“Protect Black women” should not be controversial

14 Oct

“… I’ve realized that violence against women is not always connected to being in a relationship. Instead, it happens because too many men treat all women as objects, which helps them to justify inflicting abuse against us when we choose to exercise our own free will.

From the moment we begin to navigate the intricacies of adolescence, we feel the weight of this threat, and the weight of contradictory expectations and misguided preconceptions.”

Please click here for more, in video and her own words, from Megan Thee Stallion. 

All teaching is “learning accommodation”

12 Oct

The phrase “learning accommodation” has been bugging me.

  1. Because it’s being used inaccurately, and
  2. Because it plays into a bias that is problematic for students.

Let’s be clear: the definition of teaching is accommodating learning.

In other words, in theory (and hopefully in practice) educators don’t just walk away when a kid doesn’t intuitively, independently, automatically understand arithmetic, grammar, persuasive essay writing, the history of the world or chemistry. We teach. We activate their foundation and prior knowledge (Hammond) and help students scaffold from what they know and wonder now, to what they know and wonder next.

There is no teaching that does not accommodate learning.

Yet, in education, “learning accommodation” typically refers only to the accommodation made when the primary, already designed and built-in accommodation doesn’t work for a student. As if some kids need help, when others don’t. When the reality is that all kids’ learning is being accommodated; it’s just a question of whether the one-size-fits-all accommodation that your school or teacher is making works for you or not.

This is another occasion where I believe we need systems centered language. Because the current language of “learning accommodation” implies a deficit in some students: that they need more or lack something. (And this implication is coming from the very organizations charged with teaching them.)

So what is systems centered language for “learning accommodations”? For starters, equity pedagogy. Culturally responsive teaching. And maybe we have language yet to pioneer, like “inclusive teaching” or “adaptive teaching.” Or maybe we redefine the language that we have: that “teaching,” isn’t teaching unless it effectively scaffolds each and every student’s potential.

What I’m (re)learning on this National Coming Out Day

11 Oct

Yesterday, I posted about today not just being a spectator event for heterosexual and cisgender folks like myself.

It was, honestly, the first time I’d ever pre-flected on my work today. Not just “be there” for friends, family, students, heck – people I don’t even know. Which is a worthwhile intention, but keeps reminding me of the consequential difference between being “not racist” and being antiracist.

So today, I’m reflecting on my tendency to essentialize queer and trans people, meaning my reflexive stereotyping, specifically about their political orientations. I also do this with people of color, but I want to focus here, today on my implicit – and even explicit – bias about what trans and queer political affiliations should be.

It’s really disappointing to write these words. Because, you know, I’m supposed to “know better.”

And. This is my practice today, so that I may practice what I believe (theoretically) and what I believe is more humane, simply true and ultimately helpful in showing up for social justice.

My essentialist reflex kicked in when I read this piece in the Washington Post‘s series “Voices from the Pandemic”: “‘What are we so afraid of?’ Tony Green, on dismissing, denying, contracting and spreading the coronavirus.”

It’s a hard, necessary and beautiful statement that I’m grateful for. Tony begins:

When President Trump got sick, I had this moment of deja vu back to when I first woke up in the hospital. I know what it’s like to be humiliated by this virus. I used to call it the “scamdemic.” I thought it was an overblown media hoax. I made fun of people for wearing masks. I went all the way down the rabbit hole and fell hard on my own sword, so if you want to hate me or blame me, that’s fine. I’m doing plenty of that myself.

The party was my idea. That’s what I can’t get over. Well, I mean, it wasn’t even a party — more like a get-together. There were just six of us, okay? My parents, my partner, and my partner’s parents. We’d been locked down for months at that point in Texas, and the governor had just come out and said small gatherings were probably okay. We’re a close family, and we hadn’t been together in forever. It was finally summer. I thought the worst was behind us. I was like: “Hell, let’s get on with our lives. What are we so afraid of?”

Some people in my family didn’t necessarily share all of my views, but I pushed it. I’ve always been out front with my opinions. I’m gay and I’m conservative, so either way I’m used to going against the grain. I stopped trusting the media for my information when it went hard against Trump in 2016. I got rid of my cable. It’s all opinion anyway, so I’d rather come up with my own. I find a little bit of truth here and a little there, and I pile it together to see what it makes. I have about 4,000 people in my personal network, and not one of them had gotten sick. Not one. You start to hear jokes about, you know, a skydiver jumps out of a plane without a parachute and dies of covid-19. You start to think: “Something’s really fishy here.” You start dismissing and denying.

