Monday, October 23, 2017

Trump Isn't Making America Great Again But He's Sure Making It More Overtly Racist Again


A recent study by Pew concludes that over 58% of Americans believe racism is a "big problem" in society. H. Richard Milner, a noted researcher and expert on race and education at the University of Pittsburgh says that, "education is the key to addressing inequity and racism in society," and if we are not, "working in education to combat racism, we are complicit in maintaining inequity and the status quo." Are educators prepared and willing to take this on? This post by C.M. Rubin, opened up the conversation on racism and the role of education with millennial bloggers around the globe. With Trump "teaching" racism from his bizarro-world bully pulpit, combatting racism and bigotry has taken on a new and, for some, sudden urgency.
Milner notes that teachers “can struggle with tools to advance justice-centered curriculum and instructional opportunities that work against racism” and therefore education programs for teachers must support them “in developing knowledge and skills in ways that centralize race so that students can examine both localized and global perspectives and worldviews.” Additionally, school administrators and policies must be in place that “advance agendas that encourage and expect race-central learning opportunities and especially discourse.” Beyond these stakeholders, Milner recommends that students, community members, families and parents be part of the learning discourse “providing perspectives about their own worlds and experiences.”
The young bloggers from all over the world who Rubin gathered are innovators in entrepreneurship, journalism, education, entertainment, health and well-being and academic scholarship. Her question to them was simple enough: "Do we need to talk more about racism in Education?" Let's take a look at a few of the responses:

Bonnie Chiu, Hong Kong- My personal journey in unlearning race and privilege.
Since an incident in my childhood, I have become very aware of how people may judge each other by their skin colour. I am 100% Chinese, but I just happen to become tanned quite easily. When I was 10 years old, one of my classmates always made fun of my relatively dark skin colour, and called me names that are now deemed politically incorrect.

I felt ashamed, and I blamed my father, who was more tan than my fair-skinned mother. Racial categories are socially constructed rather than innate, according to sociological theories. And perhaps it was this lived experience that made me feel sympathetic to the ethnic minorities in my hometown, Hong Kong. I have made it my mission since to ensure that their voices and stories get heard, on an equal level.

We never talked about racism in education. Yet there were things in my education that helped me unlearn the belief that the lighter the colour of one’s skin, the higher the ‘value.’ When I was 14, in our first class of Literature in English, I remember our teacher saying, rather solemnly, that “our subject is called Literature in English, rather than English Literature.” He took a long pause. I remember not being able to understand what the difference was between the two, even though it should be very obvious.

...When I was 20 and completing my master’s degree, I learnt about critical theory. This includes post-colonialism, which discusses the cultural legacies of colonialism. After I learnt it, I could apply this to the phenomenon in Hong Kong where we often see white people in positions of power, while Chinese people see other non-Whites as less important. But we simply can’t wait until higher education to talk about these issues--  early adolescence are critical years where values are formed.
Francisco Javier Hernandez Jr., USA- Race and Education in America.
The reason why race is so important to discussions about education reform is that the legacy of racism in America is an indelible psychic scar that not only continues to cause pain, it is an active, living force in American social life. Racism was not merely an impolite or inelegant way of looking at the world, racism was not just a collection of bad ideas and sentiments, it was, and continues to be, a social system of unequal distribution and oppression.

In brief: the history of race in America is fundamentally a history of plunder. Basically, it’s all a matter of patterned, systematic extraction of black labor, wealth, and income to the benefit of institutions that operate to their exclusion. The American story of race has a deep history but it is not a relic of history. What began with slavery (the malicious plunder of bodies, labor, and children) begat Jim Crow-- another more complex version of plunder.

During and after Jim Crow, redlining was a way of taking housing opportunities and the possibilities of wealth accumulation through real estate. Segregation was a way of restricting access to vital goods and services. Make no mistake about it, the wealth gape between white and black Americans was a very specific and fine-tuned project of social engineering. “Negro poverty is not white poverty.” (President Johnson)

Not having the right to vote or having that right restricted prevented people from having control over where their tax dollars went. Meaning: voting restrictions are not only unjust in a constitutional sense, they are more importantly a way of stealing wealth and access to resources.

The process of plunder-- the social and psychological mechanisms used to control both black people and poor white people-- manifested deeply held and terrifying side-effects in both black and white America. White supremacy became a religion of sorts. Racial division was very much a consequence of slavery and Jim Crow and not a precondition. So unfortunately, once Jim Crow ended newer and ever more complicated techniques of racial plunder were allowed to spring up in the place where racist ideas, sentiments, and unconscious biases were left fallow, untilled and prime for exploitative profit-seeking and the consolidation of power.

