or the “new progressives don’t believe in unions” nonsense. It’s the conversation around why we we’re still in the mentality of “saving the children.”

Every time we simultaneously say that we “speak for our children of color” but neither give voice to those children or don’t respect the very adults of color who were in the same seats, we set the foundation for angst, anger, and rage. The thing about discussions about race, sex, and class is that, if you’re the only person of the group most marginalized by the -ism, you almost feel like it’s your job to speak up UNTIL someone else gets the gumption to do so.

Especially in a field like education, where people want to believe everything is either hunky dory or everyone is working against them, people rarely speak up in a way that matters. When someone says something racist, they wait for me or one of my friends to handle it. When someone sexist comes up, they always wait for an out-and-out feminist to address it (and then the rest of us loud ones).

With the plethora of resources available to us (see here and here for some of mine), it’s wild that many folks still rather sit on the sidelines while the same folks have to bring up these harsh topics. Some will be brave, and, even just a nod or a “thank you” goes a long way in making the marginalized supported.

Sitting there, hoping for the vocal person of color to handle it just won’t do any more. Don’t wait to speak up with the marginalized, the ism’ed. Because, if you do, then you can’t complain how, after tireless battles and wearisome incidents, the tone isn’t to your liking.

Our voices got raspy, our souls depleted from the beating back of zombie stereotypes and slurs. If your voice has no intention of alleviating the voice, tone isn’t your angle for entry. You never spoke. Please. Have this whole row of seats.

Jose

photo c/o

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Book Con. Miami Device. Vox Media. FiveThirtyEight.

I see any argument against affirmative action as invalid. Time and again, I see clear examples of situations where there was a rather conscious decision to exclude because of “fit,” which is just doublespeak for “whatever’s normal and profitable to us.” Which is often to the detriment and ostracization of an “other.”

Thus, I have something else to add to the plethora of things I’ve already said:

Affirmative action is my best friend. Actually, it’s every person of color’s best friend. And, mostly, it’s white women’s best friend. We ought to embrace affirmative action with both arms wide open and say “Thank you!” For, without affirmative action, we leave the decision of selection to those who would relegate we of different experiences and perhaps more negative perceptions of the fairyland they call united.

While one might say, “What do panels and media staff have to do with anything?”, to which I respond, “With all the qualified and vested individuals out there, many of whom have passed the respectability politics test from some institute of higher learning, would you think that the panels and staff put to the fore still look like this or would they be more representative of the wealth of knowledge out there?”

The nice part of you wants to believe that the selectors will come to their own egalitarian way of approaching diversity and pick folks outside of their country club or beer garden. They don’t. It’s the same people speaking the same language inculcating each other on their rightness, flabbergasted when the rest of the world looks at their selection with rolled eyes and loud sighs. Once the reactions flow in, a promise to “improve” always comes out, and a few people of color get a “privilege-to-be-here-so-take-it” pass, even if they may not get a chance to speak up and out.

As an after-thought. Not a “before-thought” the way legacies do at Ivy Leagues or “thought” the way bros with beard implants get. An after-thought.

That’s why, when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the recent affirmative action case, I nodded like my head was about to fall off:

“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. [...] This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”

Affirmative action isn’t a handout. It’s the idea that everyone who isn’t a “bro” should have a part to play. We can’t just wish racism away. If institutions continually perpetuate racism, then the institution has a hand to play in dismantling racism. Otherwise, expertise, like those linked above, looks bleached, devoid of the gradients this world allows us.

Jose

photo c/o

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Racism Without Racists: The School Re-segregation Edition

April 17, 2014 Jose
Thurgood Marshall

Today, ProPublica released a special report on their website dedicated to the re-segregation of America’s public schools. With the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision on May 17th approaching, ProPublica has focused this special section on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where three separate and equally devastating stories will be told as case studies […]

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

April 9, 2014 Jose
Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Voting 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. […]

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

February 17, 2014 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 […]

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