As soon as Tony wrote “partner,” I wondered what that might indicate (about identity, orientations – sexual and political), and honestly, I wrote it off a “blip” as soon as I got to Texas in the next sentence.

How’s that for close-minded?

(I am really not liking myself as a type this, but here I am.)

“I’m gay and I’m conservative…” It’s as simple a fact as Tony presents it.

“… so either way I’m used to going against the grain.” And, I realize, I’m the grain.

This isn’t a new thought for me, but I am re-committing: not to “expect more” of some groups than others, which is just code for me condescendingly presuming to “know what’s best” for other people (which is apparently to agree with me).

And I think one way for me to do that is actually to tackle what’s not about your identity, but me. Honestly, I was activated as soon as Tony used the word “scamdemic.” Which is pretty clever, but my love for words got buried in an avalanche of far right-wing conspiracy theory stereotypes.

Cue eyeroll.

It was only after I finished reading Tony’s piece, wiped away my tears and reflected on my implicit-explicit biases and stereotypes that I realized: I get what he means about a scam.

I don’t mean I think the pandemic is a scam. And that’s where I get hung up: that I don’t agree that this is a scam. But I get what it’s like to feel like I’m being scammed, even while other people tell me, in not so many words, not to be so conspiracy-theorist-y.

For example, when my laptop was failing (read: randomly not starting up, sometimes for days), and it took about 4 months of back and forth of “fixes” that didn’t fix the issue with Dell before they sent me a refurbished replacement, I remember feeling and saying that the whole customer service process was a scam, designed for me to give up and buy a brand new computer, while I was also paying for “Premium” customer support to fix the one I had. I felt scammed. I felt like tech support’s “opinions” were not aligning with my facts.

My work computer going down is not the same as the pandemic. But my feeling about it gave me an a-ha: regardless of whether I agree with someone that their scam is a scam, empathizing with that feeling of getting scammed is not just possible; it may be helpful. Especially if I feel, as I do, that I hope fewer people in the world end up feeling like Tony has.

Maybe it seems I’ve veered off the topic of how I’m showing up for National Coming Out Day. I’ll say, yes, maybe I have.

And, I believe I’m still on point because: the opposite of homophobia transphobia is humanity. Is allowing for the revelation of everyone’s full humanity, without needing someone else to experience tragedy before I remember.

“Budget speaks values” – Barack Obama

11 Oct

This is the query I received from a colleague:

I am building a new Chart of Accounts for my school, ie. new spending categories in our accounting system, and I was wondering what categories you might recommend I include for DEI expenses.  Our school really focuses on DEI… but I feel like our codes do not explicitly list and segregate money needed to fully support the program.  Besides events and conferences, can you tell me what you typically buy as a DEI Director?

What an awesome question.

This is what it looks like for the business office to own the organizational commitment to DEI. Not having to do what the teachers are doing, but bringing the financial expertise that this office has.

And the question made me think…

Because I’m not an internal DEI Director, I sent my initial thoughts and queried colleagues who are directors.

My initial list:

  • Yes, professional growth funds
    • For external conferences and workshops (including travel expenses)
    • For in-house training and coaching
    • For materials – subscriptions, books…
  • Consulting funds (for example, when I’m brought in to partner with the in-house experts to advance strategic, assessment and other institutional work)
  • Marketing/advertising
  • Hospitality – i.e. the endless snacks DEI seems to provide
  • Software (for example, to audit and dashboard DEI) with tech support
  • Community engagement funds (this may be redundant, but I’m thinking there’s potential travel, fees, donations…)

And additional, more nuanced responses (thank you, colleagues!):

  • One line item – schwag. For instance, during Pride (before the pandemic) we used to print T-shirts and buy erasers that say “Erase Hate” to pass out during the Parade
  • Breaking out conferences for the DEI Director, other adults and students so you can calculate a cost per participant when you analyze the benefit of various conferences
  • Stipends and/or payments to DEI committee participants (putting this out their raises the question of paying those doing DEI work internally and not just constructing programs based on people’s volunteerism and commitment)
  • Memberships to DEI related organizations
  • Language translation (letters/reports documents) and interpretation (live at events/meetings)
  • Parent/Guardian Education included in the training portion of consulting.
  • In addition to adult professional and community growth, student DEI experiences and learning funds for clubs, food, books
  • Learning support (assessments, tutoring esp. if recommended by the school)
  • Flexible Tuition/Financial assistance that includes support for families who pay the fixed tuition but can’t afford additional expenses and/or are experiencing new financial constraints. 
  • Guest speakers
    Community events/celebrations/observances
  • A line item for “extras” such as: lunch, afterschool programs, access to technology for in-home learning, athletic and academic trips, summer enrichment programs, technology, tutoring, testing services – note: “extras” was put in quotes to identify these as actual essentials in the core school experience
  • Service Learning Program support – note: this depends on the explicit (structural) and implicit relationship of service learning to DEI in your organization. Sometimes these are conflated, sometimes connected, sometimes discrete.

