Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind!
“Warning” by Langston Hughes
I’ve been getting some pushback since my last blog post about teachers of color (TOCs) and for focusing almost solely on “Black and Brown” issues within education. It is perceived by some as “separatist” and “divisive”. This rhetoric conjures up the same void feeling that I experience in the pit of my gut when I hear “All Lives Matter” in response to the much-needed reminder that “Black Lives Matter”.
There are white (and black) teachers and administrators who teach students of color (SOCs) and work alongside teachers of color day in and day out who don’t want to have the difficult conversations about race relations in this country. They are the ones who find my voice to be too Black, too strong. They, who are becoming an all-too-prominent portion of the teaching profession, do not want to be held accountable for teaching culturally-relevant pedagogy because it makes them feel “uncomfortable.” Yet they find it too political when TOCs like myself create and teach such curriculum.
Teachers of color are “great” — as long as we are not too “political.” If you are guilty of believing this, please stop trying to wrangle and reel in our voices. It’s neither wanted nor welcomed. Quite frankly, it’s too late for all of that! How can we not speak out when students of color are being gunned down and killed in the very neighborhoods where we teach them and live? I can’t tell you how much pushback I have gotten over the course of my career as a teacher regarding my use of current events — specifically my use of news articles, pictures, and video footage about the killing of young men of color at the hands of police officers and each other — as a lens for teaching my students critical thinking, argumentative writing, and debate skills. Unreal.
You know what’s going on? I’ll tell you: Systematic oppressors and those who benefit from or are mentally enslaved by such systems are scared because they know that teachers — particularly TOCs — have the unique power to start a long overdue paradigm shift in the way our students critically think about, process, and act on the environments in which they live. I just read an article on NPR last week by Anya Kamenetz that was all about how students of all ethnicities prefer and are more engaged with their teachers of color.
Every time TOCs take a stand and voice our concerns about the state of our schools and our communities, it’s a problem. I’m sick of it! If you have a problem with TOCs speaking out about the ways we and SOCs are marginalized and taken for granted, that speaks more to a society at large that degrades us and simultaneously strives to shut us up than it does about who we are. Some societal introspection is definitely warranted in such a case, wouldn’t you say?
The revolution might not be televised, but it will be “Duked” out on social media — pun intended. I, for one, have my cerebral boxing gloves on and my mind is well-sharpened and well-equipped for the battles and the war. I am a member of W.E.B DuBois’ Talented Tenth (read The Souls of Black Folk, if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and my voice in the classroom and on this blog is not only my right, but my duty. It’s Part 2 of the Harlem Renaissance for people of color and I am fully engaged.