Sunday, May 31, 2020

"White Privilege; Black Anger" A Powerful Essay by Pamela Knight author of "Teaching While Black"

Let me be clear on something. I would not loot my city, HOWEVER, when people are just as upset over people looting in response to another unarmed black man being killed for no reason, as they are that a LIFE, not a store front, not a police station, not a Target, but a living, breathing human being was TAKEN, you are devaluing black life. You might THINK you are for equality, but subconsciously, you do not think we are your equals. 
White privilege is finding sympathy for white murderers who shoot up churches and schools because they were bullied. If you did not post about how disgusted you were at Dylan Roof or the countless white men who decided to take innocent lives, some even CHILDREN, because he was troubled, but you are disgusted and outraged at people vandalizing their OWN—not your—City, you do not value black life as much as white life. 
Let me also break something else down: this rioting is so much deeper than simply destroying one’s community. It speaks to a myriad of things and deserves more analysis and reflection than a simple tweet or post of disdain. And unfortunately, many will refuse to do that much because that would require you to care about black life as much as white life, and so this will probably fall on many deaf ears: 
  1. Black people are angry. Rightfully angry. Just like the white male mass shooters are allowed to be angry, and the Amy Coopers of the world are allowed to be angry, for things that are INSIGNIFICANT: because they were told to put their dog on a leash, or because someone’s music was too loud, or because someone was publicly displaying joy in the face of their own misery, black people have and deserve to have a HEIGHTENED level of anger in this country, a country who has NEVER treated us fairly, who has had knees on our necks since our ancestors were kidnapped and brought here. We have CENTURIES of oppression that we are dealing with, in a nation considered the most powerful nation in the world. 
And YET and still, black people have not gone on a rampage killing white folk. Do you know what an Amy Cooper would do if she had a knee on her neck, or on the neck of her loved one? If she is angry enough to call 911 on a man for asking her to do what she is SUPPOSED to do, what kind of anger manifestation do you think would happen if her life was ACTUALLY in danger? 
White people have so many privileges, including the right to be angry and the right to express their anger, even when the levels are inappropriate. 
Black people are not appropriately expressing their anger, because none of you are dead. Black people have not gone on killing sprees killing white folk just because. White people have, killing black people praying and white children learning, this when they have no idea what oppression even feels like.
And when black people usually kill, it’s one of our own. Not random either. But the level of anger it takes to kill another human being manifests in our own personal interactions. We’ve expressed all of our anger, all of our hate bottled up inside us on another one of us. 
And instead of anyone even seeing the gravity of what that means, it’s used to display how violent we are. It’s used to look down on us. It’s used to justify the level of fear that you have of us. 
But we are not the violent ones. 
Our actual expression of anger doesn’t hold a candle to what is appropriate. We are inappropriately expressing our anger, because what would happen if we appropriately expressed our anger? 
Black people looting their own cities is no different than a person who has been abused, depressed or going through some form of mental breakdown choosing to cut themselves. Why does one do that? Of course, there’s self hate.  But guess what else there is? Beneath all the pain, there is compassion. Cutting yourself is releasing on your own body the rage and pain you feel without hurting another. And no matter what white people have done to us in this country, we always hurt ourselves before we ever THINK to hurt one of you. 
  1. Now some might believe that looting, for many, is just an excuse to take things that don’t belong to them.
Again, this quick writing off without deeper analysis is simply unacceptable. 
Somehow Black people are still expected to have some sort of allegiance to this country. Poor black people, who are marginalized both for race and socio-economic status, feel more than any other group in this nation, that they’ve been cheated. Please do not rant to me about pulling one’s self up from one’s bootstraps if you do not know the history of oppression that goes deeper than slavery and Jim Crow. If you do not know about systems that have been put in place to keep us down AND to build you up. If you don’t know what redlining is, please have several seats. If you do not understand drug laws and incarceration laws that have continued to deliberately keep poor brown and black people down, please stay silent. Please do not tell me about your poor grandmothers who came here from another country and made a lane for themselves. No one will ever know the pain and suffering of the black man, woman, child, or family. No one. So you have not earned the right to critique us in any way. 
No one knows the fire that burns steadily within us. And pray you never will.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