The U.S. Constitution had abolished slavery but allowed one major loophole: crime. Slavery is alive and thriving in America, primarily as punishment for poverty, petty theft, non-citizen status, and nonviolent drug offenses. The current mechanism of plunder is mass incarceration and restricted access to education.

The payoff of this complex form of social control and plunder is pretty straightforward: if you are a young black man in Chicago you are more likely to go to prison than college. However, the mechanisms of the system are manifold and constantly changing. They are not easily identified, summarized, schematized, or theorized over. That is precisely what makes these social systems so dangerous and powerful.

Charter schools destroy the institutional memory of local brick-and-mortar public schools. Get-tough and “no-excuse” tactics groom students for a life of incarceration. Lack of epistemic resources  in ghettos (libraries, bookstores, museums, schools, experts) starve young, growing minds of emotional, educational, and developmental nutrition that effects the rest of their life (i.e. The Bronx has no bookstores and therefore low reading scores.) Overcrowding in poor, metropolitan areas restricts access to one-on-one time with teachers. Bad schools breed truancy which lowers enrollment rates and sucks out funds from public institutions. Institutionalization (meaning the psychic legacy of intergenerational incarceration) manufactures an entrenched culture lacking a sense of self-respect and cultivates maladapted responses to conflict, which furthers the cycle of violence and incarceration.

The problem here is that these very complex set of social systems are only a small fraction of the ones that continue to perpetuate the legacy of racism today. This stuff is, frankly, incredibly hard to talk about. It’s all as equally depressing as it is complex and therefore not very conducive to kitchen table conversation.

However, the brutal reality is that if we can’t find the inner courage to talk about race, racism will win. Racism survived the bloodiest conflict in the history of America (bloodier than every other conflict combined), it survived the heroism of the civil rights leaders, it survived the election of the first black president, and it did so with a vengeance.

The fact is that we can’t afford to defer the conversation about white supremacy for even a single moment longer. It has proven itself to be the most obstinate social institution in the entire history of America. How could we even possibly think we could fight something so tough if we can’t even talk about what it means to fight it?

White supremacy never sleeps-- it never slows of its own accord-- so, neither can we.
Harmony Siganporia, India- Why We're Broken.
India is rabidly racist-- one has only to think of the horrendous treatment we mete out to students from elsewhere, particularly ones from African nations-- but how could we possibly not be? Any nation that can stomach the principle of caste, which is the most brutal "classification" of human beings based on birth anywhere in the world, cannot help but differentiate, and differentiate repeatedly, on the basis of every parameter society can construct in a desperate and insular bid to separate "us" from "them." Nothing short of critical pedagogical interventions which would overhaul what we consider to be the very purpose of our educational system, and the resources to channel these interventions into more meaningful curricular design, can help us change these terms of engagement...

Education is political: if it does not challenge status quo, it reinforces it.

Who gets to study is no longer a question we ask in India-- at least on paper, everyone does. With the passage of the RTE Act (Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009), education is now a fundamental right for all children in India between the ages of 6 and 14. Where do they get to study, though? For how long? How far must they travel to access the nearest school or college? How many teachers actually show up at aforesaid school or college? What are their qualifications (and no, I don't mean merely degrees: everyone knows there are several ways to acquire these pieces of paper)? Is the school in question guilty of upholding caste norms in its seating arrangements/access to amenities/treatment of students, regardless of whether we're talking about rural or urban settings (because, increasingly, the contours of both ideas-- though especially 'rural' as a category-- are being renegotiated, in sometimes contentious ways)? These are the questions which ought to animate and inform public discourse and policy decisions about the education system. Instead, the current right-wing hegemons appear interested only in rewriting history altogether-- renaming roads, cities, schools and other institutions; recasting ancillary figures on the far-right like Deendayal Upadhyay as important 'national' figures, while suggesting travesties like the fact that Emperor Akbar did *not* win a battle we know he did; suggesting that the RSS had a role to play in India's Independence movement (mpppfffftt-- it's tough to not snigger at the thought of this bizarre inversion of historical facts)-- all so as to recast Hindutva as a principle foundational to the idea of India. News flash: it simply wasn't.
Dominique Dryding, South Africa- But My Parents Worked Hard.
23 years since liberation and South African schools and higher education institutions have been increasingly marred by controversy surrounding racism of students, faculty and school policies. In the more overt racist incidents, names are called, fights break out, ‘jokes’ are made with the purpose of excluding or belittling others based purely on skin colour. While many South Africans have experienced overt racism, many more have been victim to more subtle forms of racism, which, due to its subtly, are more difficult to identify and act upon. It’s the feeling and reality of having to work twice as hard to gain the same recognition as your white peers, it’s about being taught by white educators in white-dominated spaces which make you question your belonging and worthiness of being in a particular space… It’s that feeling of being uncomfortable when you don’t see anyone that looks like you… and the moment you get a couple of stares that last a bit too long for your liking and you end up asking yourself: ‘should I be here’? While these moments can always be denied by those who contributed to you feeling this way, you know that as a person of colour in that space, you make them feel uncomfortable and in turn, they make you feel unwelcome.

