So I’ve mentioned many times how frustrating it is reading source materials from the deficit frame. Most of the resources I’ve been able to come up with have been finding links in books that I’m reading. For instance, I remember reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and saving the page where he talked about the books and authors that influenced him. I figured if they influenced him, then they were definitely things that I needed to be reading as well.
One thing I wanted to do was give us all a list of resources that are seminal to the black experience and consist of some of the strongest words and theories from Black scholars as well. Recently I was having a conversation with my sister about why I was frustrated we weren’t getting minority focused/produced works such as the Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. DuBois, considered by many to be the leading historical and modern scholar/communicator of the Black experience in American culture. Intrigued, she asked me to justify why I felt like these resources were important given how old they are. Overall, resources like this are important because they give us the historical context for the work we do in schools housed primarily by black and brown students, period.
The experiences [we] minorities face outside of the classroom in the world completely impact the way(s) in which we teach our students inside the classroom. The way we educators view our work and our authoritative power with our students. The way we view our role working for a government institution. And, the way we understand the term culturally relevant teaching practice. I still argue that we can’t be effective at incorporating culturally relevant teaching practice(s) if we ourselves don’t have culturally relevant history and knowledge to pull from. I would argue that just incorporating your own culture into the conversation isn’t the extent of positive teaching if you’re not also able to incorporate positively framed discussion points pulled from your students’ culture to help them build their academics and their self image. Something, again, that I’ve only been able to pull from my own independent readings outside of the graduate classroom.
As I’m pushing to be a solutions oriented person, I decided to contact Dr. Ivory Toldson to see what he would consider a powerful reading list for the people that care about Black Studies, or do life building work with minority students. He replied rather quickly with the above list. I’ve provided amazon links for all books listed above. Amazon has been my guilty pleasure lately. I got a $100 gift certificate from my sister for my birthday and bought roughly 12 used books from the site. One of my colleagues jokingly mentions her growing professional library in class. At this level, I do fully expect my peers to have some sort of professional library they are building. Regardless of where you are with yours I would recommend adding some of the books from Dr. Toldson’s list. Not all of the books are focused on academic education, however, I anticipate they would benefit from giving us all a greater sense of the history of our country from perspectives we may not have heard before. I’ve highlighted the books I own in maroon.
A little background about Dr. Toldson, I ran into him during one of my late night Youtube trances. I was watching interviews of various black scholars and followed a linked to a video on Khalil Shadeed’s Scholar’s Chair Youtube channel. “Dr. Toldson is an associate professor at Howard University, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and editor-in-chief of “The Journal of Negro Education.” He’s taken part in some great research helping to identify solutions for those of us that work in minority community development. I haven’t gotten a chance to read his work as closely as I would like, but his knowledge still serves as a great stepping stone for my own. I’m impressed by his work with the Negro Journal of Education, which I’ve made sure to pull from for my most recent grad school papers.
“Dr. Ivory Toldson, our new Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, is a prolific young scholar and myth buster. He has courageously debunked research and media coverage that perpetuates misleading stereotypes about African Americans. And he is a champion of increasing opportunities for black men, including teaching opportunities.”
Of course, I wouldn’t be taking my own advice if I focused on the deficit. I’m excited to be back, I’m inspired by the new year, and all of the new experiences I’m about to encounter. My focus this year now that I feel more comfortable engaging students is to focus on solutions to the problems I encounter in the classroom. What I’ve found is that they’re available if I want to make the impact in the way(s) that I know are necessary and possible. But, I must research them! There’s business in poverty, ignorance, and arrogance. If we don’t search and strive toward creating our own solutions then someone will always be ready to use us to further the depression that is going on.
My personal suggestions would be for people to –
Seek out mentors (in AND outside the classroom/home and community/ and programs)
Always express compassion in our actions with our youth
Research and reading books from multiple perspectives, or at least some that will purposely challenge your thinking
Positive thinking/living/and being. I’m certain that what we do undoubtedly rubs off on those that watch us
In realizing that there is a large problem with the current mechanism(s) that maintain American society. I’ve also realized that I as an individual have immense power to impact that mechanism and alter it and make it work to develop my community. As I stated above, the changes I make will undoubtedly rub off on the people I know. The changes they make will undoubtedly rub off on the people they know.
Money is nice and we all need it to cover certain expenses. However, there comes a time when the want for materialism outpaces the needs of our communities. That drive to secure our own needs at the rick of others pushes people away from their service, mentorship, and fellowship that helps us build up our communities. Make sure there is balance. When you let money (selfishness) rule it will always derail your plans. Nonprofits fall for this all the time. Young professionals entering Corporate America fall for this all the time. Politicians fall for this all the time. Don’t let the money blind you to the one on one/in human contact that is the service we all relied on.
I recently fell into a conversation with a young Black professional and HBCU graduate who was the……… Account Executive for Commercial Relations for BET. Basically he worked in advertising. When he found out I was a teacher the conversation exploded from silence to a full blown debate about how our kids don’t want to do anything with themselves and they want to be lazy, etc… Of course I always respond, to the tune of how are Black students aren’t really taught to preservere through their challenges especially academic, and to ask them to do it on their own is unimaginable. People always put the onus of student’s failure on the student and perhaps his parents. It’s like people miraculously forget that these are minors. I wouldnt’ be fair to say that they don’t know what they want, but at 16 I only knew what my parents, peers, and community knew about the world. Luckily those three groups were comprised of people that only supported my development. I hadn’t experienced enough of the world to truly know what I wanted for myself. why do we continue to argue that children who do not have the most positive support system must navigate this world on their own.
