I didn’t start this post with a coherent topic today, just some journaling. But now that I’ve written it, it seems to be all about representation.
Equity and cultural competence. We read a great article this week about equity education. The main points were:
- The “cultural celebration” model is not stopping racism, that schools should actually be teaching about equity;
- That it is the privileged people that need equity education, not the marginalized communities; and
- Although teaching equity may feel “political,” choosing to not each equity is in itself a very political choice.
The article started with an anecdote about the scholar surveying the brown kids, and hearing that they are frustrated with continuing racism and discrimination in their lives at school and how the multicultural celebrations that the school puts on don’t serve them or address any of their grievances. Later, the scholar learns that the multicultural celebration is the creation and joy of the principal, Jonathan, who was shocked to learn that the brown kids resented it.
I’m sure that Principal Jonathan has good intentions; my intention is not to blame him. But maybe he doesn’t have the cultural perspective or the preparation necessary to meet end goals of his program. His ethnicity is not named in the article; whether or not that was intentional, the effect is still political. It strikes me that the people that create multicultural programs meant to address justice are most often privileged white people, for whom cultural diversity is a topic that has been brought to their attention; they have the privilege of spending most of their waking hours not thinking about culture clash.
Some of us, on the other hand, were burned by culture clash at a young age, and spend most of our waking lives conscious and in constant analysis of culture clash. On the rare occasions we do find a “safe space” to let our guard against culture clash, the it’s such a relief that it’s often euphoric.
Maybe some people that have experienced racism and discrimination personally, and have dedicated their careers to equity and cultural competence should be the ones creating these programs.
You know, we do let privileged people into our “safe space” once in a while, let them have a glimpse. For some of them, it’s challenging; they feel threatened in our safe space. I’m thinking specifically of the time some of my white peers when to a lucha libre show in central California, and the goons of the lucha libre were portrayed as ICE and Customs and Border Patrol, soundly booed upon entrance.
At the time I chose not to help my white peers process those feelings; honestly I still have a hard time relating to their discomfort. I don’t doubt it though. People of Color often feel discomfort in spaces where our white peers feel safe. That’s part of being a cultural group in America.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and (secret) Cultural Competence. The word “diversity” has changed a lot over my career. It used to be that “diversity” itself was seen as a challenge, a problem to be dealt with. Later, “diversity” became a cover term for “brown people,” to the point that my colleagues were calling the brown kids “diversity kids” and “students of diversity.” At other times, “diversity” itself was the goal; that we want to increase our “diversity.”
Nowadays, diversity is just a fact of life; it’s amoral. It’s something we have whether we like it or not, and it is possible, even likely, that environments and institutions can be culturally and ethnically diverse and also white-normative at the same time. Euro-centrism and white supremacy were always the problem.
I like the idea that we should teach equity, that there are injustices in society that can be corrected. I also like the idea of teaching cultural competence; that all of us (including the privileged majority) can be taught to be good citizens of a multicultural society. Our white friends will soon be a minority in this country, maybe more of them can choose a society where minorities are not marginalized.
We don’t have to teach diversity, we are a diverse population, whether we like it or not, and racism still exists regardless. Do we have to teach “inclusion?” Making everyone feel “included” is a nice goal, but if I don’t feel particularly “included” in an ugly sweater faculty Christmas party, who is it that needs “inclusion” training? When monolingual faculty feel threatened about hearing Spanish in the faculty room, who is it that needs “inclusion” training?
I’m not that impressed with inclusion. For me, ending discrimination in education, employment, housing, and law enforcement is the priority; those are the justice issues. We can deal with feelings of inclusion as well, but that to me is the icing on the cake. We have to bake the cake first.
A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood. I really admire Fred Rodgers. I was enthralled by his congressional testimony on behalf of PBS and his advocacy for education (and yes, inclusion!). I think he was a prophet we didn’t know we had; a great soul who walked among us. Hearing people’s personal stories of his insight and kindness makes me tear up a little.
Do you know, as a kid, I couldn’t relate to him? Could not. The TV show made my skin crawl a little, just in it’s slow pace and lack of pay off. When my younger peers were enthralled to watch him, I learned to just wait it out; just endure the boring show and later there would be Muppets.
I’m not saying this to disparage Mr. Rodgers, or to say that I’m a soulless monster. As an adult I’m fascinated by his life and legacy. As a young kid in the 70s I didn’t connect with him. My point is that well meaning white men can have the best of intentions and the purity of heart of Mr. Rodgers, and the resources and scope of PBS, and still not connect with every kid. What a blessing Mr. Rogers was to so many kids; I didn’t have that same experience. I wonder what it was like. I wonder how kids these days feel when watching the new Blues Clues with Joshua de la Cruz; I wonder if I would have been drawn to a Filipino American image on the television. The strongest connection I had to a television personality was to Fozzie Bear.
Side note. Looking at Fozzie Bear now reminds me of a bucket of the old Kentucky Fried Chicken extra crispy chicken.
Notes from Native American Week. Sondra Samonte Segundo was a guest speaker at work yesterday, I was struck by a few things she said. First of all I thought her art, her story Lovebirds, and her songs were enthralling, and I loved the pride she took in her language, her culture, her drum, and her cedar hat.
She said she sends her step son to O’Dea and that she is glad to speak at a religious school, saying (paraphrasing) that indigenous people knew Jesus before colonization, that they knew that Creator send his son to live among us.
Later, when someone asked how she can not be angry at the US Government and the Church for their atrocities, she said, “Jesus wasn’t a colonizer.” I’m pretty sure the kids missed the power of that statement, but my jaw dropped and I saw many of the adults with the same reaction. Later she said “Creator didn’t make the borders.” Again, a quote that went over the heads of many, but absolutely crackling with social commentary to people like me.
“This is the Way.” I subscribed to Disney+ so I can watch this show, and I found myself rushing home last night to catch the third episode. It’s some space fantasy, a gritty 1970s Hollywood western, super violent, and… and an astoundingly effective appeal to cuteness. In addition, although there are many characters on the show, there are only three human faces, all supporting characters. One of them is a European actor, another is African American man, and the third is Iranian American, and they’re all bad guys.
So the total of streaming/television shows that I actually like is up to three: The Mandalorian, the Good Place, and Star Trek Discovery. All three have a magical/spiritual philosophical element, all three have diverse casts, whose diversity reflects the Los Angeles that I know. I’m so over the days of whites-only Hollywood casts; those productions actually stress me out now.
Anyway, it also strikes me that I’m watching all three of them as if they are broadcast television; seeing the latest episode the day it comes out and waiting a week or more for the next one. I’m old fashioned that way. The only kid of binging I do nowadays is binge grading.