If you don’t believe whitesplaining is wrong, then you’re missing how the motivation behind whitesplaining is influenced by white supremacy. So let’s unpack the most common reasons why whitesplaining happens, to examine why it’s so misguided.
This is from a year ago, and it feels important to post it once again today.
Recently, a large group of white student protesters stepped to the front of a rally and formed a human shield to protect black protesters from the police. The rally took place in South Africa, where police officers had previously used brutal force against the predominantly black demonstrators who turned out to peacefully protest rising university fees.
“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.
This is such a good read (and so affirming for POC who live in SF/Bay Area). #whiteliberalracism #blindspots
Please read: Color Blind or Just Plain Blind? by John F. Dovidio and Samuel L.Gaertner (ignore the alert at the top of the page about content that has been moved, and keep reading).
My favorite bit is the conclusion’s first bullet:
So what can we each do about racism when we don’t know what we don’t know yet? Here are some simple (but not easy) suggestions for action.
• When a person of color brings up race as an issue in an interpersonal or organizational setting—listen! If the person indicates he or she is offended, don’t be defensive. Instead try to understand the other person’s perspective on the issue. Remember your perceptions can be very different from the everyday experience of others. As the data indicate, whites tend to underestimate the impact of discrimination. Do not begin talking quickly, explain why they are misinterpreting the situation, or begin crying. These are some of the most infuriating responses people of color encounter when they challenge a situation that feels wrong. Take time, if you need it, to think about the situation after listening fully to the other person’s perspective. If you hear problems third-hand, don’t get angry because you were not approached directly. You probably need to talk through the situation at some point, but remember it is almost never completely safe for a person of color to challenge a dominant perception. Listen deeply.