Amplify their voices – Slice of Life 26/31 #SOL20

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.

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18 thoughts on “Amplify their voices – Slice of Life 26/31 #SOL20

  1. The thread that knits these disparate events is your ability to listen AND remember. To feel the words and reflect with empathy. My favourite line: , “that the skin they are in dilutes their ability to speak their truth to others.” Truth and a willingness to reconcile. Yes to this.

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  2. I admire you for writing this post. For seeking answers and understandings. It is easy to believe things are ok, or better, or fine. It is much harder to acknowledge that things aren’t and that they won’t be unless we are willing to listen. And then to speak up.

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    1. I am trying very hard to speak up – and to use my voice & my privilege not to draw attention to myself but rather to make sure that others are seen. It is a difficult balance to strike, for sure.

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  3. The dots you connect between the three speakers: powerful. The article you linked: a keeper that I’ve bookmarked for myself and will share with a working group focused — with mixed success — on equity issues where I teach. The leading thought I’m carrying away: a delicate balance between the amplification that I hear you championing and student voices I heard recently from Black Student Union members who advised staff to avoid clumsily singling out any one person of color as a representative for all people of color.

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    1. Yes I understand the delicate balance & it is hard to find. In this post, for example, I tried to make choices like…I did not use the names of the two educators who were speaking in larger groups. That said, once I heard the same thing from three different people in three different venues (and the students in our Black Student Club have told me similar things), I realized that this was bigger than one person. We’re definitely in a “mixed success” situation here, but I’m still hammering away at it. I’ve still got so much work to do myself.. it’s really complicated!

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  4. I have so many thoughts: While I’m hopeful more teachers are listening, I’m also dismayed by those who continue not listening. I was very lucky in high school way back in the 1970s to have a class about history from the point of view of marginalized peoples: Native Americans, immigrants. I find myself thinking more about narratives at state and national parks, for example. There is much work and much listening to do. It starts w/ awareness and willingness. As Maggie Smith says, “keep moving” forward.

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    1. Amazing that you had that class in the 70s – and also sad, in a way. This isn’t a new conversation, is it? And yes, too many people are not listening – & somehow I’m always more disappointed in educators. I remember one of your posts (this month? I think?) about the signage in a park near you. This is a huge issue with fingers everywhere. Not sure that individuals can fix it, but I’m sure that without individuals, it can’t be fixed, so I keep moving forward.

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  5. Wow! What a powerful post. Again. It is a great conversation/collection of thoughts that you shared. I know that I need to continue to learn so much…

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    1. I am trying, but most days I feel woefully underprepared. I listen to white people who have been doing this work for years and am in awe of the depth of their knowledge and understanding. Still, the only way through is forward, so forward I go!

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  6. Yes, to the spirit of this. I share your desire to shed as many of the biases that I unwittingly, but in my case, complacently hold. My challenge in the “listening” part is that I need to figure out a way to have my life intersect with a more diverse group of people. I live in a very homogeneous “world.” Yes, they’re individuals, but they are mostly, like me, the dominant part of the culture, the part that creates the “other.” But thank you for putting this so well. And thank you for the article.

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    1. I felt a similar challenge when I began, but I’ve realized my world is far more diverse than I knew (which is embarrassing in and of itself – I had several biracial friends whose race wasn’t part of how I saw them!) and I’ve also realized that the more I learn about this, the more I am meeting and talking to people of different races. To be honest, it started with my students – and now I’m the staff sponsor of the Black Student Club. Who knew?

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  7. I listened to Jason Reynolds read Stamped on Audible. It was me he was yelling at. I think of myself as an anti-racist growing up in the center of racist America, and yet he spoke of things I never considered. Tarzan, Planet of the Apes, Rocky? All movies to advance a racist view. Who knew? It’s high time we listen.

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