Monday, May 27, 2019

The Journey to realize

I am kinda tired of the word journey, especially as it relates to your bias and your thoughts about racism.  It is however probably the best word currently to describe the path I am on in life and my own racism/bias.

I did not realize I was on a journey until it became more of a mission.  This happened just a few short years ago.  I don't remember the day, the time, the moment.  I do remember being scared to speak out, scared to questioning my white friends, my white colleagues at work.  I did not make it clear where I stood as it relates to race.  I heard a racist joke and made a sort of attempt at a laugh, although I felt it was not funny.  I listened to colleagues, friends, and family members say things about "them" and just sort of nodded my head, avoiding conflict.  That was me, that is where I would say 99% of white people are/or have been.  No research to back up that, just a gut feeling.

I don't know how or where I learned to check my bias.  I don't know how or where I began to make sure I did not say racist things.  I was never taught not to be a racist, I was never taught anything about race or how to think of other races.  I saw things, I experienced things, but I was never asked how I felt, or given the opportunity to ask questions growing up.  I regret this, but this is my white privilege.

I have had experiences in life and friends in life that have shown me and guided me in a direction against being a racist, but for 30+ years of my life I would consider myself a non-racist.  I am currently 41 years old.  A non-racist person to me is someone who understands their biases, makes attempts to treat everyone kindly, but when push comes to shove, does not say anything against racism in most situations, unless it is impacting someone they care about.

I remember the first time I said something to a white friend about their racist remarks.  It was in high school, they were talking about one of my basketball teammates.  I had to stand up, my white friend did not get it, as I knew my teammate and black friend's story.  I immediately did not associate with that white friend again on the same level ever.  It was awkward.  When we were in the same spaces I saw him differently, and I think he saw me differently too, although we never spoke about it.  Fast forward 25 more years, and I don't know that I said anything to any other white person about racism until about 4-5 years ago.  Why not....?  I think I was scared... That is not okay.

I ask myself why?  In 25ish years, I am sure there were jokes, I am sure there were comments.  I am sure there were feelings I wanted to share.  I don't like to admit I was scared, I know it takes courage to speak up, but that has never been my problem, at least I thought.  I think I just settled in my privilege of not having to say anything.  I could always "move on" as it really never affected me.  Keep it safe, stay in my lane, others would do that work, I did not have to.  Besides I was a teacher, an admin, working with children of color.  I was doing to work, did I have to speak up too?!  I compared myself to the accountant friend that literally did nothing of this work, who work with white people and numbers all day.

There was always a feeling, many feelings, there was always a "I am in this position for a reason.  I chose this, now what am I doing with it" other than my day to day job... 

So I want this writing to give permission to white people, especially white males in power positions to be able to say something.  At the same time I want to admit that for the majority of my life, I did not say anything.  I am not going to call myself a coward, but probably should, although I know a little of my white fragility played a role in that.  As I stated earlier, I really don't know what it was that prevented me from me from speaking up.  If I had to settle on 1 word to describe my cowardliness it would be comfortI am comfortable being white, and I did not want to lose that. 

I never thought of myself as white before.
I never defined myself as white.
I never recognized what I got because I was white.
I never realized being white, starts you half-way through the race of life.
I always thought I had to work hard.
I always thought I had a struggle.
I always thought my accomplishments were earned by my efforts.
I always thought my accomplishments and successes were earned on the time spent.

I still think that, I still know I performed when I needed, because of the struggle and intention I put in, but I now also recognize I am white.  That was the single most changing event in my journey.  I am white, I am not ashamed of it, I do not apologize for it, but I am white.

What do I do with my "whiteness"? 

That is now the question that drives me? That is now what I say to myself when I hear a comment.  I literally say this in my head, because it is not instinct yet, 

"what can my whiteness do to speak up, correct, or change the course of this event?"  

I have said things in public, I have said things with friends, I have spoken to colleagues, I am developing a Spiderman sense of my surroundings so that I can use my whiteness to interject.  I think people of color have always had this power.  They know when the comment, the look, the attitude was just not right.  I HAVE ALSO ALWAYS KNOWN IT, but I never activated it until recently.  

It is definitely activated, running, and certainly liberating.

So here is the next part white people.  Turn on your sensor, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and then ask questions.  

Why do you feel that way?
What do you mean by that?
Why do you think _____ is ____?

Then you need to be prepared.... So here is the work.  Here is a clip to watch and some books to read.  Because you need to have talking points, if you are going to ask questions. 

In particular, go to minute 22, and listen. Wait for it, research, data, census, by minute 27, you get it.  4 minutes to change your outlook.  There are millions of other examples, literally millions. 

I think at this point, you are ready, and needed in this work.  

People of color can't do the work for white people.  People of color are there to guide us, help us, and answer our questions.  This is our work. 

This is not something to do, but something we have to be.  We have to be a society that does this work.  It is generational and has to be repeated over and over.  I don't believe we are ever going to not have racism, but we can move to a place where we have less racism and working every day to have less and less.  

I finish with this.  Certainly take it and use it.  But there are 5 main points I want to make sure are understood.
  1. Understand your "whiteness" it is okay to admit what this means to you.  Accept it and don't be afraid to ask questions because you think you are going to be called a racist.
  2. Do some research and reading about the history of race in our country.
  3. Say something, be ready to lose friends, but it is so liberating, it was for me.  I have never felt so alive and true to myself as I do now with my Spider sense on high alert.
  4. Give yourself some forgiveness.  There will be and are still moments for me where I regret not speaking up, but get them next time.
  5. I still say racially insensitive things.  I still say a chauvinistic thing here and there.  I am still human.  I just need to be ready to be called out as well, as intentions are important.  
You are educators, we have to do this, this is not a choice.  Please join me. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

I am a privileged white male.  I am not apologizing for that.  I was born this way.  I am also a leader of a great school.  I also question many things.

I tweeted tonight that I don't understand how "leaders", especially white leaders can go 10-20 tweets without a message of equity, racism, or questioning the norm for white people speak.

I know why many white leaders don't put it out there, it is a risk.  You may lose a follower... HAHA! Like anyone should care, you are already a white male leader... You don't need anything more.   I am one of them.  White leaders don't push a message of equity, because they are afraid of a loss of power.  There is no other reason.  History, current situations, everything proves there are inequities, and as "powerful white" leaders ignoring this is "racist" as it is not "anit-racist".

Let me be clear.  Saying nothing about inequity or racism on your social media presence = being a non-racist or assimilationist.  I don't mean like the , "All kids through relationships can achieve" sort of nonsense, that is not a message or inequity or anti-racism.

Saying something or speaking up against racism can = being anti-racist.  Claiming you are not "political" in your posts is a cop out and therefore puts you in the non-racist camp.  You can be a non-racist all you want, but that is "racism" through not stepping up.  Not saying anything, is accepting of the behavior.  Nothing harder than telling your friends they are racist, trust me, have done it a half dozen times now, and have less friends now.

What will the "mostly white twitter # schools think of this?"

We talk #innovation #takingchances #growthmindset

That is all within the context of an educational system that is rigged for them.......

No problem taking a chance when you your dad and mom's 401K is collecting 12% and your established historical wealth has 1.5 million in assets being ready to be passed on.  Oh I get it, I am that white person.... I got that....

So then you tell me, you grew up, white person, poor, single mom, used shoes throughout your life... You were still white, so stop the story, you made it because you were white.  You can't cry it out to me, I know you, I am you.  You never got followed at a store in the mall, you never got the talk on how to respond to police if pulled over, you never got the message on how to "code switch" when in white spaces, which are most spaces. 

Here is the difference, I want to change it, I want to hire, establish, move, contribute, give back, and work with a community that will push the needle.  Not a "white savior", I am celebrating the greatness of our differences, not patting backs for pushing those that have not.

Here is the point; whether you are an admin in Delaware in a super diverse school or a leader in Ohio, Massachusetts, or Texas, you need to push a message of equity and expose racism in your social media presence, if you have one.  If you are reading this, you have a social media presence, therefore for every 10 posts, 1 or more needs to be about how people of color are being treated unfairly or how a person of color has achieved greatness.

As important, you need to have conversations with your people.  You need to stop that person in hallway that says, "those kids" or "you know their not good people" or rub their arm and say, " they got it because..." You know this white people, you need to step in and stop it.

This is how we move the narrative, this is how we establish our stance.  This is how we become Public Enemy Number 1.... My favorite rap group of all time, even more than The WU.....

