Show Me Your Work

This week marks the beginning of Black History / Futures Month. As a Black educator I am both excited and hesitant.

For the past few years, this time of Black celebration has been first marked by building up walls around cheap narratives for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day in January. Black people remind the world to not use Dr. King as a prop for their aims. We remind the world that he was radical and he is not around today because he was too radical for whiteness.

This is why being Black in education makes me tense during Black History / Futures month. I have learned to not have faith in these institutions when the focus is forced on marginalized groups. Hispanic Heritage Month and Native American Month have already passed. I know the effort (or lack thereof) that is going to be put into celebrating my people, and discussing the reality of our history.

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About Writing About Blackness

Black culture ≠ pain.

Recognizing our marginalization is vital but we are not defined by the pain inflicted by white supremacy. Recognize our holidays. Our cuisine. Our dances. Our music. Our languages. How we raise our children. How we treat our elders. Our spiritualities.

I read an Atlantic article recently that alluded to a culture clash between Black students and educators in schools. Title: “What’s Lost When Black Children Are Socialized Into a White World“. I was excited to read about Black child-rearing. I was sorely disappointed. The article didn’t focus on how Black parents raise Black children, or specific cultural clashes with whiteness. Instead, I got the much-covered topic of disproportionate discipline of Black students.

The topic deserves attention. As an educator it’s very real and something I think about and see daily. My problem is with the framing of the article. As if it would be about culture when it was in fact about marginalization. That misdirection plays into the narrative that Black culture is complementary to Whiteness. That our culture is what whiteness does and does not do to us. It misses how Black families raise children as cultural and in ways unique to our culture. Continue reading