Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Journey to understanding "white privilege"

It started at about 8 years old when I would drive with my dad and brother into Wilmington where my dad lived.  It was an every other weekend trek.  I remember him telling me to lock the doors, this was before automatic locks.  It was never stated why, but it was understood because of fear of the neighborhood and the people that lived in the neighborhood.  This was an indoctrination that many white people go through when they drive through cities that have reputations for being rough.  I never asked any questions why.  I trusted my dad and usually did not question him.  Later when he moved to Philadelphia we would often zig zag from the parking garage to his townhouse on Lombard.  Always seeming to avoid certain people.  Don't know how much thought I put into the reasons.  It was just something I was told to do.  Without a doubt, it began to shape my opinions and feelings, forming stereotypes, that I would have to later work on tearing down.

There was then a struggle with my own racism for years to come.  I would learn things in school about civil rights and the struggles of the African American person.  I would have regular interactions with classmates of color as I attended diverse schools from 4th grade on.  Delaware used bussing to integrate communities during my schooling career.  I would have interactions with friends, adults, neighbors, etc. that at times seemed to contradict what I thought to be right, but did not understand.

Then news events occurred like LA riots in 1992.  Known as the "Rodney King riots" my understanding as an 8th grader became frustration, but also confusion as to why?  There was music, like one of my favorites Public Enemy, that taught me there were inequalities.  Then the Cosby Show, that seemed to indicate that if you were African American, and became a doctor, then everything would be fine and dandy.  Just become a doctor...

All of these seem to conflict at times.

I knew my path, there was no choice; college and career, that was the ONLY path I ever knew.  I did not understand my privilege.  I knew I was lucky, but that is where it stopped.  I did not appreciate it, but I was beginning to understand it.

Then I had a few experiences my senior year in high school, and I began to shape my opinions and beliefs.  Most involved sports, clubs, and classes that were always diverse.  This is where, through exposure and understanding that I began to understand my "white privilege".

I wonder how, without interactions, do we white people, ever really understand or keep this conversation of bettering race relations in the forefront of our thinking?  How do we keep from turning the news off, locking our doors in cities, and zig zagging across city streets at night?  How do we realize this is where we are and we need to do more to accept, understand, and reach out?

I don't blame my dad for doing what he did, it was how he was raised to believe.  Those were the lessons he learned and was passing on to me, but now a new generation, and I want to pass on different lessons to my kids, students, and everyone I come in contact with.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Relationships #Edubabble 4

As I nip, dip, sip, rip, and zip through my building
I am cognizant, aware of all the relationships

This is one of those edubabble words that everyone knows
But the discussion often stops there as to where to go or what to do

I am by no means the expert in this area
I will admittedly call this one of my weaker spots

I am not going to define it from Merriam or Webster
I think this is the "one" word we agree as educators

Is something you experience, hear, feel, see, and... smell?
Maybe that makes no sense, like taste in this case

But as I write this blog to better myself and reflect
I was compelled from many conversations lately about this topic

I get upset when conversations end at a word and nothing goes beyond
Does that word "relationship" mean the same in everyone's mind

Is that why we don't ask for more from this word?
Why it is left stag on the dance floor?

So to better understand my own deficiencies
To try and make them proficiencies

I will attempt an edubabble to explain what it is to me
And how I can define this precious, some say
Most important word in the edu-dictionary

Relationships are different with each person, students, parents, and staff
For some it is a look, nod, maybe a high five, or verse and a laugh

For some it is more, a meeting, maybe a "how's your wife?"
For some it is "leave me alone right now" and "I need space"
Or "just listen and shut your face"

For some it is making sure you say, "hello" each day
I am a morning person, so that is my way

To get me to smile for a while
I am easy, I think most of the time.

For some it is giving them more to do to show you respect them
For some it is taking some things away to give them a break

Each relationship needs to be read like a book or their personal journal
I don't know if there is a script or plan to deal with these...
I need to find another word for relationships.

Their is  skill in relationship building I am finding
And will let you in on the secret
You have to be able to react correctly at the right time with the right words

Words are important and if you don't have them, you are better not saying anything
That is hard for me, a person whose own tag line says talk first to create thoughts

In relationships this is the worst path of attack
When giving feedback this might work
But not when you are telling someone you have their back

Building relationships is not professional growth or learning
It comes from a different place and different yearning

I think when working on rapport, affiliations, and conjunctions my other babble
You are better off recognizing, listening, and questioning

This is going to be hard for me, this is not going to be easy
I write to reflect on this, not to tell you I have proof this works

I am a work in progress in many areas and this is definitely a place to grow
Slow and steady is my course with lots of steps back

So define relationships I did not do
I probably just created more confusion for me and you

HAHA! I say that relationships are a slippery, confusing slope with kids, parents, and staff
Isn't it all worth it...? to make sure they see you in a light that makes sense in your craft

What choice do we have, "they" say and I agree
Relationships are what drive the school community

Friday, July 1, 2016

Follow up to Something... Reason for Quotes are a waste...

As I wrote My Last blog - For Who... For What... I listened to this song on repeat, over 30+ times.  The original songs is - Little Pretty One by Thurston Harris.  The video below was a later performance by Frankie Lymon.  

I do champion my dancing style a little after Frankie Lymon, just saying... 

I am only throwing this in here to share at this point.  To give you an idea of my mindset as I write.
This poem/blog took me 2 weeks to write and I posted once and hated it, to rewrite now.  I always went back to this song... 


Because it made sense to me when writing this poem.  It might be hard to find the connection between this song/video and my writing, which I would totally understand.

Please view the video as the looks on the girls' faces makes you think about race at this point in our history (1960).  They do not want to look up and make eye contact, they appear ashamed in actually liking this music.  

Each and every white girl looked around to see what their neighbors were doing.  Think about that for a second and how that relates to you... Watch the video twice and test me, each and every one looked around at their neighbors first... Black man singing and dancing a catchy tune, they look startled and looked around... If you read all the comments on the clip you will see this same common thread, but trust me, I read them after I watched this 3-4 times and had the same types of thoughts.  

You know they wanted to get up and dance, but because of cultural stigma they did not.  I am not trying to compare my writing to the experience of Thurston Harris or Frankie Lymon.  I really am not, but I am trying to compare a feeling of "looking around" to that of having thoughts and the courage to not "look around" and just speak up.

The "thing" seems to be to come up with a quote, repeat it, or put your name to it, and send it out.... I call shenanigans! Actually want to say something stronger.   

What I am trying to do is to get people to think like Frankie... He knew that this crowd was all white, he knew the song was a hit.  Maybe a few years earlier, but people did not want to acknowledge it actually came from a person of color.  My story is not to tell that of Thurston's or Frankie's.  That is for someone else.

My story is to tell that by going against the status quo, and allowing, or challenging people to think a bit, will make us all a little stronger.  I don't have anything close to the courage of these two men, but I do think my contribution to get past the backwash of #edubabble and into real discussions is important.  So don't look around at the crowd and do as they are doing, do something - YES! Do something you feel is important, meaningful, and will make a real change.  Putting your name and thinking of quotes to post is a waste of time... 

For Who... For What?

I am going to take you back Philly sports fans
Because the amount of quotes in #edu give me pains

Reminded me of how I wish Ricky did not have alligator hands.
Stick with me, this will come clear as you will see

I am an Eagles football fan, and I wanted to love Ricky Waters when he played here.
And then he said, "For who for what?" In reference to a catch he had so near

I lost all respect for "the running back" number 32
That day when he did what he did, which I wish he did not do

He said a quote that I will never forget
delegated to the bottom of my fandom

Gave up early, he turned it in, he said, "it is all about..."
He was then productive for many years

That first game ended in shame
From a quote he spoke as I choked

I am a Philly fan and a diehard believer in hard sweat and tears
He was displaying a willingness to allow hesitation and fears

It was not his words, but what he did not claim
He did not want to feel pain, and gain respect from the crowd at the Vet that day.

He needed not say any more, his jersey I would never wear
His name I would never repeat, #notafan would have been my tweet

I try to dive deep into a message, not just stare at the peak
He spoke, then followed it up with an Eagles's career of underachieving

Just throw some stuff out there and see if it sticks
Without follow up or work to make it click.

And that is the point!

Those that speak from quotes on social media
They hang on the cliche, but delay...
Hopefully the real message is on the way.

I wait and wait, only to see their name on display
With a hyphen at the bottom for credit seems thin...
"My thoughts are my thoughts" - Doug Timm
Does that make sense, under any pretense?

"All kids deserve a champion"
"All communities need a light"
"Sell like a used car salesman"
"Most important words are good night"

Put with the right background and hyphen my name
It might appear I put thought in those quotes that are lame

It bothers me to no end these repeated quotes are not thoughts with authenticity.
A quote here and there is fine, but I don't have time
To read, "do this" and "do that" when your message is 13 word simplicity

What is behind the quote or cliche? 
What is it you really want to say? 

I am a naysayer for quote machines you use to drive your conviction and intentions
From now on I am going to try and ask you questions

What does that mean to you?
What are you going to do?
What steps?
Just name a few?

Don't cling to words just to be positive, which is false and fake
Social Media is a place to take a break from negative, I get it...

But please don't waste my time with retweeting something I can Google.
Inspirational quotes, meaningful messages, I have screenshot them before

I want to try and pull emotions out of someone a thousand miles away
May start with a quote, but needs to dive deeper with feelings
Dealings and thinking through your thoughts gets you to a spot of understanding

So if I challenge your quote, it is because I care
Not because I am negative or wanting to scare

Like Ricky Waters so many years ago, that first awoke me and broke me
To an understanding of a separation between real, and those only out to be

I was a kid and easy to influence, I went through a stage
Intoxication by self-actualization at an early age

Say a cliche, but be more, is what I ask, what is the point of pushing messages without reason or feelings
It comes off to me like a salesman's dealings. 

"For who for what..." I will never forget that quote. 
He left me broke, not for what he said, but for what it claims
Shame, Blame, Not In The Game
Not My Name, I Am Not The Same