The debate carried on for a solid 15/20 minutes with the BET guy talking about how people don’t take advantage of their chances, and I continued to talk about how all of us at the table as college graduates did in fact take advantage of the chances we were given. But again we are viewing this from the top end of the spectrum. Why is it always acceptable to view this debate from the “successful” person’s point of view? Why aren’t we ever called to give and do more for our communities in an effort to help those that weren’t able to make it through to “success”. I began suggesting that he, and his channel needed to take responsibility and show more positive examples to our young black people to follow. He said that didn’t matter, and that he did mentor young boys. I told him it did matter, just today I had to completely switch my Speech lesson in the middle of class because my students weren’t engaged. I did that by cueing in on their favorite musicians. Drake and Meek Millz. I had told them that I had heard of Drake, but hadn’t heard any of Meek Millz songs. If they were going to write a persuasive speech using one of the two what were some of the points they would use. Some students talked about how Drake was versatile, some talked about Meek using grittier lyrics, some talked about Drake being their boyfriend, some talked about they would persuade me to listen to their own music instead.
He then went on to say that BET wasn’t even owned by Black people anymore, so it wasn’t their responsibility to support their community, they were supposed to make money. I countered that regardless of who owned the station, they positioned themselves as a station that developed content geared for black people, in some ways they had a responsibility to provide a diversity in their programming. And he as a professional had a responsibility to work to develop his community and not just himself. He began to talk about how busy he was and that what he was doing was enough, he had to make sure he was set before he could give anymore. This was the sentiments of everyone at the table. They all, college graduates, and all from prestigious HBCU’s by the way (Hampton and Morehouse) felt that their stability superseeded the stability of the community they were coming from. At this point in my I was definitely feeling my happy hour buzz, and realized it was time to step back and just continue to challenge my table participants to find ways to give back and support those younger than them. Regardless of how stable they felt, they could always find someone who needed their wisdom, knowledge, and guidance.
I don’t remember exactly what said, but at this point he continued to shift the blame back onto students not wanting to be successful. To which I continually asked him why he thought it was OK to require a 14 year old to 1) create an awareness of his place on the globe, and 2) maneuver all things in his life to make sure that he grow up to reach his success, when 3) Black youth, especially boys, in reality control almost no parts of their lives outside of what their parents and mentors see them to. There have been numerous stories in the news as of late of young Black boys whose lives were taken from them because of what someone else thought about them.
Anywhom this post isn’t about that. Its about personal responsibility to make a difference in our community. Too often we push the blame on to someone else, or don’t believe we ourselves can make a change.
Thinking for ourselves/Group think (stereotypes, misinformation, doubts, )
Talents into service. For me, my talents are best used teaching, writing, learning to better help myself, my family, and my students.
A few closing notes I’ll leave you with:
We all have talents, and can turn those talents into services for other people. For me, my talents are being used to teach, write, and continue to learn ways to help myself, my family, and my students.
Group think is a horrible disease that affects 95% of the population. Are you a knowing victim, even worse are you a silent carrier who doesn’t even know they’re a host? Group think has been used to push stereotypes, misinformation, self doubts… Reflect to see where you stand on this.
Do something different for yourself!
Purposely lift someone up everyday.
Read a book, it opens your consciousness.
Save the hate and push for your purpose!
Work to actively build a community wherever you are (work, school, home, groups, etc…)
The media works to make money, not show you positive images of black people. I recently attended a community event where Dr. Imani Perry said that watching television makes Black people feel bad. Think about all of the negative that can be consumed through media images. Whether we believe what we see or not, the constant consumption of negative media images affects our subconscious. White males on average are the only ones who feel better about their personal image after watching tv. Additional Source – Black pathology is big business
Educators, stop thinking that the world is in irreversible downward sprial. WIth that mentality of course its not going to change. It takes blind faith in our devotion to our craft to help make those incremental differences that lead to larger scale change.
Get off your ass, and make a difference NOW in your family and community. It’s as simple as giving a banana to the hype that you make fun of everyday.
Deflecting the blame onto others, ensures that the “problem” will continue to happen. Find a solution, keep expanding that solutoin, and share it with others.
Stop helping people for a paycheck, OR relying on the people that do help people for a paycheck. You can be the one to bring change to the world. Don’t be the haystack, be the needle that everybody is looking for.
Tell Flex to drop a bomb on this shit/So many bombs, ring the alarm like Vietnam in this shit
So many bombs, make Farrakhan think Saddam in this bitch/One at a time, I line ’em up and bomb on they mom while she watchin’ the kids
I’m in a destruction mode if the gold exists/
I’m important like the pope/I’m a muslim on pork/I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both/The juggernaut’s all in your jugular, you take me for jokes
Live in the basement, church pews and funeral faces/Cartier bracelets/for my women friends I’m in Vegas
Who the fuck y’all thought it’s supposed to be?/If Phil Jackson came back, still no coachin’ me
I’m uncoachable, I’m unsociable/Fuck y’all clubs, fuck y’all pictures, your Instagram can gobble these nuts
Gobble dick up ’til you hiccup, my big homie Kurupt/This the same flow that put the rap game on a crutch
I’ve seen niggas transform like villain Decepticons/Mollies’ll prolly turn these niggas to fuckin’ Lindsay Lohan
A bunch of rich-ass white girls lookin’ for parties/Playin with Barbies/wreck the Porsche before you give ’em the car key
Judgement to the monarchy/blessings to Paul McCartney/You called me a black Beatle, I’m either that or a Marley
I don’t smoke crack motherfucker I sell it/I’m dressed in all black, this is not for the fan of Elvis
I’m aiming straight for your pelvis, you can’t stomach me/You plan on stumpin’ me?/Bitch, I’ve been jumped before you put a gun on me
Bitch, I put one on yours, I’m Sean Connery/James Bonding with none of you niggas, climbing 100 mil in front of me
And I’m gonna get it even if you’re in the way/And if you’re in it, better run for Pete’s sake
I heard the barbershops spittin’ great debates all the time/Bout who‘s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all/New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
And I ain’t rockin no more designer shit/White T’s and Nike Cortez, this is red Corvettes anonymous I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhyming wit’/But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale/Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas/They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high/Who tryin’ to jump and get it? You better off tryin’ to skydive
Out the exit window of five G5’s with five grand/With your granddad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryin’ to land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg/Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said/That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a thread
This was not supposed to see the light of day, as it is possibly the most intimate things I’ve ever written. But it just seems appropriate to share this in its entirety with whomever is concerned. This is a followup grad school essay to the one featured in Dressed Within the Cloak of Privilege. The following represents about 98% of the original paper turned in to my professor, I tried to keep as much here for transparency’s sake as possible.Context: The format of this essay is that of a letter I wrote for myself in the future.
