It’s not that wyteeshers don’t want to teach my people. It’s that in my experience they can’t and don’t know how, which almost always results in the dehumanization of our children.
I have seen dehumanization in practice and after a long look at myself and heeding the advice of a trusted and respected friend, I decided to move onto another school that serves BLACK and BROWN students.
Nevertheless, I am still on the groupchat from that old school and recently, the tone has shifted to a really dark place as the teachers run out of ways to “manage tough kids.”
Sidebar: they are all white women, not from NYC.
Group chat begins:
Teacher 1: Can you believe they were charging their phones in class?
Teacher 2: I’m duct taping the outlets and light switches.
Teacher 3: Me too
Teacher 1: I have duct tape. That’s it, we’re taking the school back.
Teacher 3: What if they peel back the duct tape?
Teacher 4: Yeah get em!
Teacher 2: They are going to learn one way or another.
Teacher 1: Let’s wear all black to show them we mean business.
Teacher 3: We must be a united front and if admin says anything we’ll deal with it then.
Teacher 1: These kids are animals.
Teacher 4: Let’s barricade the doors.
Teacher 1: No smiling, all yelling.
Teacher 2: We have to show them who is in charge.
Teacher 1: Then let’s wear red, black for death to the kids thinking they can do whatever they want, then red so they see we’re mad.
Teacher 2: Should we put cardboard on the windows?
Me: Are you all going to get correctional uniforms and start banging on the doors with sticks too?
End of group chat
My homie: You reading that shit everyone is writing?
Me: I was literally just sending you a side text about how it sounds really scary, like tiki torch scary. I am sorry you have to work alongside that.
My homie: RT I don’t have those issues in the school or my classroom.
Me: When I was there, me neither.
My homie: None of the BLACK teachers have that problem.
Me: Is S down with this?
My homie: No, she does what she needs to do on the low, stay under the radar. You know how admin do to BROWN staff if you try and talk.
Me: My heart hurts.
My homie: Mine too. Those wypipo hate Black kids.
Wyteeshers descriptions of themselves are so removed from the reality of their actions and words. This kind of cognitive dissonance smothers the sense of things when on one hand, school systems, administrators, and teachers claim to hate and reject racism, but then keep pushing curriculum, punishing “behavior,”and engage in practices that directly oppress and reject BLACK and BROWN students.
It’s natural to want teachers to be perceived as egalitarian, but we mustn’t finesse our intentions so they aren’t conflated with the same “ideals” of White supremacists and racists.
The “polite” power dynamic is ingrained into the fabric that keeps racism active in schools from discipline codes to codes of conduct and state tests.
Recently, I have become part of the administrative team that is using a “smart” test to gauge student’s areas of highest needs. The test reacts to student’s responses; changing questions that either get “easier” or “harder” depending on the student’s answers.
While poking around the results, I noticed that I could disaggregate data by choosing the “tested grade level” filter. When I did that, it spit out data that shows nearly half the school between second and sixth grade level. The state then told me not to make this public or print it or even use it as a analysis. An hour later, I could no longer filter through those results.
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.
How are BLACK and BROWN kids making it to 10th and 12th grade if they are at a second grade level?
The system has been indicted!
I guess if we (color)blind ourselves enough and internalize the American ideal of (imagined) choices, we can get around the fact that wyteeshers and perhaps the education system as a whole sees BLACK and BROWN students as other people’s children. And if students are other people’s children then everyone is absolved of the responsibility of doing anything about it.
The sentiments, messages, and symbols the teachers’ group chat above exposes sends a clear message to kids that they are alone in a defiance against a system that insists on denying literacy and shaming and humiliating them into silence.
This is how the structural oppression works.
Allowing cognitive dissonance, having an anti-racist sense of self that is not reflected in practice, justifies wyteeshers denial of their role in oppression. And if there’s anything wypipo know how to do, it’s how to deny.
To me, being a revolutionary means constantly asking myself:
Do I see BLACK and BROWN CHILDREN or children?
Do I expect BLACK and BROWN CHILDREN to behave like White adults?
Do I ask WHITE students to behave like WHITE adults?
Do I teach greatness that is predicated upon the oppression of others?
AM I teaching something that diminishes BLACK and BROWN greatness?
AM I finding ways to center BLACK and BROWN greatness?
Am I saying what I mean?
AM I trustworthy?
AM I modelling trust to BLACK AND BROWN kids?
How has my resolve failed?
How can I ensure it doesn’t happen again?