I really like that there are a lot of people in the United States who are asking questions about race and ethnicity. In many countries, including my own, we like to pretend we are not racist because we never talk about it. This only makes us more racist, nobody is asking me to check the “colored” mark in Uruguay, yet most poor people are colored just like here. I appreciate the straightforwardness of this country and wish to explore that a bit more. Students in schools are learning about these issues not only by special race and ethnicity workshops, but also by personal experience. I used to complain about these special classes and claim they are not necessary, and they would not be if racial disparities in school were not so obvious.
I was tutoring a girl from Berkeley High the other day and she told me that she skipped class. Astonished (because I went to a school with high fences that made it really hard to skip class) I asked her how she was able to do this without anyone seeing her. Then I remembered Berkeley High is a come and go type of school and, as I began to wonder where the supervisors were as she just walked out, she blurted out “I can leave when I want because I am a white girl, nobody stops me.” I continued to ask her “who gets stopped?” She said “Young black men and sometimes women too.” We digressed from our Math discussion to talk about race a little bit; she made all the connections we have made in this class right in front of me. She talked about how she knew the institutions were set up to keep colored people at the bottom of the financial scale and this could be part of the reason why her family has money. Since her family has enough money to pay for Classroom Matters Tutoring, she will make sure she does well in school and so on.
It was then I became really interested in what the students have to say about race. So far I found a couple of articles and books narrating some of the student’s own experiences with race and ethnicity in school. The one I would like to share first is Making and molding identity in schools: student narratives on race, gender, and academic engagement by Ann Locke Davidson. Part of the book is on google books <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6VcXL0cHJvMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=race+in+schools&ots=EikG0KJaR4&sig=jN7ImWYrDHB6gVmcTmxu0eOtLa8#v=onepage&q&f=false> I have not yet read it all so I cannot recommend as a great book but I can say it is real, and I really cannot critique people’s experience.
It just stresses how important it is to realize that, as teachers, we have an impact on shaping students’ ideals of themselves and the world, and we need to take that responsibility seriously.