How are you? I hope you’re free from stress and worry, and enjoying the people and things in your life that make you happy. The date is June 27, 2013. Exactly two months before your 28th birthday. Time is flying by quickly! The scary thing is I’m still not exactly sure how successful I’ve been in creating the life that I’ve always dreamed was possible for myself.
Yesterday was the last day of teaching, and today will be our last day of what I consider the first year of graduate school. This letter is actually the final assignment for our summer course TAL 812 – Lives of Adolescents. The assignment is to continue to reflect on the relationship with Keanon, my Jamaican immigrant student that has transformed from a shy and quiet kid in the back of the class to a student who sits up front, leads conversations and tones in classrooms, and received 4 out of 6 awards at the end of school gathering yesterday. I knew he was the truth when I didn’t even have to mention his name in the award discussions, everyone else did. I was filled with so much pride to see that elsewhere in the building, Keanon was commanding respect from all others that he interacted with.
Yesterday’s celebration was a true vision into how students can grow. Or perhaps how teachers misperceptions of them can drastically change over the course of one year. Here he was playing the kongas, winning awards, bopping to music, smiling, and basking in positivity all day. I was simply elated to see him in this moment. I had planned on pulling him aside yesterday and telling him how proud I was of him for all he’s accomplished throughout the year. But, I decided to lay low after he picked up 4 his awards and movie tickets in the raffle. It was his day and I just wanted him to be able to enjoy it without any deep conversations ruining the moment, LoL.
I often wonder if Keanon is proud of me as a teacher and hopefully role model. I try to be a role model for all of my students, but Keanon is one of what I would consider my three work sons, or probably little brothers… I’m too young to have sons. They were all a part of my first class that I taught back in September. It was a small 8-student section of the reading intervention classes I ended up teaching this year. Keanon, Mason, and Jabari were three of the male students that I instantly made connections with. I’ve taught them all for the full year, so the bonds have been allowed to grow from infancy and have remained unbroken. They’re my little wolf pack. I request the most out of them in classes, and am not afraid to challenge them. They’ve been exposed to my growth as a teacher, and I guess give me respect for what I do. I think what makes our relationship special is that since they’ve had me all year they’ve seen my highs and lows, and they have actually offered me opportunities to reflect on my own teaching and learning practice in class with them.
As I’ve grown as a teacher, my thirst for knowledge about life for Black men in general has grown as well. I’ve become hyper sensitive at spotting news articles, books, and other resources that I feel can give me a better sense of who I am as a Black man and what that means for me as a 27 year old Black man, my 17 year old students, them in ten years at 27, and how the lives we specifically lead are really not in our total control.
…During his few extra days in jail, in the throes of heroin withdrawal that his young system wasn’t handling well, Joe met a local kingpin who taught him how to be a more efficient junkie, and a more effective criminal. Or as Joe puts it now (in his always-impeccable phrasing): “This man created a pathway for me to negotiate the street environment in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. It was the worst thing that could’ve happened to me…
So in the span of a few years, Joe went from a stable household to a single-parent family. From a middle-school honor student to a street-corner addict. From the grandson of a businessman and great-great-great-grandson of slaves to the son of an absent father, and a future deadbeat dad himself. It was a jumble of inputs—bad parenting and bad policy, misguided culture and tragic history—resulting in one clear output: a woefully lost kid…
But first, a few words about the world Joe comes from: the world of low-income black men. Why talk about this world? After all, it’s simple enough to ignore. We can safely tuck these men away in our inner cities and allow them to interact largely among themselves. We can rush past them in front of the gas station, murmur silently when the nightly news tells us of a shooting across town, or smile when we meet a nice, inspiring man like Joe. We can keep them in these places. It’s safe and easy for us.
Yet if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that when one single group of people is conspicuously left behind, it never bodes well for society as a whole. In many ways, black men in America are a walking gut check; we learn from them a lot about ourselves, how far we’ve really come as a country, and how much further we have to go…
The facts are a bit overwhelming, but not in much dispute. Africans were imported to the United States as purchased goods beginning around 1620. By 1770, when Crispus Attucks, a free black man, spilled the first drop of blood in the cause of the American Revolution, nearly 18 percent of the American population—almost 700,000 people—were slaves. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, that number had exploded to over 4 million.
