Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monkey Doo

Why we avoid talking openly and honestly about racism is because it points to the on-going injustices of one people everywhere and those who benefit from it everyday...

Fussing about the messenger coming off too strong is also avoiding...

How a forward-thinking school teacher can address race-ism is not by regurgitating recycled Black History Month facts that don't necessarily change students' mindsets and behavior, but by celebrating the different skin complexions in the classroom; asking if anyone has friends or neighbors who look different than them, if their parents socialize with people who look different than them-- why or why not? And what are some wonderful things about being different, anyway? Reminding White kids, especially, that having white skin is considered something different also. Is the curriculum avoiding the topic of race-ism altogether? Are you using your instructional handcuffs to make a new way? Maybe taking one day out of the week to talk openly about the harm race-ism can cause in and outside of the classroom, and defining race-ism as a virus, like something you can only get by someone teaching it to you and creating a gotcha kinda' game to learn when someone got race-ism or not...

If it's all about flash and cash, then what a real gangsta high school teacher does is show how race-ism allows one group of people to set standards while another puts up with the lies, even the ones they put on themselves. You tell the truth, no matter how much safe fluff the curriculum dictates because you know you're job is not only to relay the standards but more important, to save lives. So schooling Daquan and Jesus, for instance, on the fact that smoking blunts isn't at all like smoking a cigar when shredded paperbag means inhaling dye which is what causes dark purple lips. It's this kind of 411 that improves class management because the lesson is about their empowerment, and not more indoctrination of Black and Brown peoples. The suit n ties may not like your approach, but they do like results...

A college professor can address race-ism by not being intellectual about it but by welcoming emotionality in lecture halls and study groups, since researching is more of a scientific, unemotional process that encourages students to acknowledge race-ism but not feel it. Fearing the emotionality of those who have to tolerate race-ism is a personal problem, not ours.

Deans and administrators can help by being proactive about addressing race-ism on their campuses. Pushing Black History Month events is cool, but when they merely make us feel good then go back to our old ways it's not forward-thinking. It's more avoiding. Allowing the students themselves to come up with ideas for events is a sure bet that even the experts will learn something new, especially from students whose gpa's aren't the best. Not because they're slow but because they're way too intelligent for factory mindset. Plus, it helps with the emotionality issue when the typically overlooked is celebrated...

If you're the kind of Direcor or Coordinator who can make sht happen! You give a tour of historically African American neighborhoods that are now being replaced by gentrification and encourage young people to talk about race-ism, so that the dis-ease becomes less and less fatal; show films that aren't necessarily safe (a/k/a avoid reality); welcome critical discussions on The Trail of Tears, for example, when Native Americans were forced to give up their land and go west for the sake of incoming White settlers, or Puerto Rican mothers in 1965 being sterilized without their knowing as a way of controlling the Boriqua population; how illiterate Black sharecroppers from 1932 to 1972 were used as laboratory animals for syphillis experiments, and the role of White Guilt in the 21st century...

Principals can model progressive leadership by reminding their school superintendants that the African holocaust is still going on and asking them to send books reflecting this reality. This way talking about issues that specifically affect Black folks doesn't have to be so taboo both in the classroom and at the family table...

People we call facilitators are already trained to think out the box, so all we have to do is tell them we're willing to listen and work on the reasons why we avoid talking about race-ism; to do interesting exercises on privileged and victim mindsets; why Obama wasn't Black enough at first and then suddenly too Black; why we paid more attention to Rev. Wright's anger towards America than the truth in his passion; how inernalized racism helps keep race-ism alive; why Danny Glover had to turn to Venezuela to get a movie made about a slave revolt leader; our uneasiness with confident, unapoligetic urban Black males; how the term educational reform includes teaching little White boys and girls that they are part of the global experience, not its barometer; and what if White males were forced to stifle their feelings to make Black people more comfortable? what if White guilt took the shape of real educational reform beginning with telling the whole truth in our history books, admitting to being the beneficiaries of American apartheid systems, that missionaries helped push race-ism, and allowing our youth to show us how to prove we're not cowards after all?...

Our Latino brothas and sistas could do their part by first admitting their own racismo and reminding each other that there wouldn't be a Latin America without the Haitian Revolution; to also show balance in their television shows, since not all Latinos look Spaniard...

Even the Police can do their part by deciding that 50 gunshots is not, Please stop or we'll shoot but Die, nigger, die!!! And remembering Timothy McVeigh, the White American who bombed Oaklahoma City six years prior to 9/11, each time they get the itch to assume that only dark-skinned males are proned to terrorist acts...

White parents can take a chance on worrying their relatives and neighbors by teaching their children that it was a Black person who invented the air conditioner, the lightbulb, elevator, fire extinguisher, guitar, lawn mower, refrigerator, stove, traffic light, watch and the cell phone, to not only show folks they're that serious about addressing race-ism but to make sure their children don't grow up assuming Black merely means freed slave...

And as well-meaning as Evangelicals or conservative Whites might be about religion, they could put up in their churches and homes a portrait of a man who actually has hair of wool and skin of bronze and not someone who looks more like Kris Kristofferson (no disrespect, brother) as a show of solidarity with those who want to see race-ism be done with once and for all.

This helps also--

Those who benefited from race-ism in 1909
White males
White females
White children
Light-skinned Blacks
Anglo Latinos (Latinos who look more Spaniard)

Those who benefit from race-ism in 2009
White males
White females
White children
Light-skinned Blacks who don't bring up race concerns
Dark-skinned Blacks who deny race-ism even exists
Anglo Latinos who don't marry Black
Asians who avoid being associated with Blacks
White Jews (especially those whose names don't sound Jewish)
White gays and lesbians
The Catholic Church
Companies and institutions that only hire safe Blacks. 'Safe' meaning, those who don't challenge race-ism or stand up for themselves

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and any other man of color who got rid of his ethnic swag.

(Arabs and Persians--and even East Indians, if they could get away with it--would check the white box when filling out college or job applications. But thanks to 9/11 and the Bush administration, they're now considered the new niggers!)

Of course, race-ism is not something that will go away any time soon. It may take a few more generations before we're actually post-racial or at least willing to admit how this dis-ease benefits Whites and those who see having white skin as the ideal complexion, even if it's purely out of basic survival instincts. In other words, until Black--not diluted, not passive, not docile--is truly beautiful to Hollywood and corporate America, we just play along with the color game.

I remember when my daughter was just five. We were at a playground. Her locks were merely twists then. A White boy who looked about the same age came to play with us. My daughter was already used to seeing Whites in our home, so there was no hesitation on her part. Not until the boy innocently asked, "Why's your hair like that?" My daughter looked just as puzzled as he, but her confusion had more to do with the question itself. Like a curious butterfly, he flew back to another play area while my daughter looked on. Later that evening she asked her mother to take out her dreds.

This is how effortless race-ism can be. No white hoods and fire torches that day. Just a little boy having already decided that my daughter was odd for having a different hairstyle; and just that easily, so early in her life, she questioned her natural beauty. And not yet passed kindergarten, this charming boy had already received messages that anyone who didn't look like him was different, odd, not in line with the standards. Both the protective parent and teacher in me cleverly asked back, "Why's YOUR hair like that?" and I imagine that's why he suddenly flew away, already perfecting the art of avoiding.

So are we a nation of cowards, as our Attorney General suggested, when it comes to talking honestly about racism?........What say you?

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