Bare with me, I have time to think and its going better than expected.
I’m so blessed to be living in a time and space in this great country of ours where I can have a discussion with people who think with their brains and not simply regurgitate the noise of other, less worthy souls. I just needed to say that.
So, in my Diverse Learners class, a side bar to this week’s discussion on differentiated instruction involved a scenario:
Drama teacher (white male) wants to put on a Black History Month program. He discovers, (apparently to his horror) that he doesn’t have enough students to play the “black” parts in the program. Our instructor asks us, should he put some white students in black face? (our instructor is black and according to him, this is a true story, btw.)
The discussion banters politely back and forth for a while and then (because I AM the evil step child of Satan), I decide to “go there”:
So, question prof? You mentioned the term “black performer”. What IS a black performer?
An African American actor or actress.
Oh, ok. So what if… the “African American actor or actress” was born in Africa, is currently an American citizen but doesn’t have the racial and/or cultural characteristics of what you are calling a “black” performer? Charlize Theron comes immediately to mind.
That was two days ago. I’m still waiting for a response… from someone… hell ANYONE.
In the meantime, I found a very interesting article in Huffington Post which challenges what “black” looks like. Basically, “being black” has almost nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin but everything to do with their frame of mind regarding self and the frame of mind regarding self of the one “looking” at them. I sent the link privately to my professor. Hope he responds.
OK, so, my point in all of this is, well, part of being a good teacher is to consider our
personal biases about the diverse nature of our classrooms. You really have NO idea what you’re “looking at” when you see that sea of faces, so why try to pigeonhole them? Yes, from a PURELY academic point of view, we have lots of research based evidence that states some groups learn one way and others in another way, based on their cultural, racial, and/or socioeconomic positioning. However, to consider putting black face on a white child, what does that say about what the teacher thinks of the white child? How would their parents react to it? Some of the comments of my classmates, professional and subdued as they were, spoke volumes about their points of view about what they see in the classroom.
I have the advantage (or disadvantage if you choose to see it that way), of knowing what it feels like to be “black” and not being able to “run away” from that. (not that I would want to; there are no words to express the spiritual honor I feel has been bestowed on me to be who I am) As noted in the HuffPost article, there are some who COULD get away with “not being black”, but they CHOOSE otherwise. Being a teacher who doesn’t blink at the notion of “let’s just make some black people” sends the message that who people are racially, culturally, ethnically and/or spiritually isn’t really that important to him/her. That… is really sad.
What do YOU think “nonwhite in America” looks like? Where did that view come from?