Beneath these sterile facts lay a grisly reality. Blacks were systemically dehumanized for hundreds of years, a practice that had unique social and psychological effects on men. They were worked and whipped in fields like cattle. Any semblance of pride, any cry for justice, any measure of genuine manhood was tortured, beaten, or sold out of them. Marriage was strictly prohibited. Most were forbidden from learning to read and write. The wealth derived from their labor—the massive wealth derived from cotton, our chief export throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries—was channeled elsewhere. (DuBois, 2013)
[In class] We’ve been learning about secondary trauma experienced in the workplace, and interestingly until yesterday I couldn’t see how the theory applied to me at all! However, I realized that teaching itself, and perhaps the fellowship has been a traumatic experience that we are currently passing through. It’s been hard to identify/label the experience because I’ve been exposed to it for such a long and continuous period of time. To me yesterday, and really today, signifies that I’ve been officially broken in as a first year teacher. Something most people would rejoice at. But not me, I’ve lamented three times over the past 4 weeks over issues related to this fellowship. I’m not sure how you are now… but in the past, we haven’t traditionally been the type to weep, LoL! My tears haven’t come from the workload, late nights, “scary students and parents”, or “unsafe neighborhoods” as some of my peers would say. Our tears came from the parasitic education about systematic racism, social racism, institutionalized racism and the prejudice and privilege they create, specifically targeting individuals that look like and are ME right now, and whatever we look like when you’re reading this.
I can only imagine the new things you’ve learned over the past few years. If you can, leave me a note somehow or someway so I can learn from you. In a nutshell, the fellowship has exposed me to more information and made me connect that information to my everyday life in explosive ways. My fear is that not everyone is benefiting from this level of growth in knowledge, practice, cognition, reflection, and expectations for themselves, their students, families, friends, everyone! The challenge is that it extremely difficult to process that and explain it to a classroom, professor, or principal on the spot.
Currently, as a Black educator, it’s important that my students, family, and peers see me as someone that constantly takes opportunities to listen, learn, grow, educate, and push myself. I know this seems redundant, but its one of the responsibilities I feel obligated to shoulder for my community. They know I’m in graduate school, I also have shared-ish with them that I read a lot of books, am writing a book, created my own scholarship for my alma mater, organized a live art battle as a fundraiser for the scholarship, and that I’m documenting the process of becoming a teacher for future Black educators who are to come after me. I need the subliminal effort to rub off on them, so I put in the effort to really push myself to engage in a lot of community and self-building activities.
Paladin, with all that we’ve learned, it’s imperative that we continue to push ourself beyond the stars to the edges of the galaxy. The world is full of accessible images of pity and sorrow for Black people, students, and most of all men. Being a young Black man learning about the strife of your people has been simply devastating. This is the reason for my sobs over the past few months. Being a teacher, I’ve been exposed to the educational institution, which currently isn’t set up in a way that the boys I teach, that look like me everyday will succeed if left to their own devices. Regardless of fault, I am a representation of a system that back in the early 00’s struggled to produced 1/6 “successful” young Black men, my own numbers, not scientific. Realizing, through academic inquiry and employment practice that young Black men seldom succeed in the long run, coupled with the constant images of negative depictions of African American males and families in media has made me sad to be me. The more I learn about the world, the more the world shows me that my people are struggling. To learn about ancient civilizations, and see that throughout histories different people and cultures have struggled for various reasons, and to equate that in this day and age MY people are those struggling people, makes me sick.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Black unemployment for May 2013 is 13.5%. The Black male unemployment rate jumped almost a full point from 12.6% to 13.5%. For women it was 111.2%. Black youth unemployment also got worse, it went from 40.5% to 42.6%. The overall Black unemployment number is virtually the same as it was when President Obama took office. In February 2009, the Black unemployment rate was 13.6%. The number has hovered around 13% for most all of 2013. The overall unemployment number for May 2013 was 7.6%… The worst number for Black unemployment during Bush’s eight years in office was 12.1% in December 2008. The “best” number for Black unemployment during the Bush years was 7.7% in August 2007 and February 2007. (Burke, 2013)
Its important that I expect that whatever version of my future self finds himself reading this letter, that he be doing more than what I was doing at the time this letter was created. The example we set for ourself will help others set an example for themselves. I believe the tears come from a place of the sheer enormity of the issues that dampen and suppress minority people around the world, but more specifically, we Black men in this country. I can’t separate myself from the knowledge that even as I obtain this Master’s Degree, people on the street may see another statistic. However one thing I am grateful for is the ability to continue to learn from all of my experiences here, good and bad.
Through all the ignorant jokes, comments, and incidents—I learned how to persevere and focus on what’s really important. Learning when to fight back and when to grin and bear it is something that marginalized individuals know all too well. I will be living a life where I must constantly learn to pick my battles. Going to a [Predominately White Institution, (PWI)] was pivotal in developing this understanding. I could name many more things. But ultimately, if your identity exists anywhere in the periphery of society, graduating from a PWI is a feat of Herculean proportions. At times, some of the foolishness I’ve dealt with has left me wondering why I didn’t retreat into the relative safety of an HBCU, but still, I’ve gained so much social and psychological resilience that I feel fit to take on the world. Indeed, when you are a marginalized individual who graduates from a PWI, resilience is arguably what you actually majored in. (Talley, 2013)
Paladin, one way I know we can continue pushing ourself is by constantly questioning and recording our progression over time. This will help us track how we have become a better educator and leader for ourself, our students, our family, and even our peers. Take a second to write down your answers to these questions. Maybe even staple your answers to this paper. Over time we can compare the answers to each other to see where we have shifted in our learning.
How have we made sure that we have been happy?
What decisions/actions have we taken to take care of ourself?
How has our knowledge grown and continued to change?
How has our push to educate our people grown, and become more effective?
How have we continued to make our life positive and purposeful in the quest to push ourself, our people, and all people to see that Black is not bad, dumb, handicapped, ignorant, angry, threatening, savage, etc…?
How have we helped other people connect deeper within themselves?
How have we sought knowledge?
How have we actively and passively shared our knowledge?
Has there been a time when we did not speak up for ourselves? What was the outcome?
