Yes, Yes, But I’m Also Black [On Blogging In The Ed-World]

Jose Vilson Education, Jose, Race

Jack Johnson, Unforgivably Black

Last week, I brought up my opinion that children of color shouldn’t be limited to certain occupations due to the perceived notions of observers. I especially pointed this out to [some] White so-called liberals, because it seems that too many of them believe that their pseudo-liberalism absolves from the critique of their racial bias. Even those of them doing the “right work” can reveal themselves in the coded language they use around others and their behaviors of people they say they’re “saving.” As usual, I acknowledge those who might misinterpret what I’m saying by conceding that not everyone’s going to college. I respect that, but, when certain parties try to narrow the options of another group to only one type of education, then I have to call that into question. My writing is every part nuance as it is critical argument.

All in all, I agreed with (almost) every commenter on this blog post, but only one person acknowledged that which troubles me, one of a handful of people of color writing about education consistently. And it’s a tall bearded White guy from Jersey:

There’s an interesting meta-conversation that goes on every time you write your nuanced stuff (which is pretty much every time you write)–the supratentorial conversation in white people’s heads, parsing words because, well, there’s a person of color in the room, and he talks in nuances. Makes for entertaining comment streams. (It’s here I’m supposed to mention I used to wield a shovel on the docks of Newark. I’m playing my role well, no?)

All the more entertaining because most of the paler folk think no one knows this is going on. But here, people do, which gets to meta-meta-conversations….but that’s not the point today.

The whole “it’s about socieconomics not race” card we hide behind is getting blown off the hinges as the economy for the lower 90% teeters towards the oblivion. Dollars to doughnuts the race/tribe/language issue is going to become all too popular again as more and more people scrabble to find work. […]

In the midst of breaking the rules set for bloggers, particularly in a niche where we’re severely underrepresented (education being high amongst them), I often find myself in a position where I have to talk about race, and not just for race’s sake. I talk about race so people most affected deleteriously from it have a voice in the conversation. It’s not my own swag or pomp that drives me to this work, but because if I don’t say it, then we’re relegated to a backchannel hashtag or a separate and unequal conference. If I don’t say it, then those reading reduce themselves to twirling their fingers and talking amongst themselves about what they’re having for lunch, or loosening their collars as we talk about the effects of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Right.

If someone asks, for instance, whether there is a causal relationship between the overrepresentation of white teachers (90% nationally!) and the underperformance of children of color, then I too have to ask why we haven’t asked that. The skeleton of the conversation usually goes like this:

  1. I posit that there might be a relationship, especially if many of these teachers don’t have the emotional intelligence and cultural empathy necessary to treat these children as human beings and not as those who need to be saved. I might also talk about the lack of teachers of color and how people of color have a harder time getting into alternative certification programs. I might bring up the effects of low wages for teachers, and how people of color can’t always ask their mothers and fathers to help supplement. I’ll ask people to think about that possibility just for a second, but, if they’re a white teacher, not to quit and rather, just understand their role when they’re in front of kids.
  2. A commenter might say (and probably has already said to the article aforementioned) that race doesn’t matter, and it’s only going to prevent any teachers from going to the classroom, especially those that are harder to staff. Furthermore, there is little research about this, so why would I bring this up?
  3. I’ll probably think through a comment where I hear what they’re saying, but I have to wonder where they’re getting their news from. I’ll wonder internally whether their acts to deflect the race conversation means that they still have unresolved racial issues, and possibly look to me to assuage the tension between the topic.
  4. A bunch of commenters usually agree and help lay credence to my position, and they’re usually of diverse backgrounds.
  5. A commenter here might try to bring up non-racial issues here, ostensibly to add dimension but sometimes to deflect the race issue again.
  6. Someone here, not having read any comment past #2, might say that these alternative teaching programs bring individuals from the top two-five-10-20 percent of their graduating class into a profession lacking the status and prestige necessary to elevate the profession. And they just happen to be white. So why would I hate on that if it just happens that these relationships matter if it’s going to help elevate a profession I’m already benefiting from?
  7. A few people might lend some really intelligent comments here, or just tell me via the social networks their thoughts.
  8. I’ll grin and thank goodness I’m still avoiding writing a review about the latest iPad app or the crazy doohickey that might help my student do better if we had solid access to technology.

At the end of the day, I’ll just smile because I wasn’t supposed to write what I did. It just reminds me that my niches need honest conversation about these issues on a consistent basis. It’s obvious that race, even in some of my circles, comes up as a means of covering bases, not in-depth analysis. A couple of my readers have even confided in me that some of these “experts” in the field persist in an insidious form of paternal racism.

To that end, I laugh. If one stands at a distance, you catch glimpses of what’s happening around you. But when I first started writing, I wasn’t given many options for the perspective from which I’d write. Thus, I either write from that perspective, or I write about nothing.

I’m refusing nothing.

Jose, who doesn’t want you taking this as a means to negate your experience. If anything, I’d like you to see where we both meet …