An Historian's Thoughts on the Uprisings in Our Cities

As an historian, I am am hardly surprised at the uprisings taking place in cities throughout the country
The murder of George Floyd pushed people filled with rage at their position in Trump's America over the edge.
It is not just that repeated murders of unarmed Black men and women, by police or self appointed security agents, had convinced many Black people that most whites signed off on policies that terrorized their communities, it is that they saw the rhetoric and policies of the Trump Administration as a daily assault on their safety and security.
In the minds of many people of color, it is wholly predictable-- and profoundly infuriating- that a country that could elect a race baiting demagogue like Donald Trump would sign off on the murder of unarmed Blacks, and never send those responsible to prison
Think about it: you are living in country where gun toting, Nazi and Confederate flag waving whites are cheered on by the President while unarmed Black men and women are shot down in the streets and their own homes, and where immigrant children of color are put in cages.
If you think that experience wasn't making people unbelievably angry, you are ignoring the lessons of history.
At some point, I suspected, that anger, which I know well because I feel it inside myself, was going to break loose. George Floyd's death may have been the spark, but there were a long chain of grievances which have come to the surface in its wake
I do not know where these uprisings are going, nor how they are going to end.
I do know they have been a long time coming.
Anybody really LISTENING to what their Black/LatinX friends, colleagues,neighbors and family members have been saying
over the last few years, in response to provocation after provocation, should hardly be surprised at what is taking place in the streets of our major cities.

Monday, May 11, 2020

An Open Letter to Governor Cuomo on Education Policy from Fordham Alum Carrie Anne Tocci

May 10, 2020

Dear Honorable Governor Cuomo:

I have respect for the Cuomo family.

My first full-time teaching job was at La Scuola D'Italia in Manhattan. Your mom visited once, and I found her to be eloquent when she spoke about the importance of education, and a one-on-one mentoring program in place in our state.  Your dad sat next to my mom when she was a member of a coalition of concerned moms who sought to raise the drinking age in our state in the '80s, following several tragic accidents.

I am an adoptee and in February, due to the amendment of  section 4138 of public health law you signed off on January 15, 2020, I received my original adoption papers--a landmark moment in my life. Personally, I appreciate your support with this issue, and leadership during this difficult time in our nation’s history, while we part ways on your recent comments in support of the Gates Foundation, and your wonderings about why the “old model” of education persists. 

As an educator, I do have some -- I hope -- useful feedback for you.

I've seen/heard other government representatives preach on education, following this up with the assignment of education leaders who have zero education experience/credibility. This suggests that anyone can teach or lead teachers who guide students.

I agree with you that we have been teaching 21st-Century learners with 20th-Century methods but we need to merge, not replace one for another but this must be done thoughtfully.  Educators are coming off the failed 2010 implementation  of the Common Core Standards which were implemented across many states in the United States, intending to fill in learning gaps with more rigorous curricula.  The CCSS, however, have not closed all performance gaps.

If we implement more platforms, interventions, curricula, will they be tested before implementation?  Will educators and students be consulted?

Training and experience with children, matters. Educators matter--our human touch in concert with education platforms, whether in person or virtual, is essential.  To better understand my learners with learning challenges, I need to be present to assess not just school work but social emotional well-being which may not be fully transparent through a screen.

 Maybe a hybrid model is next, but that would mean more companies and businesses need to have child care--more schools, too, for the teachers who have kids they can’t leave unattended at home.

I urge you to consult a random sample of New York State students especially adolescents asking them what does and doesn’t work for them with both environments: actual and virtual. Studies exist that explore student reading preferences. Though digital natives, some students today choose their reading platform, digital or print, based on the genre -- say, digital for news and print for fiction.

During this virtual learning time, I’ve had a few students ping me on Google hangouts, to speak one-on-one, and I've witnessed a few tears mixed with trying to keep up a brave face. Back at school, my students pop into my office throughout the day for a smile, encouragement, sometimes for a safe place to share and even cry when they are frustrated or overwhelmed. 

Technology has expanded my teaching options, but still I go back to your mom's visit to my first teaching post. Her presence, the fact she cared enough to drop by to our small school, made a big impression on me, more so than if she had greeted us from a screen. I am confident of that. Let’s not lose sight of the importance of seeing our students in person.

Thank you for listening.

Yours, sincerely,

Carrie Anne Tocci

Carrie Anne Tocci is a doctoral candidate in Fordham University’s Contemporary Learning and Interdisciplinary Research (CLAIR) program and has over 20 years of experience teaching adolescents and adults in public and private schools in urban, suburban, and international settin