How have we exhibited grace, courtesy, and poise?
How have we continued to challenge ourself?
What questions/problems do you forsee having to tackle in the near future?
How are we continuing to think positively in all settings we are in?
I’m frustrated writing this because I just feel too rushed. I need to process information and let it sit in my mind before I have to share it with other people. The nature of this assignment just doesn’t allow that. It’s difficult trying to bridge the formal with the introspective. Especially considering my first year wont be complete until this afternoon, 45 more minutes to be exact.
In writing this paper and thinking about some of the classroom sources I get frustrated because of the incongruences I feel I must navigate in my mind, as a black male. For instance, one point I agree with in regards to racial identity development theory is –
“If one has more fully explored one’s racial identity, might that contribute to higher levels of academic achievement? Is a student who has a complex understanding of their “Blackness or “Whiteness” or “Puerto Rican-ness” more likely to have elevated academic potential?” (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2010)
Keanon and I are examples that yes, this serves to be true. However, in the very same book we’re asked to become familiar with William Cross’ model of Black Racial Identity Development, who when I googled was a White man. As a Black man, how am I supposed to learn about my journey of understanding my race from someone who has been labeled as not having a race? ***Does Not Compute*** Let me say that his race is not the issue, the issue arises when I connect my prior knowledge of say – whitened history, or the creation of race to begin with as a result of misguided Academics. How am I supposed to trust a model of racial identity from someone with no race, especially when comparing the model to my own journey highlights little to no correlation, except an example of what not to think!? On an even grander scheme, realizing that this model is part of the education for future educators, and professionals in the world who have no first hand knowledge that this theory is perhaps not the method I would endorse they use to learn about racial identification within a Black person.
Having multiple identities has helped me pinpoint disparity and how culture itself impacts our encultured belief systems. I am Black, and will not ever experience a day when I am not Black. However, I am also gay, and have known so since very early on in my life that this was also true. Having these multiple identities allows me to see that negativity can be positioned in proximity toward minorities involuntarily. Without knowing or trying everyday, people say, accept, affirm, put down, and assume on behalf of our minority populations. It makes me wonder why and more-so how White individuals have escaped “identifying” themselves, and in turn identified others. My multiple identities leads me to believe that those with single/fewer identities find it harder to identify challenges they may encounter due to their ascribed difference, or in the majorities’ words normalness.
Keanon finding himself as a young Rastafarian, as he encounters sex, gender, sexuality, spirituality, academia, all at once – compares to me finding myself as a young Black and Gay man. In a lot of ways we’re going through the same journey. He is I and I am him.
I’m saddened that I have to end the letter this way, but it speaks to the craziness of the year. I’ve audibly grunted several times at this point, but I need to go back through to edit and connect a few dots before I submit within the hour. Of all things learned this year Keanon has taught me to believe in myself. He is who he is, and he is not afraid to present that to the school community. He’s winning because of it! I am who I am, and I can’t be afraid to present that to my students, my fellow fellows, and the world. This is how we learn, this is how others learn, and I cannot continue to deprive myself and others of opportunities to learn through each other. Future self, please continue to push for personal enlightenment and sharing it with all that may benefit.
Peace, Blessings, and Ambitions!
Stay tuned, Part 5 will be posted tomorrow.
– Works Cited –
Burke, L. V. (2013, June 07). Black unemployment virtually same as feb. 2009: 13.5%.
Cultural Relevance in an Age of Cultural Ignorance:
Institutional Racism Hidden in Plain Sight
Let’s set a universal rule for a second… as a man, no amount of research, reading, experimentation, training, testimony, or observations could ever give me the same level of knowledge and/or connection to how women experiences pregnancy, birth, abortion, miscarriage, etc… compared to if a woman has done all of the same research as I, yet has also herself experienced a pregnancy, birth, abortion, miscarriage, etc… Therefore if given the choice between a knowledgable male doctor and an equally knowledgable female doctor and mother, a pregnant woman seeking the best advice would be most likely to choose the female doctor due to her increased familiarity with all things pregnancy and mom related. Yes? *crowd says yes*
Looking at the current United States Congress we can see what happens when the uninformed powerplayers (Men) try to identify when a woman is raped, when they have conceived, when they’re eligible for abortion services, etc… Yes, they could have good intentions, and yes they can be uber informed. But at the end of the day, certain issues deserve to be led and/or equally voiced by the community that has the most at stake. I guess the true sign of being a minority in this country is when you constantly have other people telling you who you are, what you do, and what you can become, and in turn their head to walk away before you even begin to voice your argument against their judgements.
Tying this to education and to be blunt, has anyone happened to find any diversity in their Urban Education sources provided by their professors? It would be one thing if there weren’t any Black scholars who have written about the challenges and strategies to create successful classroom environments for teachers of urban (predominately Black and Brown) students. However a simple Amazon search shows that there are a few available for purchase and consumption. Has anyone ever bothered to ask why aren’t we using these resources at least in addition to the resources that have been overwhelmingly written by non-minority scholars. To be fair, I don’t have an issue, persay, with learning from a person from any racial background. Knowledge is knowledge, period. And all knowledge deserves to be filtered and analyzed regardless of who it comes from. However, I do take issue with the fact that ALL or at least 97% of the resources (articles, books, videos, etc…) we’ve been provided have been produced:
1) From the deficit standpoint – this is when you frame and issue from the negative side, or highlighting the problem. Below are two books from my upcoming graduate courses. What mood/frame of mind do these titles leave you in? What assumptions have they made about your students and their behavior? How will the knowledge contained in these books frame your perception of what you see in your own classroom?
2) Through a lens of privilege. Our sources have been created by people who view the world through a raceless lens, or perhaps middle/upper class lens. Thereby, their research lacks a certain level of connection with the very people that are being diagnosing/describing.
