Kids of Color, Learning, & Narrative Justice
I had an interesting experience with my nephew recently that left me wondering how much curriculum can impact learning. I gave this book to my sister for my nephew and he fell in love with it right away.
Tired of his endless requests to read the book to him, she hid it under the couch. I recently pulled it out from its hiding place and was surprised to see how much he still loved it. But why? It didn’t have a special texture/distinctive color scheme from any of the other books on his shelf, and it didn’t rhyme in a way that sparked his interest.
In fact, the only (and perhaps most meaningful) difference with this book is that it features people with brown and black skin and many hijabis. Even though he’s just shy of two-years-old, he’s aware of his surroundings and is drawn to it because it reflects his culture and identity. I’m amazed at how much this book has had a profound impact on him and makes him want to read. This makes me wonder if we’re losing a lot of our kids in the K-12 system because the existing curriculum is generally produced from a white American perspective with little or no recognition of the historical, economic, and cultural experiences/contributions/expressions of the diverse ethnic, racial, and religious communities around us.
Among the various challenges in our education system, it seems like we pay the least attention to inequalities and injustices when it comes to curricula. We don’t spend enough time considering:
- how people are portrayed and by whom,
- what information is shared and from what perspective,
- and who wins/loses in the process.
I’m amazed that our collective society fails to question why our young kids are exposed to racism through Harper Lee? For as brilliant as To Kill a Mocking Bird is, I think it’s a tragedy that the leading (and often ONLY) book most American youth read about racism is written by a person who has not experienced it personally.
From literature to history and everything in between – I remember constantly feeling academically disengaged, left out, and misrepresented throughout my K-12 school experience. But I don’t want to give the impression that this only matters to kids of color. The existing system breeds a population of young white people who are growing up in an increasingly interconnected world but have no conceptualization of their privilege, are exposed to an ethnocentric view of the world, aren’t aware of how they fit in the global context, and are ignorant of the existence of and immense wealth communities of color have to offer.
What if we changed our history books to reflect the demographics in our schools, include narratives from indigenous communities, and represent various other perspectives? I think this could potentially play an important role in helping us close the academic achievement gap and create a more informed, culturally competent, and thoughtful members of society.
If white people are going to adopt children of color and raise them to survive in a white supremacist world, they need to be actively anti-racist. Love is not enough.
Adopt—or raise their own mixed race kids. Either way. They must model that fight, demonstrate that awareness, manifest such love in action so the child can mimic and internalize the pride.
Bolding mine. Blood relation or not, if you’re white and your kid isn’t, active anti-racism is part of the package deal of responsibility in raising your kid.
For example, tourist agencies targeting European male tourists who come to Brazil in search of “ethnic” prostitution and sexual commerce would promote Brazil as a tropical paradise using flyers and catalogs featuring brown-skinned, sometimes semi-nude baianas*. Exploitation of the black body is also apparent every year, slightly before and during the month of February, when black women that are usually largely invisible from Brazil’s major television channels throughout the year suddenly become abundant on television programs, appearing semi-nude, gyrating their hips, legs and derrieres at lightning speeds in Carnaval parades and beauty contests. In general, these women are labeled mulatas. The Brazilian mulata: black woman or something entirely different? (via cosmicyoruba)
[tw racism] aaanyway it blows my mind that white people raised this whole generation of kids that don’t know what racism is.
Like, sooo many of these white kids young teens to midtwenties that were raised in this “colorblind” idea. Combined with the idea from not only parents, but TV shows, films, and bit and pieces of writing that reinforce the idea that we live in a a fantasy land where equality has been achieved, *isms don’t exist, and that everyone has the same universal experiences, opportunities and advantages as everyone else.
I mean, take my white ex, for example. He’s my ex for many very good reasons, but he was raised to understand that 1. racism is a thing that exists in the world 2. he had a race and that race was privileged in society over other people for no good reason and 3. many people do not have the advantages that he had had. That seems to me fairly obvious and simple.
I can think of one incident where he was in a car going over to a friends house, and the two friends were latino and black. They got pulled over for what was obviously a DWB, and the cop spent 30 minutes tossing the car for drugs. They even tried to tear up the seat upholstery for weak places where drugs might be sewn into the seats. All three friends stayed silent and sat where they were told to sit, because they all knew that anything you say just makes it worse. Then the cop finally let them go, but told them that they were “banned” from the city of Lynwood. Problem was, the latino friend lived in Lynwood. So my ex got behind the wheel of his friend’s car and drove them home the long way around, because he understood that he had white privilege and that it could be used to get his friend home slightly safer than might be the case otherwise. He used that privilege to benefit me more than once.
It’s not about guilt, and it’s not about being a white savior. It’s about surviving in a racist world, in a racist system, and not getting your friend and possibly yourself beaten to death in the street by the LAPD or the CHiPs. He understood shut the fuck up so you don’t get shot. It’s about understanding the oppression exists, in a fundamental way, so that when you open your stupid white mouth you have some sense of how that shit is going to come off to a person of color. It’s about knowing better than to ask a brown or black person “why didn’t you just call the cops?” It’s about knowing that you don’t paint your fucking face to a darker tone for any reason.