Stop and Listen: Conversations About Race We Need to Have
Sometimes, you stop and read something that hits you right in the gut with its complete and frustrating truth. This week, it was this opening line:
I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn't care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.
That hard-hitting and painful truth was dropped by Nathan Bowling, in his piece "The Conversation I'm Tired of Not Having." Bowling, a 2016 National Teacher of the Year Finalist and 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year, hits home at a part of the conversation many of teachers of color have touched on but is often ignored: focusing only on individual pieces of policy often leads to a myopic debate that relegates important, systemic issues of race and class to the peripheral (if mentioned at all-- more often than not, it is ignored due to defensiveness or, worse, colorblind racism). Bowling breaks it down at one point:
...increasingly I find myself tuning out of these conversations. As a nation, we're nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we're ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding. We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better. And sadly, people who can't afford better just get less--less experienced teachers, inadequate funding and inferior facilities.
It's a difficult truth that can get lost in all the online chatter about this policy or that test. While the minutiae of our day-to-day lives in the classroom matter, it is essential that we step back and look at the larger picture: our students and communities have much more at stake than long hours of testing or redundant examples. They are battling actually crumbling schools in Detroit, as TakePart reported; they are trying to keep students safe in the time of Flint's Water Crisis. They are battling issues much larger than the grades they earn in our classes.
And until we stop and have that conversation, we're merely "nibbling" at the edges, ignoring the massive, rotting truth in the center of it all.
Image via DeviantArt.