As we determined earlier, given a choice – a woman would strongly prefer to learn about pregnancy from a female doctor with first hand experience with her own pregnancy related issues as opposed to a male doctor of equal knowledge who (due to biology) is forced in to make certain assumptions about what his female patients may or may not be feeling at any given moment.
Take a step back… think about the implications this has on the thousands of teachers entering and exiting teacher training programs each year, including you! If we are all being taught through this same method, then we all are being put at a monumental disadvantage when it comes to teaching our disadvantaged (code for poor(er)) urban (code for Black and Latino) children. Part of the reason I was sooo stuck on stupid at the end of last year is because I finally started to understand why I was feeling uneasy with what we were reading and talking about in my graduate classes. My mind finally started to connect the dots, that for some reason seem to be purposely made nebulous throughout our training. To give my professors credit, I think they try… to remove bias from their sources and alert us all when we ourselves are being prejudiced or thinking in generalizations. But, quite frankly that’s not enough – period, especially when they have control over what they give us to read and digest, and continue to give us the same type of jargon-filled literature. Furthermore this program and this fellowship are supposed to focus on urban populations, [ebonics] but aint shit urban about my education. [/ebonics]
Why are the source materials so important?
Well sources are important because they expose us to ideas, concepts, and points of view that we may have never been privy to. If we only read articles about how difficult it is to manage behavior in urban (Black and Latino) classrooms then sub/consciously we’re only going to be able to identify behavior management issues in our classroom. If we’re only given articles discussing how disadvantaged (poor(er)) students are being left behind due to the achievement gap, then whether we like it or not we’re going to excuse a percentage of under-achievement in our classrooms to inherent issues that we the teachers can not change. Where are the solution-based articles? Where are the books about using student leaders to encourage the few stragglers? Where are the articles about what has worked in these specific classrooms?
Look – I’m black, and it’s taken me a minute to really piece together the implications of the propaganda we’re being fed. Whether it’s backed by research or not, I still want a diversity to the type of information I’m exposed to. As teachers, educators, and mentors we all know that if you call someone stupid long enough, they’ll soon believe you. Well, if you read that someone is difficult to manage long enough what will you believe? I know I’m abundantly enriched when I read sources that challenge the notion that minority students are inherently the problem in our classroom. If these sources impact me this way I often wonder the type of impact they will have for some of my non-Black (White) and non-disadvantaged (middle-class/wealth(ier)) counterparts.
Again… I can be an AMAZING gynecologist as a male. But damnit, if I myself haven’t even bothered to engage myself with the knowledge and scholarship of female doctors, patients, and stakeholders at large, then I will always be at a disadvantage to the experienced mother. For the women out there, who would you rather take advice from. Me, the person who by all current biological standards can’t produce or another educated female who not only can educate you on child birth but can connect with you spiritually and emotionally when describing the pains and joys of the processes of miscarriage, stillborn, abortions, natural births, c-sections, epidurals, breast-feeding, etc…
The choice here is very easy. My challenge to everyone, black and others, is to heavilyaccessorize your education with sources that purposely push your own knowledge outside of the comfortable little box that we all undoubtedly fit in. This summer I spent quite a bit of time supplementing my own pool of knowledge with historical and academic texts written explicitly by and for minorities. Soon I will post a few reading lists that you can choose from to help yourself out. In the meantime, I’ll start with these suggestions:
Again, this is a journey that we’re all on. I am the messenger, but believe that the challenge is for all of us. Quite frankly, I don’t believe we can be effective and purposeful educators, leaders, and mentors if we CHOOSE to leave out the knowledge and expertise that the people we are trying to teach have PURPOSELY left for us to use and build on.
Creating culturally relevant lessons has been something stressed by the fellows, academia, and general research as an effective way to “close the achievement gap” from day one. Being culturally relevant doesn’t just apply to K-12. It applies to life in general. Keeping that in mind, why haven’t we been using culturally relevant sources for our own teacher education? We are students of education, No? What we learn undoubtedly affects how we go about managing and leading our own classrooms each day, No? Is there plausible reason why the knowledge of Black and Latino scholars has been omitted from our own teacher education? Comments are welcome. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Think on that, stay tuned for part 4 tomorrow morning.
[W]hile it is true that these “highly educated” people have spent years in various classrooms, they haven’t been educated in the area of efficient and independent thought. Instead, they’ve spent their entire educational careers being indoctrinated into embracing the beliefs of long-dead White men. Now, that isn’t to say that the thoughts of the thinkers of the past shouldn’t be reviewed, but their thoughts shouldn’t be idolized and thought of as superior to our own, which is generally the case. As a result, many of our so-called intellectuals come out the other end of our most prestigious universities not as powerful independent thinkers, but as celebrated, but shallow-minded regurgitators of other people’s thoughts.
You should never give anyone else’s ability to think priority over your own. Simply because a person has more degrees than you, that doesn’t mean that he’s more intelligent than you are. If we take a brain surgeon with an IQ of 120, and a high school dropout with an IQ 140, while the brain surgeon may have more knowledge at his disposal than the high school dropout, he’ll never be as smart. Thus, in a situation where all things are equal, the high school dropout will be able to connect the dots much more efficiently than the brain surgeon every time. So while we should always attempt to enhance our education, if circumstances prevent us from attending an institution of higher learning, we should always remember this – knowledge is free, and there’s just as much knowledge on Google, or at the corner library, as there is at Harvard University. So we should dedicate our lives to obtaining that knowledge, because once we have it, it doesn’t matter where it came from. In fact, while Harvard can expose you to knowledge, it cannot educate you. Education is a solitary pursuit, so the only one who can truly educate you, is yourself.