This query sparked a conversation about DEI-dedicated budgets (as opposed to DEI integrated in the overall budget). This is an organizational cultural and developmental conversation. As opposed to a universal “right” or “wrong,” what are the politics and impacts of DEI funds being drawn from other budgets? How does a separate budget for DEI protect those funds, and silo the work? What’s not about budget – i.e. is actually about the lack of accountability for DEI professional growth, impacts and outcomes?

* Thanks to my colleagues for the inspiration, information and aspiration.

National Coming Out Day (tomorrow) is not a spectator sport.

10 Oct

In preparation for tomorrow, the It Gets Better Project has offered some tips, for folks, whether “you’ve come out to someone before or are planning to do it now for the first time (or you’re still not sure).”

And for the rest of us?

Including those of us who identify as heterosexual and cisgender, who may assume that tomorrow is not for or about us, and, therefore, we don’t have any work to do, unless someone we know comes out?

In the words of Reverend angel Kyodo williams, we need to:

In this case, “minding our business” includes:

  • Owning our own experiences of learning about our own sexual orientations and gender identities;
  • Acknowledging how our own identities and experiences have been privileged in a world (yes, world) designed for heterosexual and cisgender folks;
  • Owning our own roles and collusion in homophobia and transphobia – if not through active homophobia and transphobia, then through neutrality, inaction and silence. Just as “not being racist” is not the same as being antiracist, “not being homophobic” or “not having a problem with trans folks” is not the same as being anti-transphobic and anti-homophobic);
  • Getting curious and creative about how to show up tomorrow, not just as passive observers of National Coming Out Day, but as friends, family and allies who benefit ourselves when those we love and others we don’t even know can be who they are, and love who they love;
  • “Dreaming a little, before we think” (to paraphrase Toni Morrison) and envisioning a gender and sexual orientation equitable, inclusive and just future – What will that world be like? What will folks across the spectra of sexual orientation and gender be experiencing, and doing? (not necessarily identically) What will be different about our institutions and communities? What will that future be like seven generations from now? and
  • Committing to what each of us will hold ourselves accountable for doing to strive toward our vision, knowing that “real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time” (so we better get stepping) – thank you for the wisdom, Ruth Bader Ginsberg).

Do I have to be calm?

10 Oct

Maybe you’ve seen these viral clips of Pete Buttigieg on Fox News, leading up to and following the Vice Presidential debate:

[Start at 3:03-4:04 to see the specific Q&A that prompted this headline from the UK:
“Fox News tried to take down Kamala Harris and it blew up right in their face”]

And then the interview clip that generated this headline from Mashable: “Pete Buttigieg once again uses a Fox News interview to calmly dismantle the Trump campaign’s logic.”

Honestly, I feel at least two ways.

  1. Wow, Pete. I gotta get myself some of that. He just handles his interviews on Fox News.
  2. [screaming internally] So I have to appear “calm” to you, for you to hear me. Because this isn’t even a subtly sexist, racist, homophobic and classist game, when you consider who gets to set the standards, and who doesn’t even have to raise their voice to be seen as not calm (see various headlines, for example, from Red State: “Undecided Voters Viewed Kamala Harris as ‘Abrasive’ and ‘Condescending’ During Vice Presidential Debate” and The Washington Examiner: “How Kamala Harris lost the debate with her body language”; and this, from Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, who names “that racist trope of the angry Black woman” that Harris has to campaign through.)

I was frustrated, when I was a younger woman of color, by how easily I could be dismissed if I “got emotional” (over an emotional issue, in an emotional situation, mind you). I am still frustrated by how I am dismissed at times if, as an older woman of color, I don’t maintain the performance of “calm” by the standards of my predominantly white, patriarchal communities. It was – and is – unfair.

So, I need to continue my work on implicit cultural biases.

And.

I need to study Pete. Because I am very much interested in what my colleague Orpheus Crutchfield frames as the essential question on issues that matter to me: Do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective?

While I can’t always dismantle someone else’s implicit biases about me in the moment, I can still try to be effective.

So far, here’s what I’ve gleaned: Pete showed up prepared. Frankly, these videos (particularly the second one) seem indicative as much of the interviewers’ prep as Pete’s. He showed up, not just knowing his information, but having anticipated the set-ups (and framing them back as “parlor games”).

