* Color your world BLUE, marred by racism

Caution: This post may cause you to gag.

Here is a beautiful blue sky in Virginia, marred by a Confederate flag.  No, I don’t think that this flag represents anything but hatred and shame, as in “Shame on you for flying a flag like this!”  If anyone doubts that racism is alive and well, and I’d guess only white folks might feel that way, here is more proof that we are not living the dream.

blue with flag.JPG

Thanks to Jennifer Nicole Wells for her Color Your World challenge.  Let’s color our world with LOVE.

* Martin Luther King, Jr, man of faith

Today we celebrate the life of a great man of faith.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remains an inspiration, a model of how to face injustice and hatred.  He guided my steps as a youngster in the civil rights movement, but it wasn’t until years later that I actually entered the kingdom of love he espoused.  How much more I treasure his words, now that I share his faith.

In his words:  “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies (from Loving Your Enemies).”

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

Freedom

Dr. King knew that he was on a perilous journey, but he he did not count the cost.  In his words, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”  We are all reaping the reward of his life’s costly mission.  Love, forgive, and fight for justice.

* If We Were Having Coffee: Just One Thing on My Mind Today

On race: Nerd in the Brain’s post is full of hope for the next generation, along with some practical suggestions for reform and changed hearts and minds.

Nerd in the Brain

*I originally stumbled across this concept at Part Time Monster, and I love, love, love the idea of having a chatty post once a week. I do hope you enjoy my ramblings.*  Weekend Coffee Share Weekly Pic - Dinos and Coffee | This Nerd's Life

If we were having coffee…

I would tell you that, as most Americans do right now (I hope), I have a lot on my mind. Yesterday, I “should” have popped a “Friday Fun” post on the blog, but I wasn’t feeling fun. I was feeling sad and angry…and contemplative. Contemplative about my role and place in systemic racism and the horrifying violence that’s resulting from it. Contemplative about the appropriate place for my voice. Contemplative about the actions I can do that will have an effect.

And here’s what I came up with:

The library. (Some of you probably don’t find that shocking coming from me.) Yes, the library. I truly believe that education is fundamental to…

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* Forgiveness and race

I was moved by an opinion column in today’s Chapel Hill News.  Anita Woodley‘s column focuses on forgiveness.  Forgiving those who have hurt her with racist remarks and forgiving herself for “feeling that [she] had to prove” that she belongs, that she’s “entitled to be somewhere.”  Woodley describes her experience at a workshop, “Race and Grace: Changing the Race Dance” where she was the only person of color in a group of about 20 folks.  She endured horrific stories, resorting to an emotional disconnect to protect herself.

The following day, Woodley started a two month self-esteem support group for women, where once again, she heard the N-word.  In this case, a woman actually tried to convince Woodley that the N-word is no big deal.  After all, that woman had been called “whitey.”  Woodley describes the emotional turmoil that eventually led her to forgive that woman, and in the process, to see herself as she is: courageous, loving, and strong.

I’ve been a part of these conversations for years.  It’s discouraging that whites still diminish the black experience in this country.  I see the legacy of slavery, I see undereducated black kids, I see a class system with widening chasms.  Woodley’s advice is sound.  Forgiveness is one place to start.  Playing an active role in changing hearts and minds is another.  We all lose when a single child’s potential is lost.

black woman

* Q is for Quotations

Friends for Freedom

“Friends For Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass” provides a fascinating account of an unlikely friendship lasting over 45 years.  The author, Susan Slade, spent three years researching their little-known relationship.  She unearthed their letters to one another and discovered that Frederick delivered the eulogy for Susan’s father.  They also gave countless speeches together.

This excellent book portrays the passion and determination of Susan and Frederick in the face of  overwhelming odds.  They faced angry mobs and were coated with rotten eggs as they defied the cultural norms of that time.  Once the Fifteenth Amendment provided blacks- but not women- the right to vote, Susan and Frederick’s publically debated this issue.  Douglass argued, “With us, the issue is a matter of life and death.”

Here are some other powerful quotes from these good friends:

Susan- Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.    The day may be approaching when the whole world will recognize woman as the equal of man.     The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled the more I gain.    Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations… can never effect a reform.

Frederick-  Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.      The soul that is within me no man can degrade.      No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.

 

* B is being a black boy

black boy.JPG

When my teaching widower and I bought this figure (above), the sales clerk used every white code she could think of to help us “recognize” the boy’s race.  Why would a white couple buy black artwork?  I wanted him because he looks like so many kids I’ve taught and loved.

I often experience great heartache when I watch young black boys in kindergarten.  They are so excited about school, about pleasing their teachers and making friends.  Their eyes are bright with happiness.  They are eager to learn.  These same boys, a few years later, are sitting in the office, assigned a space next to the teacher, or isolated at a desk far from their peers.  They are doing poorly academically.  They are referred to special education.  They are the behavior problems in the school.  I am describing experiences I’ve seen in a wealthy school district, where “all kids can learn” is the mantra.

Yes, we live in a segregated society where more black men are in prison than in college.  But let’s go back to kindergarten.  Even before they’ve met these kids, many teachers have looked at the names on their roster and shown colleagues how many Daquans and Tremains they’ll have to manage.  From the first day, while much of the class is frisky in line, I have heard those same names reprimanded at a rate which far exceeds that of the white boys.  The frisky white boys may be ignored, but Daquan is on everyone’s radar.  All the time.  Far beyond kindergarten.

