So I’m making my way through “The Skillful Teacher”, by Stephen Brookfield, and this week I read chapter 9 (among others), Teaching about Racism. Oh dear.
Okay, here we go. I’m white. And I’ve long felt that my voice doesn’t have a place in the racism discussion because the white voice has been heard loudly and clearly for a very long time, and I think it’s time to shut up and listen.
Brookfield suggests that maybe that’s not such a great idea, and it’s just another way of perpetuating the idea that Whiteness is all powerful and a voice of colour could never be heard above a white voice.
My thoughts on this – yeah, that makes sense. One thing I’ve realized over the last year is that my silence is at least partly coming from fear; fear of looking racist, fear of saying something hurtful, fear of getting into an awkward conversation. But then I started, instead of just being silent, to ask questions instead. When I read about people of colour being randomly stopped and carded on the streets of Toronto, I asked a friend of mine if that had ever happened to him. Shocker, it had. Multiple times. I was enraged and embarrassed and disgusted and so very glad that I had asked.
“The danger is in speaking “to” rather than “with” our students…” from When the White Teacher Talks About Race.
I think for now that is the best I can do in the classroom; recognize that my perspective is a privileged one, and try to rid myself of the fear that presents me from having a genuine human interest in all my students’ stories. And talk with them about racism, never to them.