White Privilege in Racial Justice Work

Let me start by emphatically saying: THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS. I did not write the following, but I completely own it. Paul Gorski posted a piece from his preface to his book, Everyday White People Confront Racial and Social Injustice. He explains how White privilege works for him (me) in his (my) anti-oppression and racial justice work.
Paul writes:
  1. I am often offered money, praise, and other rewards for going into communities and organizations and saying things that people of color in those communities have been saying, sometimes for generations, and often at their personal, physical, and professional peril.
  2. I was able to build a career out of doing social justice work without being seen as self-absorbed and self-serving. Rather, I’m often seen as brave for doing work for which many people of color are criticized, demeaned, targeted with violence, fired, and de-professionalized.
  3. It’s one thing to do racial justice work, and it’s something else altogether to be doing racial justice work while experiencing the weight of racism. One major difference is that I can, if I choose, retreat from racial justice work when it feels hard or inconvenient, while people of color cannot retreat from racism.
  4. I am often credited for ideas, concepts, and frameworks related to social justice that are not original to me even when I say they are not original to me.
  5. I can be seen by many people as a change agent or activist simply by writing essays or books about racism, by teaching courses about racism at a university, by speaking at plush diversity conferences, or by doing cultural competence or diversity consulting, regardless of whether I do any racial justice work for which I am not financially compensated and regardless of how I spend the rest of my time.
  6. I have the option of softening my racial justice message for particular types of audiences if doing so will help me sell more books or have a higher likelihood of being hired as a facilitator or consultant, and I can do so without making my parents or sister or niece and nephew, who are white, vulnerable to racism.
Thank you, Paul, for posting this and making these truths transparent.

Education for Liberation, Not Assimilation

Bravo Wisdom Gillchrist Amouzou! Thanks for showing us that true education equity is about teaching students to be transformative resisters–able to see, understand, deal with, respond to, and redress oppression.  And to do all that, Wisdom shows us that students must know themselves, their assets, and the strengths of their communities. They must form deep reciprocScreen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.02.32 AMal relationships with their peers and educators. Relationships rooted in being authentically known not steeped in compliance, assimilation, and judgment of character. Furthermore, students must have educators that are not afraid to let go of overly simplified notions of “excellence” and give students power and voice.

“We assume that access to a college education is enough to uproot systems of oppression; It simply isn’t. It is fundamentally a low expectation of what education can be.”

Wisdom has worked for a high performing Charter Network (see the shirts students are wearing) and has recently created a video that states:  “When I see a system that might produce GREAT DATA but fundamentally disempowers my students; when I see a system in which my students will graduate CONFORMISTS instead of TRANSFORMATIVE, it is very much UNDERMINING what we are doing [in terms of educating for EQUITY]. We assume that access to a college education is enough to uproot systems of oppression; IT SIMPLY ISN’T. It is fundamentally a LOW EXPECTATION of what EDUCATION CAN BE.”

Wisdom also explains the lies of compliance: “We tell students that if they can essentially shut up, walk in a straight silent line and sit down in class and listen long enough to see a return on our investment in May (when they take that standardized test), they will achieve their dreams–they will find LIBERATION for their community. And to me it is a HOAX. It doesn’t take into account what it means to be SYSTEMATICALLY OPPRESSED.”

He describes the pain of an education that ignores the oppression that students have faced and will face in college and beyond: “It does a great deal of VIOLENCE to your consciousness to constantly see inequity in your community and never be given the tools to either comprehend that pain or address that pain, to HEAL that pain.”

Wisdom calls for an excellent education that is not rooted in merely test-score equity and access to college.  He calls for an excellent education that also develops students with a positive socio-cultural identity and equity literacy (the ability to see, respond to, and redress inequity and oppression).  It is not an easy task, but you can watch the process unfold with Wisdom and his students: Education for Liberation VIDEO