He delivered what he had to say almost without taking a breath. I’m still unpacking this one, but he seemed to have studied how to deliver his message so that he could get it all out. Of course, an interview is different than a conversation, but it makes me think of Kamala Harris repeating, “I’m speaking” to Mike Pence. However effective they were, each adapted their medium to serve their message.

Pete has me thinking about the connection, for me, between being prepared (for what I can reasonably anticipate) and actually being calm – meaning centered and balanced – not just trying to appear unperturbed.

I expend more energy than I think is helpful being outraged at what I would call the “of course”s: the things that don’t actually surprised me, even if they’re inconvenient, infuriating or – in my opinion – unjust. Energy that could be more effective (thank you, Orpheus!) expended on being tactical and strategic about the things that matter most to me.

That’s the funny trap: it can feel like playing by white supremacist patriarchal rules to be tactical and strategic within the current systems; but is it actually playing by those rules to be outraged, if, ultimately, our outrage is not advancing our vision? I keep thinking about Ruth Bader Ginsberg:

Not just her words, but what she actually accomplished by, working not just within but beyond the system.

Resource of the day: #disrupttexts

9 Oct

Check out these and more ways to disrupt texts, teaching and learning.

Barbie’s racism vlog

9 Oct

OK, people. This is a “yes, and…”

Progress.

And.

Notice how the video reinforces some of the current and problematic dynamics of antiracism:

  • Barbie asserts that “this stuff isn’t easy to talk about.”
  • Nikki agrees, and adds “I’m glad we’re having it.”

I’d ask: isn’t easy… for whom? And yes, glad. Because the alternative is tacit permission and collusion. I’d love to hear more people – including more white people – name the joy and liberation of having these conversations that may or may not be “uncomfortable,” “hard,” “challenging” and/or “courageous.”

  • Notice that Barbie doesn’t talk that much about her experiences of privilege. She acknowledges it (thank you, Barbie), but doesn’t own the process of how it shows up clearly and specifically in her life, beyond agreeing that it’s different than what Nikki experiences.
  • Notice also that Barbie refers to white privilege in the 3rd person: “white people get an advantage that they didn’t earn” [emphasis added].
  • Notice that Nikki has to relive and articulate her experiences of racism, and then make the call to action.

So progress? Yes. And…

Btw, here are two more videos on talking with young kids about race and racism:

And here is a resource padlet from Blink on talking about race.

But it doesn’t mean anything

9 Oct

In today’s Washington Post headlines: “When Trump gets coronavirus, Chinese Americans pay a price.” While this isn’t new news (and the headline is misleading: it’s Asian-Americans, particularly East Asian-Americans, who are being targeted – no one’s stopping to certify that they’re not accidentally targeting someone from Korea), the article did contain a very recent update:

In an analysis of 2.7 million tweets in the three days after Trump announced his and first lady Melania Trump’s diagnosis on Twitter, the ADL found an 85 percent spike in language associated with hostility against Asians, compared with the previous day. 

Anti-Asian racism, up 85 percent in one day.

And then this, about the people using anti-Asian rhetoric:

They “not only doubled down on the use of slurs like ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Kung flu,’ they also denied the impact their own words were having on innocent Asian Americans who have been terrified by the anti-Asian hate we have witnessed throughout this pandemic,” [California Democratic Representative Judy] Chu said.

This is a classic defense against hate speech: it’s just a joke, they’re just words, they don’t mean anything. Which quickly veers into: you can’t say anything anymore without getting in trouble. Everything is so “politically correct.” What about freedom of speech?

It’s a classic microaggressive response to microaggressions: don’t take everything so seriously, it doesn’t bother me when people call me a name… don’t be so sensitive. Look, no one [else] is complaining.

It’s also the very definition of ‘splaining, in this case, Asian ‘splaining, in which people who aren’t Asian explain to people who are Asian what we’re experiencing and how we (should) feel about it… because non-Asians know better.

In a sense, it was critical that Judy Chu, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, was the go-to for a quote on this. Not even as an APIDA (Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American) person, but as a person informed on APIDA issues, Chu is someone who can respond from a basis of “informed knowledge” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2014).

While I get that a poll is intended to capture opinions, let’s be clear that all opinions are not equally consequential. In asking people’s opinions about anti-Asian racism, this poll gave more air and gravitas to the discourse of uninformed certainty (deCastell, 1993), potentially amplifying hostile, and even dire, consequences for Asian-Americans.