I believe the most important factor in a classroom is the emotional tone- teacher acceptance and nurturing.  Do you think black boys feel they belong?  After eating breakfast at school with other kids of color, they enter a classroom which is mostly white, with mostly white adults.  (Usually, the only black males they see are custodians.)  Teacher expectations are low, couched in terms of “low income” and “poor language skills.”  Even though specific teaching methods can level the playing field, I believe it’s that not-so-invisible exclusion, the not-so-invisible low bar, which extinguishes that sparkle in black boys’ eyes and hearts.

 

 

* The struggle continues

I was impressed by Tim White’s recent editorial in the Fayetteville Observer.  The focus of his article is Fayetteville’s current struggle over their city seal, which prominently features Market House.  Market House, a National Landmark built in 1832, housed the town hall on its second floor while “meat and produce and other goods were sold beneath.”  “Other goods” included people.  Slaves.  In “Our dramatic failure of empathy,” White outlines the subtle and not-so-subtle racism we still promulgate.  As he notes, “The dye of segregated thinking is all over [the current debate on the seal’s content].”

Here’s a look at Fayetteville’s seal.  Its central feature is Market House, which remains a symbol of slavery for many Fayetteville citizens.

Fayetteville 2

Image from wncn.com

Even Fayetteville’s hometown song, played while city hall callers waited on hold (and is no longer used), includes references to cotton and Market House.  I checked out Visit NC, where this statement caught my attention: “Occasionally slaves were sold at Market Square and the vast majority of these sales were as a result of indebtedness or estate liquidation.”  I take that to mean that it was OK to sell slaves if you were losing money.

Tim White asks some hard questions.  “So why can’t we white folks understand that for many of our black neighbors, using the Market House on our city logo is like slapping them in the face?”  He asks why we don’t see the “insulting, paternalistic, rude and-just maybe- unconsciously racist” basis of denial.  Finally, to look at this strictly from a economic point of view, White asks why a business would “doggedly insist on using a logo that is knew caused pain and even revulsion in at least a quarter, maybe more, of its customers.”

I appreciate White’s heartfelt and well-written attempt to breathe truth and compassion into this debate.  He builds his case on historical data, research on hidden biases (such as The Implicit Assumption Test), and his own interviews with people whose relatives were sold at the Market House.  He even appeals to our capitalistic bottom line.

Fayetteville is not unique in its struggle.  In every city and state, in every classroom and boardroom, we are confronted with the poisoned fruit of slavery.  As overwhelming as it feels, let us do for one what we want to do for all.  (Thank you, Kendrick Vinar.)   As White concludes, “Let’s not fail.”

* InspirED by EQ.org

I stumbled across an intriguing website, EQ.org, and found myself cheering!  This site offers educators an opportunity to improve their own EQ (emotional quotient/intelligence) and that of their students.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine teaching students to improve their social emotional intelligence without having a grasp on it yourself.  meditation-651411_960_720

 

The inspirED educator toolbox offers three modules on becoming an EQ educator.  The module on improving classroom EQ is particularly interesting, including topics such as how to reduce boredom in the classroom and assessing the emotional climate of your class.  All their practical suggestions seem congruent with the latest neuroscience findings on how kids learn best.  For those teachers who are already aware of brain-friendly strategies, these modules are a great reminder to USE them.  I need those reminders myself!  The EQ site also offer links to several other free courses on improving your understanding of social emotional learning.

It’s been years since researchers validated what we know intuitively: kids with better relationship and emotional skills are more likely to succeed, regardless of their intellectual prowess.  In “The Case for Emotional Intelligence in Our Schools,” Joshua Freedman writes: Several organizations have emerged to help schools and organizations implement emotional intelligence and social-emotional learning programs, including The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), The Center for Social Emotional Learning, CSEE, and Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network. 

Six Seconds, the parent organization behind EQ.org, has a stated goal of “working toward one billion people practicing emotional intelligence.”  They offer certification in their methodology, an online store for materials (and kid-friendly games), training for organizations, scholarships, and grants.  As schools struggle to eliminate the racial achievement gap, this type of intervention could prove effective. Schools should be a safe place for kids of all races.

* Being Real

First reblogged on David Snape and Friends, this terrific post is written by a white woman acknowledging how differences, especially racial differences, made her feel uncomfortable. She examines her soul and her faith after watching a film on Jesse Owens. Her response is encouraging: face my weaknesses head-on. She’s a strong and compelling writer.

Making Room For God

I am a Caucasian woman who grew up in a middle class society within a two parent household along with 4 other siblings.  My school and community had basically 0% diversity. Okay, maybe 1%.

Why is this important?

The other day I went with a friend to see the movie, “Race.”  If you haven’t seen it, go.  “Race” is the story of Jesse Owens, the world famous Olympian sprinter who made history at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  (Note the date).  Jesse Owens was an African-American male who grew up in a poor area of Cleveland, Ohio within a two parent household along with 9 siblings, and worked his rear off to make it to The Ohio State University.  He is an inspiration.

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s…

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* Using the Stories of Others to Begin Conversations on Race with My Students

Here’s an insightful blog from a teacher who is drawing herself and her students into discussions and understandings about race. It’s a great start to important conversations, words that can help tear down the barriers in our society.

Crawling Out of the Classroom

The past few days, in my classroom, I have begun our reading lessons with a mix of nerves, anticipation, anxiety, and hope. You see, for the past week, we, my fifth grade students and I, have been talking about race. And I will be honest. It is somewhat terrifying. Terrifying because I, a white American woman, often worry that I am going to say the wrong thing in conversations about race. Terrifying because for my students, a vast majority of them who are also white Americans, have rarely, if ever, been engaged in conversations about race that go beyond, “A person’s skin color doesn’t matter.” Terrifying because race is NOT something I am an expert on, far from it. Terrifying because I am always worried that the words I choose to use will be the wrong ones. That I will offend. That I will do more harm than good. Terrifying…

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