A very wise man recently reminded me that parents rear their children based on the dangers they will face in this world.
I agree completely.
After hearing this my thoughts turned to education, and I asked myself, “How does this effect our students and classrooms?”
Before I could answer this, I thought about how I grew up and what my parents taught me…
Speak when spoken to
Don’t throw the first punch
Always stand up for yourself
Always be cautious
Never let them see you sweat
Thank you Sir
Never let anyone take advantage of you
Treat others how you want to be treated
Family comes first
Never give up
Keep the faith
Then I thought about my students and what they are being taught.
I am 32 years old. The world my students are growing up in is very different from mine, and yet still the same. It is much more advanced, but people still cheat, steal, lie, oppress, manipulate, dismay, kill, and abuse.
At some point we all experience one of these dangers. But, if you are a person of color, the chances are greater, and parents do their best to prepare their children. In some households the mantra is literally, kill or be killed.
What is the origin of this mantra? Why do families of color pass along such a mindset?
The privileged class has done an excellent job of making it difficult for people of color to maintain a strong sense of community. Willie Lynch’s ingenious instructions, allowed slave owners to separate slaves by gender, capability, and skin color. This separation evolved over time, and has become a fixed point amongst relationships in the black community. Not only is the white man the enemy, but we see each other as the enemy as well.
It is a senseless diversion, and it has been working for centuries.
At all costs..kill or be killed…escape the whip….survive…maintain your dignity…
Our Schools punish children for this mentality. Which is ironic, because the very same oppressive system educating them is the catalyst for this survivalist perspective. What kind of turmoil are we inherently causing in our children when the message at home is to fight back and stand up; but the message at school is assimilate, sit down, obey? Black parents teach their children how to stay alive, and how to defend themselves. And, why wouldn’t they?
So, white teachers and administrators, I urge you to remember this the next time you engage with or make policies surrounding the education of students of color. I ask you to check your surprise when students push back against your rigid systems of authority.
I hope you remember
…a hoodie and skittles…
…a toy gun…
And I advise the following…
Teach like a parent whose child looks like Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown.
Teach like a parent whose child doesn’t have the right to govern their own body.
And then go home and teach your own children the difference.