If you guys could see behind this screen into my life you would probably be surprised, excited, underwhelmed, inspired, and maybe even a little concerned with the craziness and boringness that encompasses me. Let me be the one to tell you that I’m a f*cking mess! I mean literally behind the screen are probably 64 drafted posts… when there’s been 72ish published posts total (and that’s just the blog). Sometimes I’m shocked that I’ve pulled all of what seem to be random and spontaneous thoughts together for 28 years to actually get to where(ever) I am today. Luckily, I’ve been able to realize one thing, that by challenging myself – doing more, doing better, being nicer-ish, growing wiser, etc… I would end up somewhere along in the “successful” area of the field.
When I first started the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) I visualized my teaching career culminating in Ghandi-esque fashion, someone to make my mentors, Elders Malcolm, Martin, and Frederick, proud. Over the year, I tried really really hard to “be” a good teacher to my students, my co-teachers, and sometimes I would get around to me. For a 1st year teacher, for a long period of time, I think I did quite well. Eventually, and actually, thankfully, my bubble was burst in May when I got written up. But that’s a different story for a different time (an example of why I’ve been too mentally constipated to write).
To tie up that 4-month old loose end I’ll share the most important take away from that situation. A quote my principal said, which at the time, I didn’t agree with for obvious reason, but in hindsight has helped me reframe how I view…everything in life. We sat down on multiple occasions to discuss what happened, and it was there that I received the nugget “Paladin, you’re a professional, you’re not a student!”
There’s been a lot of stuff going on, some related, some not that needed time to get worked out in my brain. The mental gridlock felt physically painful the last few weeks of school when all I needed was a break from everybody to flush out my mind! Looking back, I think a lot of people were wondering what would be the most difficult thing being a teacher in NYC of all places. NY folks, I know this is like standard living for y’all. But, in the Midwest, NYC might as well be Saturn, glamorous rings and all. In our [Midwestern] heads it’s a fantastical place where unicorns run the streets, along with rampant pick-pockety/drug-lordy crime in broad daylight-especially in Times Square, and everything you thought never existed, exists. Now, to be clear, everything you thought never existed does exist here, but Times Square is not the kick it spot, period! And I actually feel a lot safer here than if I were to return to Chicago, now affectionately referred to as Chi-Raq, by the locals.
I couldn’t have named what the most difficult thing was about teaching had you asked me 4 months ago (February). The days are long…as hell, yes! I would be misleading if I didn’t describe them as such. But, breaks are common enough, and I can already tell that next year will be a completely different beast than this first. Towards the end of the year people kept asking me… “So… how was your first year?” And I couldn’t even begin to answer them, I still had so much shit to do literally up until the last day that I couldn’t take the mental break just yet. [I finished my Special Education attendance records mmmm…. maybe 15 minutes before the last event on the last day of the school year – I was so over life at this point you couldn’t even imagine.]
Now, I can finally answer them, unfortunately its the worst answer I can give. But the truth shall set us all, and hopefully millions of others free. This year was probably the most difficult, and monumental year of my life. I came into a field, that I thought I loved, and that I thought I had natural abilities in. I can confirm, the love is there, and yes, I do think I have certain “reflexes” that help me teach in a way that other’s may not naturally benefit from. But I never would have thought that my understanding of institutional (key) racism, prejudice, injustice, inequality, etc… would have developed so vastly and so quickly. We can all identify features of the “mascot” that has been paraded around as the Black man on this planet. Take a few seconds to think…
Everywhere you turn, you may see a different variation, but ultimately all of these “mascots” are presumed dangerous, untrustworthy, poor, uneducated, violent, prone to violence, addicted to drugs, seller of drugs, unfatherly, bastardized, sex fiend, public menace, uncharacteristically filled with vengeful strength, sinister, ungrateful, fill in the blank… What’s more, this mascot isn’t allowed to be the mythical creature that is truly is (see unicorn reference). It is thought to be personified in the millions of black men and boys walking this Earth today, right now, in your classrooms, in your apartment buildings, and on the street. Digging the dagger even deeper are the billions of people on this Earth that don’t even have to choose to believe it, for their actions speak and perpetuate these myths without them even caring, or hopefully knowing.
Now, I’m 28 years old… I’ve grown up in this country, so the negative story-line of the black male, female, and family is a familiar theme that I’ve seen many times before. However, what’s been troubling is my evolving understanding of why that negative stigma exists, and how it plays into sustaining the problems faced by minority communities in this country. As a matter of fact, I’m MOST frustrated at realizing that there simply aren’t enough viable solutions being presented to and by the public everyday. At the very least you would think an “Urban” teacher education program would present it’s students with diverse or at least neutral source materials to frame their own perspectives of the plight we face in our classrooms everyday. But, quite frankly every source I’ve run across supplied by the program has perpetuated the myth of the helpless and borderline savage minority man-child we teach everyday.
What’s been more difficult is realizing how I fit into this machine. What role I have been brought up to play, and what role I’m playINGright now. I mean… understanding the *enemy* is one thing, but realizing that you’re playing into it’s game is something I’m not going to allow to happen. Once the shroud of ignorance is lost the onus is on me [you] to educate, understand, and move to counter what is happening within my [your] grasp!
What’s humbling, scary, maddening…, and a bunch of other things is the feeling that I’m describing what is more than likely the spark plug, to the Aircraft carrier that really is this country and its institutions that have been in place to hold marginalized communities down. One thing I believe I have to lose as I become deeper knowledged and entrenched in this field is the idealistic naiveté that I held on to for far longer than most people. Exposure to a world broader than my Midwestern nest-egg has surely started to change my understanding of my place and purpose in this world.
