Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Schedules Dream

I had an academic anxiety dream last night, the one where you're supposed to be somewhere because it's the first day of classes, but you don't know which classes or where, so you don't go. It's a bad dream when you're a student, but somehow worse when you're the instructor. Or not. I mean, no one is going to drop me from the class for not showing up, right?

So I looked up my schedule and wrote it down in my book, and I'll do out my syllabus calendar, and hope that helps.

I'm reading a book for our anti-racism work on campus, Beverly Daniel Tatum's "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?". So far it's pretty good. I'm about a third of the way through, and there are some helpful insights, stuff I just hadn't thought about.

The best one for me so far is on page 60 where she explains an incident on page 59, in which a school teacher made some offhand comment that a Black student took as racist, but a white student brushed off in the "he didn't really mean it to be racist way." But other Black students, the kids at the Black table, understood immediately that there was a racism issue and the student wasn't being too sensitive or whatever.

I hadn't really thought about the experience of having other kids not affirm or affirm a Black student's experience of racism, I think because I think of teachers and students interacting more than I think of students and students interacting.

And then when it's pointed out, it's so obvious, isn't it? I feel like duh, what an ignorant so and so I am.

But what does one do to change the white kid's reaction or to help the Black kid get the affirmation s/he needs to process his/her experience? Tatum talks about one program which had Black students get together with an adult facilitator to provide that support in a formal way to students at a school where there were very few Black students and they didn't have the support otherwise. But it seems to me that we need to change the white student's perceptions as well as provide support for the Black students.

At any rate, it's helpful to change my thinking about the Black table as a positive rather than a negative thing in many ways.

1 comment:

  1. that book sounds really interesting. and that you are right on target about the need for the white students to change perceptions, to listen to the experiences of their african-american peers and think about how their own dismissive reactions make things worse.

    the obvious parallel to me is the experience of women dealing with entitled guys who insist that we are thin-skinned or not understanding correctly when they dismiss our perceptions of being marginalized, humiliated, discounted.

    there are a lot of reasons why i had huge difficulties with my mother. one is that she referred to my husband's mother -- the other grandmother of my children -- in a condemning, racist manner. my mother in law is armenian. given the horrible history of racism toward african-americans in our country, i can only extrapolate that the everyday experiences of black students remains difficult. of course they have common bonds. of course students who have not experienced anything like that need to listen up and learn something.