Skip to main content

Labels

I was in a crowded public area with a friend last week when I saw a woman in a really short skirt.  I kind of nudged my friend and looked toward the woman and my friend didn't see her.  I whispered to her what I was looking at (she skirt was really short) and my friend still didn't see her.  I tried a few other descriptors: the woman with short hair, the woman with brown shoes, etc.  Then I realized what I didn't say.  I didn't say that it was the black woman.  That would have pointed her out right away.

Aside from why it was so important to me to point this woman out (it wasn't that important, but once I had said it, for some reason, I wanted to make my point), I thought later about why I was so hesitant to point out the woman's race.  I was willing to use just about every other descriptor, but for some reason if felt wrong to say "the black woman." 

I have noticed this at school too.  The kids were very direct.  "Who hit you?"  "That Mexican kid."  Who is in your class?"  "That black girl."  This can be a little jarring, but it's very clear.  Teachers, on the other hand, went out of their way to not mention race when pointing out a child.  I've heard teachers point to a child across the playground, and mention what child is wearing, what position he or she is in, what his or her haircut is... all when pointing out the race of the child would have cleared it up immediately.

A friend recently shared an interesting article about race and how we talk to children about race.   It turns out that it is essential that we talk directly to children about this subject.  Many of us are pretty uncomfortable with this and like to take the "colorblind" approach, but this may not be the best way to deal with it.  Comedian Stephen Colbert does an excellent job of pointing out how silly this approach can be, saying things like "I don't see color.  People tell me I'm white and I believe them because police officers call me 'sir.'"

I'm not entirely sure I've always done a good job with this subject - clearly I have my own issues around it, as we all do.  But I've found that when students ask me questions and I answer directly, they're happy to get an answer.  They're naturally curious and want to know why my skin doesn't look like theirs, and they're not afraid to keep asking questions - everything from why I get sunburned so fast to if I had any black friends growing up.  I wonder if we shouldn't take this approach more often.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Teachers are Afraid to Go Back

  Opening schools to in-person learning is an extremely emotionally charged topic right now for parents and teachers both, and for good reason. With almost half a million Americans dead of COVID and worries about mental health crises from isolation very serious, there seem to be no good answers. In fact, one of my students recently told me that “there are no good options. There are only less worse options.” If the science says it’s safe and the district has a plan, which where I live has been approved by our very conservative Alameda County Public Health Department, then why aren’t all teachers excited about going back?  As a former classroom teacher, I want to explain this. Hint: It’s not about the science. The first thing you learn as a teacher is that you won’t make enough money. We joke about needing a rich spouse or family money but it’s not actually funny, because it’s so often true, especially for beginning teachers. The reason I am no longer in the classroom is becaus

COVID in prison

 I have been a bit MIA because I broke my ankle on Thanksgiving (hiked back out two miles on a broken ankle!) and had surgery. So I forgot to worry that I hadn't heard from Jorge, my former student and co-author in prison, in a while. Turns out that I was right to worry, as he contracted COVID although seems to have made a full recovery. I got a letter from him today that he said I could share parts of. I'd like to highlight the very last paragraph. This young man was suffering from COVID, totally cut off from all his loved ones, scared and in prison, and he remembered to ask after my family and worry if we are feeling lonely. He is a remarkable person. ------------- Sorry for the late reply, there's been so much that's been going on since I got to this prison.... As you know, before quarantining when I got to this place for two weeks, I did it at SATF for two weeks also. So in total I quarantined for a month and my tests came back negative. After the two weeks here I g