What is the “discourse of uninformed certainty”? These are two political – and therefore, inevitably partisan, examples that I share because they are also “textbook”:

Instead of “affirming everyone’s perspective as equally valid [which] supports the strategy for not-knowing” (deCastell, 1993, 2004; Schick, 2000), what if polls, interviews, classroom discussions and other “what do you think?” occasions opened with inviting wonder and, in Toni Morrison’s words, “dream a little before we think”:

Before asking “what do you think,” how could it enrich our discernment to ask, “what could be possible?” or “what are 4-6 perspectives?”

White supremacist patriarchal culture’s civility politics

8 Oct

I couldn’t articulate why, in the moment, I had to stop watching the Vice Presidential candidate debate last night.

I was having uncivil thoughts. Or rather, my thoughts were forming in uncivil language. Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post‘s analysis of the debate…

Pence’s soft-spoken debate style was a marked contrast to the excitable and at times belligerent tone Trump took a week earlier in his debate with Biden. But like Trump, he repeatedly went over his allotted time and spoke over moderator Susan Page, ignoring her attempts to keep the debate moving by frequently saying, “Thank you, Mr. Vice President.”

From the opening minutes of their sole scheduled meeting, Harris was the more assertive of the two, accusing the Trump administration of misleading and failing the country, and calmly upbraiding Pence when he interrupted her. “Mr. Vice President, I am speaking,” she said. She, too, occasionally ran over the time limits.

… Pence said “he trusts our justice system” and said there is “no excuse for rioting and looting.” He then told Harris he considers it an “insult” when Biden and Harris refer to systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The “civil” but really uncivil thought, “Mike Pence is clutching his pearls at a reference to racism?” popped into my head.

And as I read this Fox News headline, “Undecided voters found Harris ‘abrasive, condescending’ in vice presidential debate,” I thought about respectability politics: the need to present oneself according to white supremacist patriarchal rules of comportment, in order to even have a chance at being taken seriously. While respectability politics sets requirements that even white people aren’t exempt from (see: Howard Dean, Tom Cruise and other viral moments of infamy, seemingly because these white men were “too emotional” in public), the risks of not appearing to be respectable enough are disproportionately brutal and dire for black, brown and/or poor people.

Last night, while respectability politics were certainly in play, I was reacting more to the civility politics in action.

I’m making this term up: what I mean is different from the call for civility in politics. I mean the performance of civility in politics that, whether “authentic” or not deploys those same white supremacist patriarchal rules of acceptable conduct… to disable actual politics, which I’ll define here as the hashing out of social issues at the level of governance.

Speaking softly does not mean that you’re not talking over other people after you explicitly agreed not to do that. (And it’s important to note that they did agree to rules, because actions like “interrupting” and their perceived meanings and impacts are cultural ideas: what is “interrupting” in my partner’s family culture, is engaging with each other in mine. What is respectful dialogue in his family culture, seems like a series of short speeches to me.) Simply ignoring the moderator’s call on time, or that your opponent is still speaking does not mean that you’re not treating someone else as less important than you. (And yes, Harris interrupted Pence: 5 times, to his 10.)

And to be clear, that Pence’s response to racism is to feel/consider it as an “insult” is not just irrelevant: it’s racist. It’s throwing the white supremacist patriarchal playbook at racism – I am uncomfortable! Therefore, we shouldn’t even talk about this. (That is, after you apologize for being insulting.)

I am tired of the performance of civility politics that is deployed to side step questions, to taunt your perceived opponent into losing their cool, to make looking reasonable (again, on white supremacist patriarchy’s turf) more important than being responsible.

I’m not saying: let’s be rude to each other. That’s another white supremacist patriarchal cultural false dichotomy: you’re either civil or you’re rude, which Jonah Goldberg calls out in the partisan clash over political correctness:

“This drives me crazy about my own side these days where I talk to young conservative activists, college students and say ‘Look by all means, fight political correctness if that’s what you want to do.’ But just because being rude is politically incorrect doesn’t mean being rude is good. And so much of what’s happening I think on both sides of the political aisle is this idea that you can do almost any horrible thing if it annoys the right people. And that’s a huge part of the defense of Donald Trump, which I just find intellectually bankrupt, which is ‘Well, he’s got the right enemies’ or ‘He’s making the right people upset.’ Well, you have to look at what is actually upsetting them.”

I’m advocating for authenticity in our engagement, recognizing that intent does, in fact matter. (Another false dichotomy that I hear a lot is that it’s impact, not intent, that matters.) I believe impact and intent matter: whatever you’re presenting, how does that align with what you mean?

As Verna Myers says in her 2014 TED Talk, “We gotta get out of denial. Stop trying to be good people. We need real people.”