I haven’t known what to write.
After the Charleston Shooting, I was at a loss for what to say, and while the conversation has improved from some folks, the amount of hate, frustration, and sheer ridiculousness of what’s out there hurts. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by some people I respect a lot, like Mr. Chase, Mr. Lehmann, and the EduColor Newsletter.
Then, I saw this tweet:
that led me to have this reaction:
And here’s the thing that people, especially those with power, especially white people forget: power has an incredibly strong pull. Its center of gravity takes anything thrown in its orbit and makes it revolve around Power. Power always wants to focus on itself. Power consistently takes whatever is happening and asks, but what about ME?!
Sometimes, that manifests ourselves obviously: I don’t want to talk about it. I am uncomfortable. I don’t feel that way/haven’t experienced it that, so someone else’s feelings don’t matter.
Sometimes, though, that manifests much more subtly. Even if you want to be helpful, making everything focus on your needs and trying to help YOU help others doesn’t always feel helpful, especially when it’s about race. In fact, it can be immensely tiring.
I think,when you decide to teach, or when you decide to work in public to service, we must decenter ourselves from whiteness– the strongest power in these discussions– but always myself from the center of the spaces we inhabit. As the teacher, a classroom shouldn’t center around my needs, but the students. We have to realize that it’s not always about us.
That seems hypocritical, of course, to say on a blog with my name in the URL. So, I am trying figure out my space in the middle— sometimes as a Woman of Color who is working to figure these things out and take up space, and also as attempting to ally to communities that I want to serve. Right now, that means amplifying as many voices, especially Black voices, as I can, and in the words of my friend Bill, “just shutting up and listening hard.”
I hope that my “ally” friends will do the same. We have to learn when to stop trying to “fix” things and just ask “how can I help?” Sometimes that means just amplifying voices instead of barging in with all of your needs and wants.
As teachers, it means making sure our students have spaces to process if they are the ones in marginalized spaces, or that we are pushing them to discuss difficult things, even when it feels scary. It is totally doable. Today, I was able to start the discussion using an easy and effective Teaching Tolerance lesson. Get there.
I fear what happens if we don’t. I worry that we will just continuous be pulled and re-centered around what is most powerful, until everything else is burned off in its wake, left to drift out alone.