“We may be uncomfortable talking about race, but we can no longer afford to be silent. We have chosen a profession, which—like parenting—requires that our comforts come second to those of children.”
#BlackLivesMatter is the Civil Rights Movement of our time. What role are we playing [and I mean beyond posting or re-posting (re)traumatizing stories day after day on social media]? Is this not a time to stop business as usual and maybe replace our pre-planned curricula -at least in part- with a Black Lives Matter Syllabus? Whose permission or encouragement are we waiting for? Are we really “too busy” to rethink what we’re doing in our classrooms, really that stressed about material we “should” cover to prepare students for the next standardized test or college? What better way to prepare students than teach them how to respond to the world around us by modeling responsible citizenship?
Our students are listening, and our silence is deafening.
Why don’t we all fly Black Lives Matter flags at our schools? (UPDATE with better questions: What would it take for our schools to be able to fly the Black Lives Matter flag knowing we were doing the flag justice, that it was not just an empty symbol without any institutional support? What would have to happen at our schools first before we could put up that flag in good conscience?)
Please think about your universe of obligation, your spheres of influence, your locus of control and decide on some next steps you’re going to take starting on Monday.
Me? As a department chair, I am going to have a meeting about how we as the Human Development Department will be responding to recent events. And I am going to be having some awkward conversations, I am sure, following this post. I’m open and willing to be checked when I step on toes or cross some lines. Hell, I’m open and willing to put my job on the line for being “too aggressive,” perhaps, in challenging my community to self-reflect, re-evaluate, come face-to-face with white fragility -sore spots and blind spots and all-, and keep doing the work anyway.
There’s no opting out when fellow human beings literally can’t breathe.
I am not even calling anyone out right now; as I learned at Facing Race conference six years ago, and as I keep trying to teach my students, I am calling us all IN.
We can and must do better. Let’s figure out what that looks like, and then, for the love of humanity, let’s start doing it.
Thanks for reading.
Here’s one selection from the Black Lives Matter Fall 2016 Syllabus. Enjoy.
On Friday evening, after an evening out with her husband and 11-year-old son, Solange Knowles went on a tweet storm about how she was treated at a Kraftwerk concert in New Orleans.
Knowles recounted how she was harassed by four white woman, and why black people never feel safe in white spaces.
“4 older white women yell to me from behind, ‘Sit down now’. I tell them I’m dancing at a concert. They yell, ‘u need to sit down now,’” Knowles posted on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet.
“We are at an ELECTRONIC and DANCE music concert and you are telling…not asking me…to sit down. In front of my child,” Knowles continued. She then went on to say that one of the women threw something at her back.
On Sunday, Solange wrote an essay titled, “And Do You Belong? I Do” on her personal website. She went into more details about the incident and how she commonly feels uncomfortable during certain events.
An important read: And Do You Belong? I Do – Saint Heron
Ultimately, white folks’ fear of black anger is an act of psychological projection because White America would not tolerate for a moment the treatment that it routinely dispenses on black Americans and other people of color. Anger and upset at injustice and ill treatment are natural, human responses. Like any other people, black folks have a full range of emotions. Black America is asked to suppress and hide its anger; White America is rarely if ever asked to do the same thing.
For example, black America is asked to forgive and forget racial terrorism. White America never forgives or negotiates with terrorists. Instead, the United States hunts them down and kills with due haste and without apology.
White supremacy has forced black Americans, as a historic matter of survival, to wear a mask that is used to hide the full range of our emotions. In many ways, to publicly deny a full range of our emotion is a profoundly unnatural and unhealthy behavior. The mask also means that all too often, black justice claims are compromised, massaged, and repackaged as to avoid making white folks too uncomfortable. This is an act of surrender to white racial fragility and white privilege—moves that in the long-term accomplish little as power concedes nothing without a demand.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde Audre Lorde Archive at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies