Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A bit of a Tangent

So later today I'm going to participate in a live chat about race in the classroom. I can't wait to see what others are talking about...I am however, mortified that when I was typing my question, I was near the end of a 2 part question and accidentally hit the enter key! It sent the question before I completed it! Oh well, the first question was a good one. If they use it, that's cool. If not, well I know to be more careful next time. I'm excited about participating in this, as it is a major part of what I'm concerned with in schools. The major question for the live chat is: Should teachers be race blind or not? Should race be an issue in the class or not? I can see it both ways. I see that race has been a major issue in this country for the entirety of its existence and it has shaped many facets of our government. I also see the basis of being race "blind." I don't think it should shape how teachers respond to students or how they create a classroom environment. However, I do believe it is vital to include examples and discussions in the classroom that are ethnically diverse. To do otherwise is to white wash a student's experience in school and that is detrimental to their development.

Our country was shaped by many, many ethnic backgrounds. Look at the food you eat. Look at the tags on the clothes you wear. Look at the car you drive. Look at the bike you ride. Look at your computer screen. This diversity did not happen by accident. It has happened over time and has shaped life as we know it.

Students should be exposed to and allowed to explore this in the classroom. They need to know that while Thomas Jefferson takes and is given credit for building Monticello, he did not build it. He designed it. His slaves built it.

They need to know that Eli Whitney who takes credit for the cotton gin, did not create it. His slave created it and built it. Think about it. Why on earth would a white man who did no physical labor come up with that concept? His slave came up with it, as the person who performed the physical labor day in and day out.

Later in our history, there were gangs in New York fighting for rights. They were of Irish, Italian and German decent. This is important.

Women were fighting (and still continue to fight) for equal rights and equal pay as men. Do you know in Kentucky there is still not a rule that employers are required to pay women the same amount as men? Such BS.

The students need to know about the treatment of Japanese and Chinese in the 1950s, who were taken from their homes and imprisoned on suspicion of communism. They were American citizens! They lost what they had because our government singled them out based on their race...nothing more. That was not long ago.

Today Muslims are being attacked, simply because of their religion. I worked with a girl who is a Muslim and I saw the looks she got. I saw how people overlooked her to talk to me, the white girl behind the counter. Sometimes I ignored them and walked away, making it necessary for them to talk to my Muslim friend. I did it to make a point. She is a very nice, very bright and funny girl. She is just like me. She simply believes differently. She's not a freaking terrorist. She's a college kid. She's a daughter. She's a sister. She's an aunt and she's a friend.

Another time, at the same store where I worked, my dear friend, Amal, from Jordan was discriminated against simply because of her accent. The lady said (among other terrible things), "You're one of those people aren't you? Are you one of those Muslim people?" The lady was very rude to Amal and Amal tried to be polite, but she eventually got angry and told the woman, "No, I'm not Muslim. Do you see this cross? (showing the woman her necklace) I am a Christian!" Then Amal refused to help the lady......the lady sent a bad message to the HR people who in turn fired my friend. She was fired for taking up for herself.

I know I go on and on about this stuff, but it is really embedded in my heart. I can't help it. I can't get enough of it and at the same time I'm sick to my soul of it. How can this country, this so-called powerhouse be so utterly stupid? How? When it systematically pushes some down while it meticulously raises up others? I understand the need for social stratification in a capitalist economy. I do. I just find it interesting that along with that social stratification comes a color line. Not a particular color line....but I can say that the majority are non-white and that frustrates me. This is 2008!

So many people of all ethnic groups scream, "Get over it. Slavery ended a long time ago. Segregation ended a long time ago....racism ended a long time ago!" I say this...if you think racism has ended, then you are either blind or you have surrounded yourself with a group of people who are just like you. They are likely of the same ethnic group and religious beliefs as you, therefore you do not see what goes on. Is this a bad thing? It is not bad to surround yourself with others like you. We do that by nature. However, it is wrong to remain ignorant of a problem that continues to fester in our country. If you leave a wound unattended, it will eventually make itself known to you. The question is, will you be ready?

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"

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