My questions to you:
What role(s) do you play in perpetuating this machine? And rest assured we ALL play a role.
Ignorance is truly bliss, most people don’t realize that there is a machine, let alone that they play a role in its smooth operation.
We can turn a blind eye to the challenges that we all face in righting the wrongs that marginalized communities face. Or we can be purposeful champions of identifying and spreading the ways to make our communities and this country a whole lot better! You have to decide which side you’re on become an ACTIVE participant.
Simply being, and being led for that matter, is not being purposeful and is not being an active participant.
So I’ve decided to take a step back from the blog this summer because I needed to take the time to research, push myself, and give myself the space and time to truly reflect on all that has happened. At times it’s been hard to share how I really feel about teaching and teacher “training” because I’m too worried how others may perceive my thoughts. My goal is to take this summer off and analyze my first year here in New York City as a Teaching Fellow. Even today, June 17, I stayed up until 1:37am (technically to read the Racial Identity chapter in my textbook, Understanding Youth: adolescent development for educators) The theories in here are difficult to swallow. As as you can see from my notes… I wasn’t fucking with William Cross and his view of how I experience my racial identity.
*click to enlarge – it’s all bullshit, trust*
I’m frustrated, and pissed off that I spent the weekend reading a source material that uses a model developed by White man to depict the journey a Black adolescent endures as they come to understand and make connections with their own racial identity. Many of the examples in the book were laced with the same racism and prejudice that the author claims to fight. Many times I’ve stopped and asked myself, “Why, and more importantly, How is this book describing how teachers from the dominant cultures should interact around issues of race?” Yet, the author continues to forget that we as teachers must be the individuals empowered with the knowledge to break the psychological affects of racism most often encultured, first – in the public education classroom, followed by the criminal justice system, public housing and assistance offices, etc…” It’s frustrating [as f***] but it’s kind of a moot point to argue right now.
We were supposed to be discussing this chapter in class later on this week. Luckily I have a work retreat that I have to attend which means I’ll miss the discussion. It’s probably for the best because I’m just not in the mood for any additional bullshit right now and probably wouldn’t be able to communicate a strong case for how I’ve been feeling as of late anyways.
I have an idea how long I want my hiatus to be. Think of it as a preparation for Season 2 (Sophomore Year). I don’t watch a lot of reality tv, but I watch enough to know that with each season the show is supposed to grow, blossom, and in some ways shock and surprise its audience. Hopefully I can accomplish this for those of you that follow. I’m planning on taking this time to read a few books I’ve been meaning to digest. I’ve found a few interesting treasure troves discussing Black/minority developmental theory and research from a more neutral standpoint. I also need to get my physicality back. I don’t necessarily feel healthy physically which makes me feel weak mentally. I think I’ve mentioned that before on the blog. For me, this affects my teaching, my thinking, my processing, my self-esteem, my everything. It’s the dichotomy I’m constantly dealing with as an “athlete”. I’ve also reached out to a few of my professors and coaches to let them know how I experienced their classes. I wanted them to know that I interested in being involved in any mentorship opportunities they have available. I’m focused less on being the mentee and more the mentor. It may seem wild… but I would love to be able to get some guest writers on the blog. My perspective is… my perspective and it comes from a very focused point of reference. We all could use additional points of reference to help better shape our………….selves. I have an idea what I can do… I’ll keep you posted…
Welcome back everybody. I wanted to give a quick introduction back into the SkoolHaze groove. Yes, I took a break from writing, but not from thinking. To those of you who are following, each day this week I will be posting a new piece to help bridge the gap between the end of my first year as a teacher and graduate student, and the beginning of my second year in The Beast.
Quite a bit has happened over the past 4 months from the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict [ironically enough the ninja is in the news AGAIN today], to my realization that prejudice isn’t just on the streets, but is abundantly available in graduate school classrooms across the country as well. I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve witnessed what I hope is subconscious prejudice and racism by my peers and professors.
It made me angry, but more-so it made me think,critically about the role I’ve played in this world so far, and how I can educate myself to understand my, and other people’s roles in this system. Much of it will be explained and shared in the days and weeks to come.
Thanks for returning for the ride! It’s definitely going to be bumpier this time around. But, I’m positive that we all can handle what’s in store for the next 180 days. Be sure to check out Pt. 2 tomorrow
*Another facebook snatch, thank you to whoever I got this from*
Elijah’s classmates only wanted better for themselves and their families. What happened to paying it forward, and giving back?
There are no role models in their neighborhoods right now. All of the “successful” people leave the community and never return. They’re taught to leave the community.
When will be begin to combat the selfishnesses WE ALL have been taught and unconsciously display?
What is the common thread between Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and MLK Jr?
They all had an extreme love for people and fought for them even when they didn’t want their help.
Allow our students/mentees/family/friends to be angry, BUT direct their anger to the fact that someone taught them it was ok to behave like that (hurting other people). Direct their anger to the fact that someone taught them that its ok to think that it’s every man for themselves.
The people that put them (us) down, were put down. The people that hurt them (us), were hurt. When are we (you) going to take personal responsibility to change this?
I’ma change that! You need to too!
Teachers, instead of making sellouts, we need to realize that we’re the main people who can change the community, by building its leaders. Yes academically, but more-so spiritually, socially, and emotionally.
The world doesnt have to be every (wo)man for themselves. We can have everyone fighting together and set on one goal. That goal is to make our communities better for the people coming up after us.
Teachers job is of extreme importance. Are you sure you know and are pushing for the full scope?
It’s bigger than me, it’s not about me. But I can change that.
I believe in you
And don’t give up
Tags: Video, education, Teachers, Teach For America, Baltimore, Elijah Miles, Higher Education, Public Education, Teaching