Thinking, Reading, Writing, and Talking Race
By Tinaya York
There is much to talk about and much to think about. July 5, 6, and 7 are dates of much consternation as is the history of the nation -- these dates are just fresh. The newest memory of the many racial remembrances this country has stored in its archives.
I had planned to write this commentary on the topic of including more writing in the curriculum But I must now speak on what we have our children thinking, reading, writing and talking about and how might July 5, 6 and 7 help (re)introduce the need for us to have conversations about race.
Not about differences.
Not about learning others culture.
Not about multiculturalism.
Not about culturally relevant pedagogy.
Race as a social construct (not a biological one).
Race as an ideology.
Race as power.
If you work with children as a teacher, school leader, staff, coach or consultant, the following question is one you must begin to think about. How might we engage children in thinking, writing, reading and talking about race in its complexity?
This commentary is not meant to be a step-by-step guide on how to talk about race in classrooms. I want to take the readers into a space of reflection where you can do the work of unpacking your own ideas of race and how this systemic form of oppression impacts you, your instruction, your leadership and inevitably, what children learn.
Please note: If you teach in or interact with schools that are majority White, you are not off the hook.
I'm not talking about differences, learning others' culture, multiculturalism, and culturally relevant pedagogy.
I am talking about race as a social construct that has assigned groups into a mythical hierarchy of superiors and inferiors, as an ideology, as power, as, "Hands up, don't shoot!" As, "are you really going to continue funding schools inequitably?" As, "did you just close 50 schools in the black and brown neighborhoods?"
How will your schools think, read, write and talk about race this year?
If you have never dealt with the topic of race, literacy and education, check out these helpful readings:
Hilliard, A. (2001). "Race," identity, hegemony, and education: What do we need to know now? In W. Watkins, J. H. Lewis & V. Chou (Eds), Race and education: The roles of history and society in educating African American students. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Prendergast, C. (2003). Literacy and racial justice: The politics of learning after Brown v. Board of Education. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press
Rogers, R., & Mosley, M. (2006). Racial literacy in a second-grade classroom: Critical race theory, whiteness studies, and literacy research. Reading Research Quarterly, 41(4), 462-495.
Wilson, W. J. (2011). Being poor, Black and American: The impact of political, economic and cultural forces. American Educator. p 10-23, 46.
Hughes-Hassell, S., Barkley, H., & Koehler, E. (2010). Promoting equity in children's literacy instruction: Using a critical race theory framework to examine transitional books. American Association of School Librarians.
Perry, T. (2003). Freedom for literacy and literacy for freedom: The African-American philosophy of education. In T. Perry, C. Steele & A. Hilliard III (Eds.), Young, gifted and Black: Promoting high achievement among African-American students (pp. 11-51). Boston: Beacon Press.
If you have trouble locating these texts, feel free to email me and I will send them along (firstname.lastname@example.org).