Teaching in an Era of Bad Feelings

post by gera

It is imperative that we teach what racism is, in light of the violence that defines this administration. Racism isn’t limited to what an individual thinks or says. It is also the context within which words and actions take place. For example, #fakepresident made a statement about the ‘rat-infested’ city of Baltimore. In the initial comments, he never mentioned ethnic groups by name. But given the history of persecution of the people living in the poor and working class areas of Baltimore, his statement fed notions that areas with PoC are toxic, garbage and therefore the people are toxic, garbage. Same with the calls for mental health support in light of this weekend’s mass shootings. To call for mental health support without addressing the epidemic of white supremacist violence feeds white privilege, therefore repeating the pattern that white lives are more valuable and worthy of saving than black lives. Therefore, the shootings are part of a racially oppressive system. And to ignore the fact that that the shootings happened in two cities with significant populations of color, feeds the same system. Any discussion of these racially-motivated mass shootings that does not include a discussion of the role played by racist systems and structures is an incomplete discussion.

There is evidence, at least early on, that both shooters carried with them racial hatred and intent to commit these crimes. Perhaps mental illness was an issue for both men, but we need to examine the terrifying nexus of racist ideology, white supremacy, access to high-powered weapons that were meant for the destruction of the human body, and mental illness. We need an intersectional study of white supremacist hatred as well. The invisibility of a mainstream discussion of white supremacy as it relates to numerous mass shootings is racist, because it sends the message that whiteness is without character, tendency, bias, or opinion. Whiteness is therefore normal, so to call out white supremacy represents a challenge to what too many people view as ‘normal.’

This fall, you must teach students and colleagues (if necessary) to examine racism as a system, maintained by structures, daily life, tradition, and ritual. To call a person racist is actually kind of pointless. Because, as Eve Ewing cited in Ghosts in the Schoolyard, it portrays racism as an act of individual expression of individual beliefs. And because most people do not identify as racist–and in fact are honestly convinced that they are not–any discussion that does not examine how our behaviors reinforce white supremacy is a dead end. As a cis-hetero male in a marriage that is considered ‘normal’ in mainstream discourse, I must have the same internal and external dialogue with myself regarding sexism and homophobia. I do not believe that I am sexist or homophobic, but it would be naive of me to think that my actions never strengthen those systems. So, how might I disrupt that system? How might I be honest about ways in which I contribute to the maintenance of sexist, homophobic, and transphobic systems and structures.

And as one of our Twitter followers posted, this is NOT a teachable moment. We are past teachable moments under this administration. This is an organizing moment. This is a resistance moment. This, as the eminent Jose Vilson reminds us on the daily, is our moment.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries #Mixtape Track 8, Episode 48: Taina Asili

A very special guest, on the heels of a rousing and inspirational performance at the end of the NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice, Taina Asili has been refining her music and her community activism for decades. The child of artist-educator-activists, she embodies the life well-lived: advocacy for your community, solidarity with communities in struggle, crisis, or oppression, using your gifts to do so. Gerardo has been listening to her music for years, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, and this conversation is a seamless and exciting view into the life of an advocate, activist, educator, revolutionary.

Track 7, Episode 47: The MapSO Freedom School

When the system fails to meet the needs of our young people, we have a choice to make. But sometimes their needs are so invisible to people in power that we need to go it alone. Meet the courageous Freedom Educators of the MAPSO Freedom School, in the joint South Orange-Maplewood School District, serving two municipalities in Essex County, New Jersey. In the tradition of the Freedom Schools during the struggle against Segregation, these fearless teachers established a program designed to support students working their way through modern-day struggles for educational and social justice. They were alone at first, but when the MapSO district learned how effective the Freedom School’s work was, they accepted them. 

The only guests on this mixtape that Kevin climbed over tables and chairs before the keynote to recruit.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries #SummerMixtape Track 6, Episode 46: Jesyca Mathews, Flint Educator and Activist

Sometimes the struggle finds us and we have a decision to make. Meet Jesyca Mathews, Language Arts teacher out of Flint, Michigan, who has not only engaged in the fight for clean water, a basic human need, but has also helped her students to raise their voices and power to fight. Though things have improved somewhat, the water crisis in Flint is far from resolved. After 1,912 days without clean water (counting–at the time of this post), the people of Flint are still subjected to unclean tap water, and still need bottled water and filters for basic needs. This energetic, fun, and fierce conversation is just what is possible when we listen to students and help them access tools they need to transform their lives and communities. We cannot let them feel the way her students felt when she began this adventure: “They forgot about us.” Never again. Listen today, and hang to the end for ways to support the people in Flint.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries Mixtape Track 5, Episode 45: Undocumented and Unafraid, with Karen Reyes Lozano

