On Race

The last two days were MEA weekend in Minnesota (actually it's Education Minnesota Professional Conference, but everyone still refers to the old Minnesota Education Association acronym) when teachers have the opportunity to attend a big teacher's conference. Basically, it means a fall vacation weekend (more people travel this weekend in Minnesota than on Thanksgiving) for most people.

We had two days of an inservice at school. This meant having to find places for the boys to go since I've usually been able to go somewhere with them (I'm very thankful for my sister April and our friend Sara who each took the boys a day). Our Montessori school is a charter school serving North Minneapolis. That means we're very diverse--both economically and racially.

When your community becomes more diverse, it comes with more tension and conflict, but it is quite worth working through for the sake of not having just one group's viewpoint on everything. For example, the adults in my Kindergartner's classroom are from the Netherlands, Somalia, and Mexico. His friends come in a variety of shades of skin pigmentation.

Our workshop the past two days centered around racism, cultural diversity, and white privilege. Race is a created social construct. There are more differences within a racial group that between groups. Race was created to separate people. With that said, though race isn't real, racism is. Racism happens when one group has power over another.

I don't like the thought of "White Privilege"--that as a white person, I have certain privileges other people don't have. It makes me feel defensive, feeling that I haven't contributed to racism. But the fact of the matter is that I do have privileges my colored friends don't have. I may experience racism toward me in my own neighborhood and not always feel safe, but I have the opportunity to move to neighborhoods where I do feel safe (and I don't have to worry about the rent being unfair to me because of my skin color or having to prove myself). I don't have to worry if I get pulled over by the police that I will be detained or face anything bigger than a minor traffic violation. When I speak or do something, people don't usually attribute anything I say or do to my race.

I see the struggle in my neighborhood. It's hard for kids to have hope to escape when they don't have good educational opportunities. Or if they do have good opportunities, they struggle because they don't get enough sleep at home or their parents aren't around to support them. Yes, some of this is because of the poor decisions that are made. Some of it is because of class--poor parents have to work more so they're not around for their kids. And class issues are strongly rooted in issues of power.

There's a lot of deep layers of things. And it's easy to think that I'm not related to the cause of those issues--which may be true. But I also have privilege that others don't have. And if I'm not helping correct that, I'm still a part of the problem. I don't like it, but it's there. I'm not sure how to deal with that entirely yet. I don't have solutions. But I'm aware that I can't keep my eyes closed.

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