A reminder from Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.
It happens every February. Yep, Black History Month. Some folks are asking if we should even have a Black History Month. That’s neither here nor there, but there are some things to avoid if this annual commemoration is to have any significance. Here are five guidelines I think we should take special care to follow: Five Things Not to Do During Black History Month | Teaching Tolerance – Diversity, Equity and Justice
This is from a year ago, and it feels important to post it once again today.
“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.
Diversity is the practice of mixing together different bodies within a common organization, and is a prime resource to be capitalized upon by businesses and organizations that are white owned and/or operated. Diversity still benefits those in power by taking advantage of the various experiences and vantage points of different racial/gender/sexual backgrounds. Rather than respecting difference and redistributing power based on it, diversity only “celebrates” difference in order to exploit multiculturalism for its economic value.
So why do so many people seeking racial justice, female empowerment, and queer liberation still choose to advocate for “diversity” and “inclusion”? They appeal to liberalism. They prevent oppression from being named. They prevent us from speaking truth to power. They make progress sound friendly to those in power. Companies can tokenize women and people of color throughout their advertising. They can get way more credit than they deserve for being not 100% white men. They can profit from the increases in efficiency and productivity associated with more diversity. All of the above ignore the fact that companies needed to have diversity initiatives to make them less overwhelmingly white in the first place; that white people are the ones in the position of being able to grant access in the first place. When we work for justice and liberation, we can’t accept progress that is conditional on being economically beneficial.