Why can’t we study someone who is actually Black…?

This week was Black Lives Matter week of action and Black Lives Matter at School week. My school took part in a ton of the curriculum that was provided on this phenomenal website. Students created posters in art class that were displayed all over the school. We also had interactive areas where students, staff, and faculty to write responses to statements like: “Bricolage shows that Black lives matter when…” “In the future, Bricolage can show that Black lives matter by…” and “I/you can be a strong ally by….”

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Another colleague who is a huge leader in the diversity and equity work at my school made these awesome posters for her Kindergarten classroom and for anyone else who wanted to display them. Her name is Nikki Minor and her contact info is on the first page of this document. If you’re looking for some great signage for Black History Black Futures (BHBF) month, these are a great start for your class or your school!

As advisories for BHBF month, each advisory was challenged to pick an influential  African American figure (past or present) in their advisor’s field of study to research and present to other advisories later this month.  I shared a list of Afro Latinos that I thought my kids would be excited about. We voted on one (Sofina DeJesus- such a bad ass!)

 

We voted… but not before a couple of my more vocal kiddos made it known how upset they were that we couldn’t focus on someone who was “really” black…

I never realized how challenging it is to explain the difference between race and ethnicity to children so young. Especially as a white woman of privilege, I found it a balancing act. I have worked tirelessly to form relationships this year, especially in my advisory space, and with ONE question/statement, I became very aware that my choice of words to explain this and all its nuance MATTERED a GREAT deal… One of my students, was clearly upset, and I didn’t want to move on without hearing, and having everyone hear, why that was… She said “I just don’t know why we can’t study someone who is actually black…” three other voices piped up and said something like “yea” or “I agree”…

I was very fortunate to have read an article with an interview Cardi B did this fall explaining the difference between the two and I actually think that THAT is what helped me most. It is SO very important our students feel seen and heard. I needed to HEAR my African American students in that moment and I was lucky to have a way to explain race and ethnicity from another well known African American, or better said “Afro Latina”‘s point of view, who they really respect. (This is not a blog to hear whether or not you agree about them respecting or liking Cardi)….

Cardi is often told she isn’t “really” black which really frustrates her. My students were shocked by this because ALL of them consider her to be black…. This is an article about the interview and in it Cardi explains that she doesn’t blame people for misunderstanding the difference between race and ethnicity. She believes it is our educational system’s fault… Hence this blog…

While I am not entirely sure I did it right (or if there even IS a right way), and I think that I still have a lot of conversations to have, I am glad I’ve opened the door for my students to know they can have these discussions with me. Today we (our school community) wore black for pride and in solidarity to conclude the Black Lives Matter at School week. It was a powerful day. I challenge you, even if you don’t work at a school like mine to do this “work”. It is challenging, and it is at times uncomfortable, but if you’re doing work on diversity and equity correctly, it SHOULD be uncomfortable at times. It is especially important for you to do this work if you’re white and privileged  like me. This is a great article on why we can’t leave all of the race and equity work to our colleagues of color.

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If you have any great recommendations for me on continuing the conversation of race vs. ethnicity with my kids I would love to hear them! (Comment on this blog so we can all learn from you!) I am thinking of creating some materials or finding some videos on it that can be shared with our 5th and 6th graders during advisory time next week.

Thank you for the incredible work you do! February is statistically a VERY challenging month for teachers… Hang in there!

Until next time,

HAPPY TEACHING!

Love,

La Maestra Loca

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2 comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have some thoughts on this work- your reflection about how to answer that super important question is so important. And thank you for the resources. With much love, and here’s to future discussions.

  2. I love these great ideas (enough to pass it on!), and I wondered if you could share your list of afro-latinos? Thank you for sharing.

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