Thursday, March 25, 2010

Speaking into the Silence

In the 2 full days since the newspaper story broke, there has been an eerie and disturbing silence in our district. NOT A WORD from our administration, from other staff members, or anyone. Nothing. The silence has been difficult for me. Speaking into the silence tonight was necessary. I went solo on this. I am reminded how the 50 students of color at my high school feel like they're "going solo" nearly every time they walk into the school, my classroom, the gym, the art room, the parking lot.

I pressed the send button and sent this letter district wide - to every working person in my district:.
Please leave a comment if you have resources I've missed. Or, add a comment with your own interpretation of events. I'm especially interested in learning how to be a good ally - feel free to add your own nudge. And, thanks for reading.

Dear Colleagues,

I'm reaching out to my colleagues in the district to encourage thoughtful and introspective consideration of the highly charged recent discussions of racial tensions in our school district.

In some instances, I have felt concerned that our community often recognizes only the most extreme and blatant actions as actually constituting "racism", excuses offenders as 'young ignorant kids', denies the problems that people of color present as their lived reality, and blames minority communities for the "problem." .

Some of you know that I have been working diligently during the past 3 years to become a better ally in our school community and our community at large.

I've taken several classes, participate in a number of online forums, read and continue to read about ways to resist racism, and dedicated myself to being an anti-racist parent.

I've scoured some of my favorite resources and included links to those I find accessible/readable/friendly/pertinent to the myriad of discussions happening in public and private spaces in
our schools, homes, and communities.

Here are some sources - I promise I've tried to keep them readable, brief, and powerful. I know we don't have enormous amounts of time on our hands to delve into resources. But, we must.

I hope my efforts help move our students and our own lives into spaces of increasing understanding, compassion, and dialogue. I hope that if you have resources you would like to share that you will add to this conversation with information to continue our community learning. I look forward to hearing from you.

Here it is!

This is an all time classic by Peggy McIntosh. It is an excellent exercise you can do in 15 minutes. Do it. Please.
http://curlykidz.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/unpackingtheknapsack.pdf

My friend wrote this great piece on how to be an ally. Her piece focuses on why it is important for white majority people to understand our privilege and more deeply recognize the unearned benefits of our whiteness. The end of her article includes other awesome resources for self-reflection and processing.
http://loveisntenough.com/2009/12/30/how-to-be-an-anti-racist-ally/

This link references the program "NIOT" (Not in Our Town) which has become a national movement to combat bullying and racism in schools. I know there are many programs - this is one that has available resources for the classroom and community.
http://www.pbs.org/niot/get_involved/edu_resources.html
Discussion of NOIT with some video clips of parents and kids: http://loveisntenough.com/2010/02/24/what-to-do-when-your-child-is-being-bullied/#more-1347

For those of you who are visual learners - a 3 minute discussion about how to talk about racism.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc&feature=player_embedded

This is an interview with one of my heroes, Beverly Daniel Tatum. She has written many books about race in America. I highly recommend Why Are All The Blacks Kids Sitting Together in The Cafeteria and Can We Talk about Race. I wrote a 'book review' for a local class (Racial Healing) on Can We Talk About Race - feel free to ask for it.
http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-03-04.htm

Read anything and everything by Tim Wise. I particularly recommend White Like Me
http://www.timwise.org/ or his blog http://www.redroom.com/blog/tim-wise
for brief pieces.

6 comments:

Cindy said...

This is wonderful Meghan. I am anxious to see the response. I am also looking forward to reading the articles I have not seen.

Tammy said...

Thanks for all your efforts Meghan. I'm proud of you for taking a stand and offering your knowledge out there so that others can be educated - it's necessary! Thanks for the resources.

Phyllis said...

Dear Meghan, I found your blog through a google search for articles about racial unity. First, I would like to send you my respect and support for your courage and commitment to the work of creating racial unity, particularly through ally-building and education about the role that whites need to play. And I'd also like to offer you a resource. My husband and I are white, middle-class, suburban, a-little-older-than-middle-aged authors. We've just finished a book entitled "Longing: Stories of Racial Healing" that will be released on May 1st. We're setting out from Oregon in 6 weeks for a year-long book tour around the country, and we hope to do readings in schools whenever possible. I don't know where you're located, but you can see our tour route on our website at www.StoriesofRacialHealing.com. I hope there is some way that either we or our book can assist you in your efforts to educate your community.
Best regards,
Phyllis Unterschuetz

Jenn said...

Could you be more eloquent? Really, that is the best letter addressing the issue and not pointing fingers. Thank you Meghan, you know I would be standing right next to you in this if I were still working there.

Also, posted your Case Against Camo on my blog....I couldn't have said it better and so I didn't.

Tanya said...

You are a STAR.

VanVoorsts said...

Meghan - Great work! May I post this to my blog? I lost your e-mail again:( Take care.