I’m calling this Part I because I suspect that as soon as I publish it, I will think of more, so here goes.

I am doing this because Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis Linton, in their book argue persuasively that “[c]losing the racial achievement gap begins with an examination of self rather than others” (73).

Scene – hotel room, New York

watching a show with my mother and maybe my sister

A white family is packing. The older daughter is expecting her boyfriend to come over to help. The family is also expecting a truck of some kind – Salvation Army-ish – to pick up their donations. A young white man comes over and the assumption is that he’s the boyfriend. The family gives him lemonade, treats him kindly, etc.. A young black man comes over and he is given the boxes of donations and treated brusquely. And, you’ve figured it out by now, the family has gotten it backwards. The white daughter is dating the black man.

Innocently (honestly), I turned to my mother and said, “What would you do if I showed up at the door with a black girlfriend?” Her response: “Slam the door in your face.”

I went to the first integrated private school in Washington D.C.. There were absolutely no black males in my (small) graduating class. When I went to say something about it at a special occasion, I was told by a teacher that if I started to say it, she’d unplug my microphone.

Conference – Maybe even the White Privilege Conference, Minnesota

Question: What’s “white culture”?

Me (long pause): I don’t know. I hope it’s not the Confederate Flag and the KKK.

Crossing 57th Street, Chicago, almost getting hit by a car — I can’t remember what I said, but I was instantly and physically ashamed. The one time I remember actively making a racist comment. Actively.

“Welcome to having a race!” – Eula Biss, to a mostly white audience, Minneapolis

reading The New Jim Crow – I could see these pieces I knew all line up and fit together

I don’t know what these all add up to. My father and I have had many arguments along the lines of – Why can’t the blacks succeed? The Asians have. (His point of view.) I once heard my brother make a watermelon joke. Shocked, I said nothing. I taught at a school where the population was white, black and Asian. I had a hard time with the Asian (generally Hmong) students. I found it hard to connect.

When did I realize my privilege? My advantages? I think maybe when I began to listen to other people’s stories – first in college, but mostly when I started teaching and began to see the lives of children, lives that, at least on the surface, were not like mine.

Tamir Rice. I went to the Rec Center. That was just all wrong. I try to see things from different points of view. There is no other point of view here. It was wrong, wrong, wrong.

As a teacher, I had and sometimes, I’m sure, still have, the white savior complex. Ladson-Billings – don’t get educated to get out, get educated to return.

Field trips, travel – when I mention these things, when I take students elsewhere – the assumptions, how to get on a plane, why there are two forks, etc..

Privilege – realizing, after we had children, that they would not get hassled simply for being.

Reading – noticing (finally) that even in books I love, books that I share and want to share that normal = white. Heart-hurting.

Our children, who came of age during Obama, are starting to notice things. Why do I get yelled at more when I sit in the back of the bus? Why do kids sit certain ways in the cafeteria? This from a child who was assigned ‘slavery’ as her immigration issue a few years back.

More soon, I’m sure.

 

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