I am South African. Born in 1992 (2 years before the first democratic election). I am racially classified as coloured (in South Africa, coloured is not an offensive term but rather a racial identity that many people have accepted). I was awarded a scholarship to go to one of the most prestigious schools in Cape Town. The racial demographic of the school was predominantly white (if I had to make a rough estimate, I would say 80% of the students were white while the remaining 20% included every other racial group that makes up our diverse nation) and wealthy (which helped me recognise the inextricable link between racism and privilege from very early on). Given our history, race is something that we, as South Africans, cannot ignore. However, despite awareness about the concept and overt forms of racism, racism in the education system is still rife.

Racism cannot be explained or understood properly without incorporating a discussion about privilege. Racism is often simplified in order not address institutional racism which is inextricably linked to privilege. Education institutions should therefore incorporate discussions of privilege into discussions about racism. Students need to realise the privilege that is inherent with being part of certain racial groups. With the should come an intersectional understanding of oppression and a further intersection of the power dynamics between racial groups, sexual orientation, dis/ability, class and gender (to name a few). Until educational institutions take the lived experiences of their student bodies seriously and recognise that racism does not only include name calling and physical exclusion, racism in schools and universities will not end.
Salathia Carr, USA- Where was your first talk about racism?
America likes to claim that we are this “post-racial” country that has progressed so much since the Civil Rights Era. But, can you list 3 things that are proven to be better now? Why don’t we talk about this in school? Racism needs to be discussed in every branch of life and schooling is not excluded. Your first encounter with racism as a person of color should not be through a slur. Your first encounter as a White person should not be that fear that makes you lock your doors when a Black person walks near your car. Your first talks about racism should be in school and in the home. It should be taught by telling you that Christopher Columbus was no hero. It should be told that slaves were not indentured servants. It should detail stories of redlining properties and the 16th street Baptist Church Bombing. You should know about the Tulsa riots. You should know the effects of colonization on Native Americans in present day. You should know about DACA and the DREAMers. You should know how brutal Asian internment camps were. You should know how hard it is to get citizenship. You should know the pay wage gap among races. This is where the United States education has failed us all.

The reason learning about racism in education is so important is because it does not allow the country to ignore its history. Textbooks pick and choose what is important to learn, even going so far as to saying slaves came over here as migration workers. If we try to erase the past of the United States, we will continue on the same path. The same path that made President Obama the worst, but our current president is only doing what is best. Racism is not something that can be swept under the rug. After so much sweeping, your rug becomes distorted. People have become so desensitized regarding racism and injustices because they truly do not know what it is like. Judgment is very easy to make when you’re not living that way. But, if we force discussions about inequality from the very first history class we take, you cannot avoid it. You will make everyone feel uncomfortable but will create an understanding of why it is wrong.

The question I want to know is: will this ever happen? I am hopeful but I am realistic. The way this country is going right now is a strong indicator of that answer being no.

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At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The current mechanism of plunder is mass incarceration and restricted access to education."

I tend to believe it is the legal treatment of all labor as a necessary evil that is to be paid as little as possible. Unions' hard-won (with blood) reforms are being hacked away, benefits are evaporating and when even those aren't profitable enough, they just move the factory somewhere where they can pay workers so little and work them so hard that they have to put up nets outside windows to keep them from committing suicide.

But the education thing leads to the other two, I suppose. And for those who still have "access", the plunder is to make that education as shitty as they can.

I'm reminded of the immortal words of dean Wormer: "fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life". except in America.

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I believe that for sure.


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