This school year, one of my goals was to see my students grow in empathy and awareness of life outside of their bubble. I teach in a predominately white middle-to-upper class school in a Chicago suburb. My students are far removed from the realities of kids a mere 30 miles down the expressway; my reality as a product of the south side of Chicago. Their lives, while far from perfect, are utopian compared to the lives of some of their neighboring peers.
Research supports the need to provide students of color with culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum. I wholeheartedly support and appreciate the pressing need for black and brown students to have instructional practices matching their learning styles and aptitudes as well as texts reflective of their interests and experiences. This is long overdue. I believe culturally responsive practices will help bridge the achievement gap offering marginalized students a voice and a means of championing who they are and from where they've come. But I ask, is this enough? Is this enough to disrupt the pervasive fear entangling and threatening to entrap our nation? I see the white elephant in the room. It is the curriculum of the white elite that only serves the status quo. It maintains white is right and to speak against its ideology is a cardinal sin.
How does education tackle this white elephant in the room? I believe as culturally responsive teaching builds awareness in the black and brown educational world; an awareness must also be taught in the educational world of the white elite. I have seen firsthand the pressing need for "Allies and Advocates" curriculum and pedagogy. As education reflects and responds to the needs of society, it is clear students need to be explicitly taught not to fear and exclude that which is other. In order for both sets of students ("majority" and "minority") to grow and evolve for the better, there must be an overhaul of teaching practices and curriculum for the white elite that does more than relegate the teaching of "minorities" and their heroes, causes and more to a month or one historical figure but engages students in ongoing discourse that humanizes all and offers a broad understanding of black and brown people along with the events and circumstances that impact their lives.
I realize what I am asking for is a total reformation of curricular ideology and development. I realize this will not be an easy task. I realize not everyone will agree there is a need for such change. I also realize teaching the "majority" to be allies and advocates through new approaches, texts and discourse geared toward the UN-whitewashing of curriculum is one of the only ways to bridge our divide and see real societal growth.
As an educator, I want to prepare my students to be productive citizens who contribute to the world. As an educator of color, I want the same and more, especially in the current American climate with its rampant and flourishing forms of -isms. It is increasingly imperative that students are able to move beyond their u-centric views, to see and interact with people and situations beyond the lens of their white privilege, to engage in honest and open conversations about the -isms refuting stereotypes and fighting prejudice, and to be allies of the world who advocate for people and causes that may not directly affect them but affect the greater good.
It's time to address that elephant in the classroom.
To say I am still pondering the myriad levels of Get Out is an understatement, I have probably consumed at least 10 articles and spent too much time dissecting the film's most minute details. My husband and I have knighted Jordan Peele and contemplated and revered the internal and external struggle inherent in creating this type of social art. Genius, we say--pure genius.
Last night, my daughter called me, on her own without prompting or to request money, to discuss the film as she saw I'd checked-in at the theater on Facebook (strategic on my part--folk need to know) the day prior. We talked for almost an hour about the film's hidden details and the brilliance of producing something so racially relevant and charged without totally alienating the majority, and yet intimately speaking to the minority--again I say, pure genius. And then we talked about Georgina, one of the two women of color in the film. The character who crept me out so much that I'd pushed her into the corner and far recesses of my mind until that point.
Unpacking Georgina and I
Why had I chosen to forget her? And upon remembering her, why has she now dominated my thoughts? How is Georgina really a representation of self? (Bear with me, I know I stand to lose my audience here, but hear me out.)
The very reason I pushed Georgina into the background is the very reason she is truly unforgettable: her presence and power evoke fear. Her character represents the house negro of past living among her masters (Is Walter ever in the Armitage home?) as a subservient matriarch (captive and grandmother), yet still somewhat conscious of who she really is (i.e. lone tear). Her character also represents the modern day black woman, similar in the aforementioned constructions, but also as more "woke" than her black male counterparts, less desirable in the eyes of the predominate culture (a black woman always fretting about her appearance) who was NOT vying for her (the black males were the prize bucks), and restless and apologetic (Georgina was always popping up out of nowhere moving fast and apologizing for her actions).
I see myself in Georgina--restlessly working to get it right and feeling the need to apologize for who I am. A recent encounter best illustrates this: I had a meeting where I felt pressed to apologize because I was not myself and I was not as vocal as expected and for something else totally out of my control. I have to run faster, spit farther, jump higher smiling all the while. I feel pressured to rein in my level of consciousness and advocacy based on what I believe is racially unjust as not to offend those who might perceive me as an angry black woman (some of you have thought just that).
I see you, Georgina! Sister, I understand how your power and presence evoked fear. Sister, I got the message that I have to get out of my own head and not be pushed to the background. Sister, I got that my beauty is not determined by outside forces and sources. Sister, I apologize no longer!
A product of my hood.
Black activism at its finest.
Chance the Rapper.
Why Chance is a real deal revolutionary:
Again and again, Chance proves he is a man of action, a man who believes in himself and his community, and a change agent empowering a broad base of young people through education. His activism is definitely planned, purposeful and certainly not by chance.
Revolutionaries act. What a challenge of greatness to us all!
Documenting my evolution by filling in space and matter one word at a time.