During Track 3 of our summer #Revolutionaries #Mixtape series, we chop it up with Karen Reyes-Lozano, DACA teacher from Austin, Texas. She speaks openly and honestly about the importance of sharing our narratives and advocating for systemic and ideological change in the treatment and opportunities we expose our undocumented youth to. This is an episode of laughter and tears as the courageous Karen shares her inspiring path to outspoken, loud and proud activism and advocacy. A symbol of a new era in which undocumented individuals have emerged from the shadows, rejecting anonymity and invisibility, she is at the forefront of the fight which will likely define our society for the next generation. Recorded live at the NEA Racial and Social Justice Conference on July 1, 2019 in Houston, TX.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries Mixtape Track 4, Episode 44: Lunch Interlude

The fellas take a breather after a morning of incredible conversations with revolutionary educators, whose work is redefining what it means to be an engaged educator, public intellectual, and public servant. You will hear previews from some conversations, reviews of others, and we attempt to synthesize what it all means for us in our work and in our lives as members of our communities. This one might set a record for our shortest episode, but if you are needing encouragement and perspective in these difficult times, give this a listen.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries #Mixtape Track 3, Episode 43: Terry Jess and Micah Kruser

Our summer #Revolutionaries #Mixtape rolls on with our conversation with Terry Jess and Micah Kruser, who will discuss effective and disruptive white allyship, as well as the roll that white educators may play in supporting students of color. We all aspire to the level of collaboration and partnership modeled by Terry and Micah, don’t miss this one. Recorded live in Houston at the National Education Association’s Conference on Racial and Social Justice in Houston, TX on July 1, 2019.

To white educators, their message is no excuses, they, along with Luke Michener, have begun the work. Check out their youtube channel for some #RealPD!

#Revolutionaries #Summer #Mixtape Track 2, Episode 42: Boots Riley!

Sorry to Bother You, but our summer mixtape rolls on! This track features the incredible revolutionary artist Boots Riley! Best known for the landmark film Sorry to Bother You, Boots has been a mainstay in grassroots movements all over the world. Raised by community-minded revolutionaries, Boots eventually became identified with the rebel hip hop collective The Coup, and has amplified people’s movements all over the world.

As keynote speaker, Boots graciously agreed to spend 40 minutes with us to discuss the intersections of schooling, art, activism, and community organizing. We discuss the state of community organizing, schooling, and hip hop.

This interview was made possible by the National Education Association’s Shilpa Reddy and Stephanie Luongo, during the NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice, as part of our live show in the NEA Organizing Studio.

Six tracks remain on our #Revolutionary #Intersectional #Mixtape. Keep it locked right here. No texting. (listen to the episode for that joke)

#TooDope #Revolutionaries #Mixtape Track 9, Episode 49: Choose’s Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo

Kevin and Gerardo sit down for an energizing and inspiring discussion with Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo, co-Founders of Choose and co-authors of two books, most recently Tell Me Who You Are, and exploration of identity in the United States. As fifteen-year-old sophomores, these two young scholars were introduced to conversations about racial conflict following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. They were hit hard by the fact that racial identity and conflict had not been introduced to them previously, though they had both experienced discrimination. Their shock quickly evolved into determination to improve the quality of racial conversations in classrooms, and to develop a model for racial literacy, enabling all Americans to engage in deeper, more meaningful and progressive conversations around race.

They did all this while still enrolled in high school. Now college students, they have a thriving non-profit organization, two books they have co-authored, and two TED talks, all of which may be found here https://www.chooseorg.org/. Tell Me Who You are has found its way into classrooms in 40 states, and they remain traveling, committed, and energized in their fight for racial literacy. Listen to this one, and see how the torch of social justice continues to be passed.

#TooDope #Revolutionaries Mixtape Track 1: Black Lives Matter in School

The fellas are finally back after a long layoff! Summer is here, and is a time for reflection, recharging, and anxiety dreams about the first day of school, all while trying to complete long-overdue projects in the house, to say nothing of restoring relationships to our significant others and families which may have been broken during the turbulent 2018-2019 school year…but we digress.

This episode is the first track from our #Revolutionaries #Mixtape, our live shows from the NEA’s Racial and Social Justice Conference in Houston, Texas on July 1 and 2. We have the incredible honor of sitting with Jesse Hagopian, co-editor of Rethinking Schools’ Teaching for Black Lives, Kaitlin Kamalei, and Bruce Jackson, all public school teachers in the great state of Washington, and who were instrumental in a number of successful initiatives in the Seattle area, including the statewide optout of testing, the creation of an Ethnic Studies graduation requirement, and the establishment of an Ethnic Studies support office in administration. They discuss what they have learned from participating in community action, and offer insights and lessons on would-be educator-activists in a fun and inspirational conversation.

The #revolutionaries #mixtape will include five hours of tracks, and will feature our conversations on educational justice with revolutionaries from all over our educational landscape. Amazing people doing amazing work from coast to coast will share their ideas. Enjoy!