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Transcript of Racial Autobiography
12/12/12 Racial Identity I The Importance of
Teacher Identity The men who attacked my brother could have been of any race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. But they were African American and this was my first indirect encounter with people from another race. I grew up in a predominantly White, suburban town and attended a Catholic grade school, which only enrolled two African American students in the eight years I attended. As a young child, I did not understand racial identity. Hell, I barely understood myself as a person, let alone how that understanding contributed to an identity I had yet to assume. When the young African American girl in my class scored poorly on a test, I assumed it was because she didn't study; I did not take into account what Linton refers to as "White privilege." I never realized the opportunities available to my race. I always assumed I received high grades and succeeded in virtually every aspect of my life so far because I worked hard, not because society was designed to assist and facilitate my achievements. When those men attacked my brother, I took on the racist views of my father and assumed it was due to their "culture," the violent tendencies of the African American race. I knew no better. This attribution of behavior to culture is what Ladson-Billings (2006) explains as one of the problems of teaching-- randomly and regularly using "culture" to "explain everything." However, having grown up in a different time than my father, I have adapted to the integration of our society of all different races and ethnicities and formed different views on race differentiation. I know now that while I do not resent my father for his views on race, I also do not share those same views. I believe in racial intermarriage and equal opportunity employers; however, I also recognize the difference between equality and equity, which “recognizes and values difference” (Linton 86). It allows people to receive the opportunity, respect, dignity, etc. that they deserve regardless of their race. Equity individualizes how members of one race treat another but in a positive, authentic way. I believe this is what educators should strive to accomplish in their classroom-- a sense of racial EQUITY, in which differences are embraced and cherished, rather than ignored; and we as teachers encourage learning from those who differ not only in race, but also in gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. and do not remain blind to these differences. How my brother's incident
influenced my racial identity The most memorable lesson I took from this semester's articles and JITT assignments is Linton's emphasis on racial equity, not equality, in the classroom and understanding of the differences that make each individual unique. I spoke with my cooperating teacher at Hughes about this assignment and she explained that the most important thing a teacher can do is be honest with his/her students. "I came from a White, suburban, middle-class family so I did not understand what it meant to grow up in poverty. Being honest with your students about who you are and where you come from is crucial. If you differ in gender, race, socioeconomic status, recognize that difference and learn from it. Say, "Hey I don't know what that feels like or how that affects you, but why don't you explain it to me?" Honesty and empathy are key factors in making a difference in a student's life, even if he/she is from a different, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. Integration of Current Learning When I was in the 7th grade, I remember playing "restaurant" with my cousins. We were sitting in the kitchen, drawing up a menu, when the phone rang. My father answered and I remember the look of panic that immediately occupied his face. I later found out that the caller was the Miami Township police department with news that my brother had been jumped at a festival and was on his way to the hospital. I'll never forget my father's reaction: the panicked voice, the fear in his eyes, the immediate call to action as he grabbed his keys and ran out the door, my mother on his heels. Confusion swept over me. What happened? Where are my mom and dad going? Where is my brother? Is he okay? I remember these questions and more running through my head. But all I could do was wait; for hours it seemed as though time stood still. Nobody called. My uncle, who was watching us at the time, made no comment on what could have happened. We sat and we waited, and it was excruciating. Finally, we saw headlights turn into the driveway... the three shadows creep up the sidewalk... and as my mom, dad, and brother walked into the doorway, I noticed a bandage wrapped all around the bottom of my brother's face, extending from the bottom of his left earlobe, down under his chin to the bottom of his right earlobe. My brother retold the story of how he received that bandage, those six stitches in his chin, and the purple and black bruises on his left eye. He was leaving the Moeller High School festival to head home for the night when three African American men approached him from behind. When he heard the footsteps, he turned, but not in enough time to dodge the fist that struck the left side of his temple, blackening his eye. Confused, in pain, and shouting for help, he swung aimlessly, trying to make some kind of contact with his attackers. The attackers were able to steal his wallet and land one more aching punch on my brother's chin before witnesses came running. The police concluded that the attackers were men from a neighboring high school, "festival crashers," I believed they called them, but they were never caught. To this day, my brother still has the scar on the left side of his chin, a reminder of the unexpected things that can happen to anyone at anytime. Future Implications and Growth In order to learn about racial diversity, I need to not only continue to read articles like Linton and Ladson-Billings, but also immerse myself in the learning experience. This semester at Hughes is a great example of that immersion. Before this semester, I had never been inside of an urban school for an extended period of time. I never interacted firsthand with people of a different race. It is sad, I agree; however, I grew up in a White, suburban, middle-class community and attended a parochial school with minimal racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. I described my brother's incident because it's the first memory I have of even considering race as a determining factor for success ["White privilege"]. Continuing to observe and interact with students, teachers, and community members of differing race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status is the only surefire way to learn all that I can about diversity. I must heed my cooperating teacher's advice to not only recognize, but embrace this diversity with honesty and an open mind. I will not pretend to have experience in situations I know nothing about, but I will empathize and work hard to understand those situations. To do that, I must begin by getting to know my students on an individual level. Striving to achieve that relationship is the first step to recognizing diversity, embracing differences, and building a positive learning environment for all. Stephen Kroeger & Chet Laine
Content & Critical Literacies If I had entered the classroom this fall with the mindset I had in the 7th grade, influenced by my brother's attack and my father's racist views, I would be in serious trouble. Teachers' attitudes reflect in every aspect of their teaching: the way they set up the classroom, their management techniques, their daily interactions with students, EVERY SINGLE ASPECT. Acknowledging and understanding these views is just the first step to forming one's racial identity. For example, if I set up my classroom in row formation and assigned a seating chart, my predisposed views would affect where I assign my students. For example, if I still maintained the views I held in the 7th grade, I would have sat the African American students at the front of the room, with the belief that they would be prone to the most disruptive behavior. Yes, this statement is completely wrong and racist but at that time, I KNEW NO BETTER. My parents' views and the situational factors in my life led to that assumption and grounded my racial beliefs. However, through increased interactions, maturity, and friendships with people of another race, ethnicity, etc., I adapted new beliefs and views on the differences that make us individuals. By realizing my participation in the continued dominance of "White privilege" and the influence of teacher identity on the success of students, I am able to adjust my views with each difference and realize the importance of EQUITY-- recognizing and embracing these differences-- over equality-- treating everyone the same; in summary, being COLOR BLIND to the differences that define us. My brother, Kyle Notice the scar on his chin