In all honesty, I don't know what to write following Charlottesville and walking in this place where a curtain over white supremacy has been lifted, and there's a lot of ugliness staring us in the face. So instead of trying to actually write, the first thing I did was to start compiling resources that amazing folks were posting all over, thinking that I could contribute by sharing them. That's fine, and you can find a bunch of links in this post, and I hope you find them as helpful and as inspiring as I do. But even though it's hard to know what to say, it feels it's more dangerous, and more cowardly, not to even try. So here I go.
Over these past two weeks, I've been thinking about the ways that white supremacy has always been here. It's always been here, and it's not that it's been mostly invisible in recent decades. It's that, for lots of us who are white, it's surrounding us all the time and we simply. Don't. See it. I don't mean the white supremacy that shows up in white hoods with torches, burning crosses. We can all see that, and it's pretty easy to agree that it's awful. (Not as easy for some of our leaders as it should be, but that's a conversation for another time.) I mean the version of supremacy that also means ubiquity. In the image at the top of this post, it's called covert white supremacy. The version that hides behind one of my least favorite phrases, "because that's the way it's always been done," or worse, "because that's just the way it is." The version that makes "white" the default of everything, so omnipresent that it's just part of the wallpaper. Because it's all we see, it makes it easy for white people not to notice that everywhere they look in media there are ads, shows, and movies is full of people that look like them. That every time they browse through books, they are full of protagonists that look like them. The people in our government, the people on magazine covers, the people in history books…the people in front of our classrooms. I was thinking recently about teachers of color, and I knew that I didn't have a teacher who wasn't white until college, but suddenly I stopped to think, and realized I couldn't think of a single teacher of color in my district at all. Elementary, middle, and high school in a suburban town in north Jersey, and I couldn't picture a single teacher who wasn't white. Which means that the small number of kids of color never saw teachers who looked like them (when a recent study demonstrated that having even one black teacher raises the graduation rate of kids of color), and for the majority white students, our sense that white is the norm, is all there is, was only ingrained deeper. That's just one, personal example, but this is the part of white supremacy that doesn't look evil. My excellent, intelligent, caring white teachers didn't carry torches. Many of them actively encouraged us to be open, empathetic, accepting, and to value all people. But in a society where white is the default, everything else is automatically devalued. This is the white supremacy that is insidious, that sneaks around in the guise of "the way things are" but meanwhile bears fruit that looks like racism, cycles of poverty, the school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality, and on, and on...
I think that a huge part of the work in front of us, if we want to fight white supremacy and build anti-racism, is to start looking harder and seeing this appalling wallpaper for what it really is. It might look okay to us from a distance, but the work will be to look closer, and see it for what it really is. It's going to take a lot of practice, because a lot of us are white people who are really not used to doing it, and a lot of others are trying to deny that it's there at all. But let's dig in. The world needs this from us, badly.
I feel like I'm back to the beginning: writing about this is hard. The vampires in my head are telling me that I don't have any idea what I'm talking about, who am I to be weighing in, and that I'm definitely going to screw this up. (That's a little [title of show] musical reference there for you to lighten the mood with vampires, by the way.) Also, I didn't even get to the part where it ties in with my work as an educator, and that's supposed to be the point of this whole blog. In this case, the vampires are probably right. But I'm also going to share this anyway, because sometimes we have to do what's hard, and because I don't want the bad guys to win, white supremacists, vampires, or otherwise.
Writing about practicing literacy and freedom with my small humans.