Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Think I Finally Got It

DO you know I have been reading books and articles on race and critical race theory (CRT) and now a subset of CRT called "colorblindness" for several weeks now. I think I finally get it! Oh my goodness. Let me see if I can put this on paper.

Colorblindness in institutions such as schools is a way to mask race. No one wants to talk about race in school because if you do you could be labeled a racist and nobody wants to be called that! Colorblindness is failure to admit that a particular group of people are truly at a disadvantage and there is a need for targeted help for this group. But in order to truly serve a particular race group, those in charge have to be able to talk about race, look at it, and be willing to acknowledge that unique services for this group are needed.

You know this was really hard for me to wrap my head around and to really look at colorblindness. I honestly could not see it. During all of my readings I kept mentally pounding my head against the wall saying to myself why can't I get this in my head and make it stick? It was always there but it was so illusive because I was trained to think a certain way. A neutral way where I accepted the belief system that everyone should be treated equally. I couldn't get that I was contributing to the problem of race by the decisions I was making.

Although I kept trying to treat everyone the same, I knew this was not possible no matter how hard I tried. I accepted that I am brown but my education gave me more options but I found that I still could not help students of color the way I wanted to in the past. Each time I did try to do something specifically for students of color I was confronted by other teachers and leaders that I should not be treating them any different than white students who were poor. I think inherently I knew that I was being stumped and every once in a while I would act on the belilef that race truly was the issue but I couldn't articulate the colorblindness that I encountered in the system. And yes I fed into the belief that poverty was a big part of the problem. This was another foil that took away the significance of race.

But sitting in my living room early this morning while my husband was washing dishes it struck me that I was guilty of colorblindness. Yes me, a brown woman, was committing the sin of race by allowing colorblindness to continue unchecked in schools. The language of equality, neutrality, and everyone is to be treated equally are all terms of colorblindness. Policies of zero tolerance places students of color at a greater disadvantage because they are being consequences without directly looking at the inequities which occur in this action. The vicious circle of blame and accountability did not have an entry point of targeted education and support that was needed to work with our students of color more effectively.

You know writing about it I had to go back to several conversations during this rewiring of the brain as it relates to race that I knew this was a problem. In my administration meetings at school I would bring up race in conversations about programs, curriculum, teaching strategies, discipline, attendance, and parent involvement. My administration partners and teachers were uncomfortable with these conversations. But over time I began to learn how to feel my way around talking about race as a way to really look at the dilemmas in our school. I remember feeling frustration whenever teachers or my peers would interject that the students of color are no different than students of poverty. Whenever this happens the chances are greater that the issues of race will be ignored again and the laser like focus is on the wrong area and therefore the support these students need is missing once again.

While I was doing this I was still trying to more fully comprehend colorblindness and what this really meant to me and what I needed to do to better facilitate change in my school. But how could I do this if I myself didn't know how to talk about removing the colorblindness lens if I couldn't show others, who did not look like me, what to look for? When are we going to be bold enough to talk about race? It really is liberating and solutions are real when we can begin to do so. To say that we are colorblind is to say that race does not exist. If this is so than I do not exist. And I know that is so not true.

What words or vocabulary do we use that perpetuate racism under the guise of colorblindness. What is most amazing to me is that now that I comprehend colorblindness I feel free! I now have tools at my disposal to better support my white counterpart and yes even people of color who have been blinded as I was blinded. If you can imagine a boulder being removed from my shoulders you can imagine my feeling of lightness. What an incredible experience of change.

Is this called transformative learning? I don't know....but I know that I am not the same person was even an hour ago.

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