We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dr.Martin Luther King Jr

Parents and Colleagues,

Have you read the interview Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave to Playboy magazine in 1965? It is amazing to read. He presents his philosophy and the force of his vision, which are far removed from the simplified versions we hear about every February.

Here's an excerpt about this from Tavis Smiley's interview with Dr. Cornel West:

West: I mean, I think it's very important because you see a lot of chit-chat about Martin every year and Martin has been so domesticated and tamed and defamed, you know, what we call the Santa Clausification of the brother.
Tavis: Wait a minute. Hold the phone, hold the phone. The Santa Clausification of Dr. King, which means what, Dr. West?
West: He just becomes a nice little old man with a smile with toys in his bag, not a threat to anybody, as if his fundamental commitment to unconditional love and unarmed truth does not bring to bear certain kinds of pressure to a status quo. So the status quo feels so comfortable as though it's a convenient thing to do rather than acknowledge him as to what he was, what the FBI said, "The most dangerous man in America." Why? Because of his fundamental commitment to love and to justice and trying to keep track of the humanity of each and every one of us.

Take a look at the interview for yourself if you haven't already: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interview

 Have a memorable Memorial Day.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to talk about privilege

Colleagues in parenting and teaching,
I have found the process of explaining the concept of white privilege to white adults to be a tricky business. Have you found this to be true?
With children it has been easier for me. It was my children who first expressed the concept of white privilege to me by noting that if people with dark skin were discriminated against, our family was lucky to have light skin. I remember my alertness at that moment, and the thought of, "We're not supposed to talk about that!" So I have felt myself the reluctance and the sense that if white privilege is acknowledged, the whole house of cards will fall down.
I have found that other forms of privilege are far more acceptable to talk about with white people, class privilege and education privilege being the favorites that are brought up to redirect the conversation away from the uncomfortable topic of racial identity hierarchy and the privilege attached to whiteness. I have found the topic of white skin privilege, as opposed to discussion of other privileges, to be particularly provocative and that it often engenders not just resistance but active rebuke.
There are several reasons for this difference I think. To admit to being the recipient of class and education privilege is a way to modestly brag about one's accomplishments. People tend to believe they have earned the privileges that come with being at the top of the class and education hierarchy. Since white culture values the ideas of meritocracy, Protestant work ethic, and individual competition and attainment, and middle class white Americans have a fair amount of anxiety about how far we and our children will climb in the class/education hierarchy, it is deeply disturbing to be reminded that whiteness is an unearned advantage. Perhaps people think, "I'm struggling here to get my piece of the pie. Now I have to look out for other people too?" and feel overwhelmed and angry. Lastly, discussing white skin privilege or any racial issue raises the fear for white people that they will fulfill the dreaded stereotype that "all white people are racist."
So what to do? Recently I had the pleasure of attending a terrific workshop led by Dr. Steve Jones at the White Privilege Conference. Here is a paper he wrote which discusses privilege and uses the easier-to-access model of right and left handedness to explain it. I send this out as another tool that can be used to facilitate conversation and negotiate resistance. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Discussing Diversity: Religion

We had our last Discussing Diversity session on Thursday evening with Dr. Pamela Taylor, Associate Professor at Seattle University. For those who were unable to attend, here were some of the highlights:

 1. Given the dominant Christian tradition in the United States and the current deep fear of Islam, Dr. Taylor started the session with an exercise with facts and quotations from holy books and we had to decide which applied to Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam. This exercise made clear the deep commonalities between these three Abrahamic religions, which are surprising even to those well versed in their own religious tradition. We also viewed a trailer for the documentary, "Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam" which Dr. Taylor recommends for those interested in learning more this. Here's a link.
2. We then had a far ranging discussion touching on atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism and our own personal stories. Noted was the challenge of respecting the traditions of our families and of others without being silent about the unfairness in the practice of religion towards the LGBTQ community and other religious traditions, for example.
Dr. Taylor's advice boils down to things we have already learned to be true about an ideal anti-bias curriculum:
a. Know your own traditions and beliefs and celebrate them with your children (Knowledge of self and group identity.)
b. Be knowledgeable about other people and groups. Read about and experience different traditions. (Empathic engagement with difference.)
c. Be mindful of your language and speak out against jokes and slurs and harmful myths and stereotypes. Silence sends a message that you are in agreement. (Ability for critical thinking and taking action.)
3. Some children's books that I have found helpful are: (click on links to take you to Amazon if you like)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Good Whites and Bad Whites: A false Dichotomy

Parents and Colleagues
I would like to share with you an essay I wrote recently about the tensions which can exist for white people who are interested in race and racism. Take a look.