I am so white I am like a caricature of whiteness. You see me coming; blonde, blue eyes, tall, my Viking heritage directly responsible for the four blonde children that cruise around with me in our mini-van while we bungle the words to Despacito. I was born white, it is who I am, but I am on a journey to use my innate privilege to be something more. Not just an ally, but a fighter. Someone who doesn’t just shut the door when the going gets tough but leaves it wide open.
We live in a neighborhood that does not mirror us. It is through circumstance we came to it but by choice that we stayed. Living among other cultures, races and identities have brought many questions to our dining room table. Questions that were hard for us to navigate with our young children, questions who pushed our own thinking. I shudder to think whether these questions would have been posed by my children if we did not live here. And so I think of the choices we, as white people, make as a privileged society to keep our lives homogenous. How we live in neighborhoods where people look like us, we send our kids to schools where they float in a sea of whiteness, we not only elect people whose values mirror our own but so do their faces. I can choose to step away from racism. I can choose to step away from inequity discussions. I can choose to step away from anything that may be upsetting, dangerous, or demoralizing.
I am privileged because I get to be afraid of the type of reaction my teaching may cause if I continue to discuss inequity. If I continue to discuss racism. If I continue to discuss what it means to be privileged in my classroom. I get to be afraid for my job and I get to choose whether to have these hard conversations or not. But the truth is, there should be no choice. We, as teachers, are on the front lines of changing the future narrative of this country. Ugliness and all. We are the bastions of truth, so what truth are we bringing into our classrooms?
I saw this tweet from ILA
and it has kept me up at night. Where are the white allies? Where have I been? Have I done enough? Where is our courage when it comes to being a part of dismantling a racist and prejudiced system? It is not enough to have diverse books in our classrooms if we are too afraid to discuss diversity and what the lack of humanity for others does to our democracy. It is not enough to say “You matter” and then do nothing to change the world that we live in. Or to celebrate diversity and then not accept a child for who they truly are, differences and all. It is not enough to say we are an ally if our actions don’t match our words. I don’t need 100 clones of me, I need to create more opportunities for the students to do the hard work. To offer them an opportunity to decide. To create an environment where they can discover their own opinion. Where they can explore the world, even when it is ugly so that they can decide which side of history they want to fall on.
So this year I am planning for even harder conversations. I am planning on being an ally, for being a fighter, even when I get scared. We say we teach all children, but do we teach all stories? Do we teach the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or just the sanitized version that will not ruffle any feathers? I am so white, I am like a caricature of whiteness, but perhaps even this white person can make a difference by not being so afraid. By listening, by asking questions, and by doing more than just saying that this world is filled with wrongness.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.