Couple of interesting blog posts got me thinking…
First, Lorelle On WordPress asks why we still express prejudice even while doing something as “new” as blogging. Since prejudice still exists in society, it’s no surprise to me that it would crop up in online communities too. One of the most interesting things about being white and teaching black students is what you can learn about how whites see blacks.
I allude to this in my comment on Lorelle’s blog. That evening, I had just returned from a field trip with our sixth grade class to a local water park. The trip went like a dream. The kids were great, there were no problems (and given the difficulties in getting this trip going, that was a blessing). As we were about to leave, a staff member asked to speak with one of our students, and young black girl I’ll call G. Another girl, who was white, was making a complaint that while they were in the wave pool, G had run her float ring into her neck on purpose, and was “threatening”. G said she did run into the girl on accident (it’s a wave pool, and my experience was that you get tossed around alot). She said, “Oh, my bad”, and the girl began following her around as they left to another area. The teacher of the other girl was insistent that her student wouldn’t lie, “because she has all outstandings on her behavior marks,” (implying that G did not have those same marks). Since we were leaving at that point, we told them, that’s nice, we’re leaving. What if this was just a really bad miscommunication based in prejudice? Maybe G did say, “My bad,” and the other girl heard sarcasm, and assumed it was deliberate, not understanding G’s tone and choice of words were not flippant because she assumed the worst about a black girl?
This is not the first time I’ve had a “field trip” experience like this. I recall a field trip up to the State Capitol with my first class of fourth graders from Oakland. When we walked up to the docent I could literally see on her face the look of dismay at a class full of black children. They were behaving just fine, but she began barking orders at them about where to go and what to do. It was a really scary lesson in sociology.
When you look at the Lorelle posts, there is an interesting comment after mine which I’m thinking is referring to my oblique comment on my field trip experiences. He shows his prejudice and assumptions in his comment (if he is referring to my comment) by making a comments about “dressing like thugs”. I wonder what “thugs” wear to a water park (besides tats)? G seemed to be modestly dressed in a tankini, but maybe that’s the latest in thug girl wear, but this isn’t about what she was dressed in, but this gentleman’s assumptions about her appearance, no?
Next blog link was from Dangerously Irrelevant, which had a link to Project Implicit, an activity that will show you if you have a preference for blacks or whites. I prefer white faces, better not tell dh (click for the punchline). I think about this a lot when it comes to discipline issues. I don’t want to be one of those teachers who insists they treat all kids the same (I don’t — but I do want to treat them all fairly) and can never examine the decisions I make, so I like things like this that make me pause and think.
Okay last post to reflect on comes from Doug Noon at Borderland. He posts about teaching about justice in the classroom, and how this is under attack from folks who consider it “frivolous” (“they need to learn to write, not complain” –maybe they could learn to write their complaints?) Here is my anecdote on this…Back when I first met my husband at San Francisco State, he related this story to me. He was an older student (26 when we met), slowly working his way through school while working. He had grown up in the 60s the foster child of much older parents (his dad had lied about his age at 16, and went off to fight in WWI–no, I didn’t leave off an “i”). His parents had grown up in the segregated South of East Texas, and shared some of that experience. Terry ran into a young white man (younger than him) from suburban San Diego. The subject of Rosa Parks had come up, and the young man couldn’t understand what the conflict was. Terry explained that she didn’t want to sit on the back of the bus. The young gentleman from San Diego didn’t understand, sit on the back of the bus? What did that mean? Terry then explained about Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. The young man didn’t believe they existed, why would people put up with that, it couldn’t happen! You could say that this story does not have anything to say about teaching a justice curriculum, the gentleman had made an error of fact, BUT…he is also not willing to conceive that a situation like segregation could even have existed. This shows poor critical thinking, because he can’t conceive that such conditions could exist. Without social justice education, students will have difficulty in seeing other points of view, and seeing others as they are, instead of how they are perceived through a prejudiced lens.