Saturday morning I woke up to the news of the death of Fidel Castro. My heart sunk for many reasons: 1) 2016 is just a murderous savage, 2) It was the second time I woke up at my mom’s house to hear about a death of an icon, the first was Muhammad Ali and 3) I realized our courageous revolutionaries and champions of liberation are becoming our ancestors rapidly.
So for some of you, undoubtedly, you feel a way about my warm sentiments for Castro. I want you to peep this as Nelson Mandela drops mics, dollars and sense:
As Shaun King said in his post following the death of Castro, If you consider one a hero (Mandela) and the other one a villain (Castro) how do you reconcile the hero’s love, steadfast affiliation and appreciation of the villain? (I mean I ad libbed a bit on that, hence no quotes).
Who decides who becomes a hero and who becomes a villain? And therein lies your charge as a Culturally Responsive Educator. Dr. King said, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” So, the question begs, who is Castro a hero to and a villain to? Because it certainly isn’t Black people. We, for the most part, have an intense love affair with him. If you Google, “Castro and Black People” you will find numerous articles discussing the close connection; two of which you can find here and here. And that’s just Black Americans. The African continent hails Castro as as a straight up HERO because Castro has “receipts” for going beyond the rhetoric as Mandela said, and really being about THAT liberation life. Castro showed up and showed out in Africa, putting his troops, medical professionals and money where his rhetoric lay.
I wonder, what do you know about Castro? I wonder, how many of you spoke of his death when you returned to your classrooms yesterday after giving thanks? I wonder how many of you have ever taught about Castro and Guevara and the overthrowing of the Batista government? (You should watch the film Che part 1.) Am I saying Castro is a saint? No, I’m asking, how many of us have investigated his life in order to recognize the complexity of him as a man, revolutionary and a political leader? And if we haven’t, how do we expect our children to? I mean, just a few days before his death, Colin Kaepernick was scolded by a Cuban reporter and asked why he wore a t-shirt depicting Castro. The reporter ignored the other Black iconic figure on the tee, Malcolm X. Because for that reporter, only Castro mattered but for Kaepernick they both mattered. But I ask you, what consciousness has Kaepernick sparked in the minds of our young male black youth by wearing that tee shirt? And where will they go to keep that spark going?
In America, Malcolm is vilified by a certain group of people and is a King for me and mine. So one has to ask why but more importantly, we must allow a space for our students to journey down the road of why and come to their own conclusions. And this is not a matter of taking a “fair and balanced” approach and ensuring both sides of the argument receive equal representation. This idea is where America and political correctness has failed us, much like white supremacy and systemic racism. If you’re not actively fighting against those things, actively dismantling them, then you are supporting them. There is no neutrality. On the flip side, if you are not actively working towards Diasporic liberation, the liberation of poor people, and marginalized people you are working against it.
Who are our Diasporic heroes? Why might our heroes be seen as enemies to others? What characteristics makes someone a hero? Do heroes usually get to live long lives? Is there anything worth dying for? Is heroism complex?
These are the questions we should be asking of ourselves and creating the environment in our schools and classrooms for students to ponder and decide.
In order to be a really responsive educator of and for the Diaspora, you must decolonize your mind from mindless consumption in order to feast on critical consciousness and inquiry. Add to that a big dose of love and courage because only those things will help you to overcome the immense amount of fear you will feel as you bring this critical consciousness and critical inquiry into your classroom.
As Dr. King said, “we must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
Remember to like and share, even if you mad.