The Wrong Boxes
…It’s been easier for me to understand (a little) and connect (a little) to my kids’ ethnic and cultural backgrounds that it has been to understand and connect to their socioeconomic background…
and I’ve been told it’s less a product of being a White, upper-middle class male, and more about being a White, upper-middle class male teaching in a predominantly Latino immigrant community.
Last Year’s Kids:
The claim here is that I would have increased difficulty connecting, understanding, and valuing ethnic/ racial (and when can we stop using that jingoist, white-man’s-burden, non-biologically valid term?) differences if you flipped the percentages. If my class looked like this:
people tell me I’d think and talk and write about these issues much differently. I get this from people I respect, people who have taught in both communities, and some environments that have a more even distribution. There seems to be a great deal of private agreement on this topic.
And I wonder what this means.
Are we saying Black culture is less compatible to the White culture of public education than Latino culture?
Are we saying White teachers are less compatible to Black students than Latino?
Maybe ethnicity is again the wrong way to view these issues. Are we saying that it is easier to value the cultural differences in immigrant populations?
These are important conversations to have, and valuable. But I think they underscore the problematic nature of conversations around diversity. All too often we put White in one box and Everything Else in the other and draw comparisons. Failing that, we put White in one box, Black in the other, and ignore all the other ways in which these issues come into play. This is how a place like my school, which is 86% Latino (of which almost all are Mexican), earns the label of diverse. If it were 86% White, no one would call it diverse. Words are the intellectual frames that contain and support discourse, and when we get sloppy in their implementation, our thinking gets similarly weak, and slopped around.