Cultural Relevance in an Age of Cultural Ignorance

Higgins-Bond_KankanMussaCultural 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?

photo 2-1

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…

carter - library

The choice here is very easy. My challenge to everyone, black and others, is to heavily accessorize 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:

The Mis-edcuation of the Negro – Carter G. Woodson
Other People’s Children – Lisa Delpit
The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

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

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

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.

Source: Ok, We Must Never Confuse Education With Intelligence –

Additional Sources: The White-Savior Industrial Complex

2 thoughts on “Cultural Relevance in an Age of Cultural Ignorance”

  1. Your message is loud, clear, and filled with pertinent examples. Your analogies support your thesis – mostly.

    Sometimes, reality, and the complexities of life and economics, requires decision makers to make choices that appear to be based on bias.

    Also, folks can enhance their understanding by being a good communicator. A dr, teacher, or lawyer can be an excellent advocate, without sharing the same background of their constituent, if they possess empathy, compassion, and above avg communication skills.

    Gandhi, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Galileo, and MLK, are folks who transended their own backgrounds; and were able to teach others & build followers b/c they were excellent communicators. Their messages converted people from all cultures.

    We all learn and are capable of learning from good teachers, bosses, and mentors. We also learn just as much from bad teachers, bosses, etc.

    In other words, soul food is an excellent source for nourishment. To a malnourished child, so is PB&J.


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