Friday, May 10, 2019

Affirmation, Commendation, Thankfulness, and Confident Confirmation

My pictures are random as they are only stopping points for reflection.

Affirmation, commendation, thankfulness, and confident confirmation are all things that all school leaders need to think about all the time.  They are different and they need to be thought of differently.

So let me, from my experience, help you understand them as I understand them.

Affirmation is the teacher that comes to you and "has a plan" it might be academic, management, or dealing with a difficult situation (student, parent, colleague).  "Hey Doug, you got a minute....." type of conversation.  It involves listen, put the computer screen down, make eye contact, react facially appropriate, and then ponder for a minute.  You have a question, ask it. You need them to repeat it, ask them too.  You need clarification, go for it.

You have feedback? Because if you are an experienced leader, you have heard this type of scenario before, in some sort of scenario.  The feedback is probably positive "They had a plan", but, will it derailed them in a way that is worth the feedback.

In other words, is the feedback that good it is worth making the teacher take a step back to take two steps forward.... You need to decide in less than 2 seconds, or you could defer to, "let me get back to you", but that type of feedback in this type of situation, is often lost.  So you decide, but always affirm.  It was a "good idea" regardless, because it was an idea.  We want to promote ideas and never squash them.  If feedback is needed fine, but if feedback is truly not going to improve the idea, keep it shut and just say something positive about the idea.  Don't be that guy or girl.  If it was a mistake, they will learn from the experience.

Commendation is the recognizing of a staff member for something they did.  It can be in public or private, but should be done in both.  It should not be "your the best" type.  It should be thought out or in the moment.  Thought out, is planned, I know you and therefore going to speak about you in a way that is positive to help you understand more fully how I have been feeling about you.  In the moment is, "wow" you just really impressed me...! This one is simple, just make sure it's authentic and directed.  If not don't do it, practice it with a trusted friend or in the mirror.  Don't mess this one up as it is the easiest one.

Thankfulness  is the catching of someone in doing something that you truly appreciate.  It could be a normal event or something you asked them to do.  It could be something that is above and beyond, or just doing the "daily" with consistency.  These should be given out like "likes" in Facebook.  Thanking someone is the easiest thing you can do beyond commending them.  The difference is we often as leaders resort to "sorry" than "thank you".  I asked you to cover a class should not be "sorry" you had to cover, but "thank you" for sacrificing for a colleague in need.  "Thank You" for staying 10 minutes past contracted hours to help kids get on a bus or watching a child not yet picked up.

This is why this is harder than Commendation because we as leader assume the worst at times.  We need to understand and constantly remind ourselves that "all educators" in schools are there because they care.  It is never a job to any of us, it is a passion.  So "thank you" for sacrificing, not "I am sorry" you had to sacrifice.

Confident Confirmation is where my train might go off the tracks.  If you can not confirm your own existence as an educator, then you are not going to make it to retirement.  You are going to do 5-7 like a minor drug bust and get out without parole.  You will never be a "life sentence" without confident confirmation.  You need to regularly "recognize" who you are as an educator.  You need to look in the mirror, like actually look in the mirror, and say the following:

  • Without you nothing happens in the world.
  • You have a bigger influence in your life work than 100 CEO's, as you touch a minimum 750 souls.
  • You are both loved and respected, as those that can don't and those that can't reach
  • Everyone knows your profession as everyone has been in your space for many years.
  • There is no better way to change the world than make a connection with a child.

Say those 5 things every day like a mantra, and you will not only be Affirmed, Commended, Thanked, but also build your Confident Confirmation that you need to be a "lifer".  

This is the only profession where you want a "life sentence".  I am guilty, I accept my "life sentence", but I also understand that I need time in the mirror to make sure I confirm my worth.  I need a "thanks" and a "great job" here and there, but more than anything I need me.... I need me to tell me, this is the work I was made for.  I was created for this... I have a mission to do this... There is no other reason I am here than this... Okay I went too far, but true educators get it, I hope!  

I can always count on me as I can't run from me or get away from me, no matter how much I try!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA! 

Hope you made a connection with this..... I am not perfect or great in any of them beyond Confident Confirmation, and therefore work needs to be done! 

This is page 29 and 30 of my manifesto... which was started a while ago. I just added a lot of words tonight.  Thank you #cddolphins you are my inspiration!