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Cool People You Should Know: Mica Pollock

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Mica Pollock is an anthropologist who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and studies how youth and adults struggle daily to discuss and address issues of racial difference, discrimination, and fairness in school and community settings. She has two new books coming out this summer: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School and Because of Race: How Americans Debate Harm and Opportunity in Our Schools. Her first book, Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School, won AERA's 2005 book award. You can find an excerpt from Colormute below:

“This is a book about race talk – about people in one school and district struggling with the basic American choice of when and how to describe one another racially…..Americans confront the question of whether and how race should matter, as I argue in this book, every time we wonder whether to talk as if it does. As this book will demonstrate, we encounter, every day, the pitfalls inherent in this most basic act of racialization: using race labels to describe people…..Ultimately, we wrestle with the paradoxical reality that in a world in which racial inequality already exists, both talking and not talking about people in racial terms seem alternately necessary to make things ‘fair.’

Given the amount of worrying that race-label use seems to require in America, it is perhaps unsurprising that many Americans have proposed we solve our ‘race problems’ by talking as if race did not matter at all….Having witnessed three full years of struggles of talking and not talking in racial terms at Columbus [High School] – as a teacher in 1994-95 and as an anthropologist in 1995-1997 – I have come to argue explicitly what policy debates across the United States are currently implying: Race talk matters. All Americans, every day, are reinforced racial distinctions and racialized thinking by using race labels, but we are also reinforcing racial inequality by refusing to use them. By using race words carelessly and particularly by deleting race words, I am convinced, both policymakers and laypeople in America help reproduce the very racial inequalities that plague us. It is thus crucial that we learn to navigate together the American dilemmas of race talk and colormuteness rather than be at their mercy, and that is the overarching purpose of this book.”
1 Comment

I guess I'm a naive young professional, but I still think that we talk a lot about race when it doesn't matter. I think my problem is that I'm not trusting other people to form unbiased opinions when they're provided with racial breakdowns of the school. As long as the information is gathered, I'm not against sharing it -- I'm just crossing my fingers that I never have to hear another person lower their voice to tell me that a school is low-performing because of its racial makeup.

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