Sat, Feb 29 – EdCamp
A group of educators sits in a crowded, uneven circle in a university classroom, talking about equity and inclusion in education. The only teacher wearing hijab speaks up: “I get stuck because I’m NOT the white educator, and I don’t want people thinking I’m trying to push an agenda… I get emotional thinking about it… I don’t know how to navigate that.”
Wed, March 25 – Zoom meeting
A group of educators gathers online to talk about racial equity detours and how to avoid them. Near the end of the hour, the only black male teacher speaks up. He talks about “not being afraid of my blackness” and says, “I would never, ever, EVER think about doing a black history show at my school because if I do it, I know what it’s going to be and I feel uncomfortable making my white colleagues feel uneasy.”
Thu, March 26 – Google Hangout
A group of educators meets online to discuss the memoir From the Ashes. The author, Jesse Thistle, joins us and says that, although he is terrified to speak in public, “I force myself to do it because people are listening, and I remember a time when no one was listening at all.”
I listen. I realize that I have been unaware of the ways in which we – I – have not listened to these voices. My stomach hurts as I acknowledge how much I have been part of silencing. I did not understand hijab as a choice. I saw full expression of black culture as threatening. I believed racist, colonialist lies about Indigenous people. The people who said these things are not older than I am; they do not live in other places. They are my peers, and I have been complicit in ignoring their voices. This is hard for me to think about; it is hard for me to write. I am writing it because I must own these truths. I must look at my attitudes for what they were; I must understand so that I can change. I have overlooked, ignored and even hurt the very people whose voices I thought I valued.
I am listening. People I respect and admire are saying that their voices are not being heard, that the skin they are in dilutes their ability to speak their truth to others.
I am using my privilege, my platform here, such as it is, to amplify their voices. People of colour in my community are not speaking their full truths because it makes us – it makes ME – uneasy.
Listen to them – please, listen. Let us all work to dismantle a system that forces people of colour to muffle their voices.
If you are a person of colour and you feel misrepresented by this post, please let me know. I am doing my best to listen.