During a January panel discussion at EduCon on “Connections in Education” I cited three books that are mandatory reading for every teacher and school administrator. I offered these book recommendations for educators to grow in their understanding of race, culture and ethnicity, and in the process strengthen their connections with nonwhite students and parents.

That appearance led to an invitation this spring from MindShift KQED to write on a book that had a profound impact on my life today – a book that I was eager to share with others because of the lessons I learned. I chose “Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism” by Derrick Bell.

Excerpt:

The conversation sparked by Bell’s Faces at the Bottom of the Well among four Black women sitting in a Northeast D.C. living room is as indelible as the book’s content. In education, one of the foundational principles is that understanding and learning is enriched when students learn with and from each other. But not all learning happens in a classroom, and peer to peer education can take many forms. This book club rebuffed light reading fare. Its members – a PhD in social psychology, an English professor at the University of the District of Columbia, and a graduate student – saw the monthly book club as a seminar in raising racial consciousness and saw themselves as social justice teachers.

Faces at the Bottom of the Well pierced my perception and views about race and racism in America.

Read more on how “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” affected me and continues to influence me as a writer, parent and lifelong learner.

On so many measures Black girls are overlooked and undervalued. This includes the gauntlet they must run to make it into college. In my latest at The Hechinger Report I assert that a range of obstacles make it harder for Black girls to make it out of high school and into the ivy halls of higher education – including, but not limited to, access to experienced teachers and rigorous high school courses, disproportionately harsh discipline and the availability of school counselors.

Excerpt:

This is the season of new beginnings. High school graduations, filled with proud parents clutching balloons and cell-phone cameras, mark the end of 12 years of education as young adults embark on an exciting new phase of life. Yet as we celebrate the completion of the race, we often give scant attention to the endurance and perseverance required to finish. This is particularly acute for black girls. When the emphasis is on crossing the finish line, we can overlook the unique struggle of black girls – how race, gender, and class combined create hurdles that can make their path to college a steeplechase.

…researchers found an overwhelming majority of black students aspired to college – 87 percent – while only 65 percent had enrolled in a two- or four-year postsecondary program that fall. That’s an unconscionable number of unrealized dreams and aspirations.

Read more on Black girls’ unique struggle to get to college.

Black Girls Should Matter, Too. [The Atlantic]

Written on 11 May 2015, 08:43pm under As Seen In

Excerpt:

A mounting body of evidence suggests that black students across the country face daunting odds in their quest for an equitable education. Federal statistics show that black students in the U.S. are suspended and expelled three times as often than white students. Research on racial discrepancies in discipline underscores that the higher rates of punishment among black students don’t correlate with a greater tendency to violate school policies—rather, the data suggests they’re disciplined more harshly than whites and other students for identical infractions. A number of studies also suggest that racial stereotyping by teachers is a key reason black students are often stigmatized as both troublemakers prone to misbehavior and underachievers incapable of academic excellence.

Given the growing recognition that race and poverty hinder educational opportunity and outcomes, leaders ranging from policymakers to businesspeople have committed to tackling this crisis. Yet their interventions and solutions are centered on boys of color. This often renders black girls all but invisible.

If you’d like to read more, please click here and let us know what you think.

When Racist Acts Obscure Racism [Teaching Tolerance]

Written on 17 March 2015, 08:18pm under As Seen In

Talking about race and racism and racial bias is uncomfortable and uneasy and most white people would rather opt for a root canal sans novocaine than have an honest and direct conversation about the r-words and this country’s long, sordid history. So the national norm becomes obfuscation and a pattern of strategic distraction.

My latest at Teaching Tolerance unravels the absurdities. What leads adults to subscribe to the faulty logic blaming rap music for racism and all of the other mental gymnastics people go through to avoid reality. The piece also discusses how teachers and schools can play a critical role in checking this line of thought.

Prolific writer, civil rights activist and social critic James Baldwin never minced words on racism. His extended quote here is profound and relevant – 50 years later.

One wishes that Americans, white Americans, would read, for their own sakes, this record, and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives. The fact that Americans, white Americans, have not yet been able to do this – to face their history, to change their lives – hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world.
For history, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.
And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror, one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror, because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history.
James Baldwin, “White Man’s Guilt,” 1965