EQUITY BLAST 1: NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE
October 11, 2021
EQUITY BLAST 1
NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE
Since fairly early in my life, the concept of race played a major role in my thoughts and intellectual development. It was the subject of conversations in my home, the topic of passionate discussions among the public intellectuals my mother watched on PBS and other outlets, part of the curriculum I learned in school, and often central in the literature I read.
Later, I studied the workings of class, along with biological sex, gender, and sexual identity, and much later, I learned how to account for intersectionality, or points of convergence, among these and other aspects of identity.
For a long time, I have known, for example, that my status as a female person hailing from the Black working class and coming from a community marked by excessive economic struggle put me at a distinct disadvantage in society. I have known just where and why, in this society, I am bound to come up short. And let’s be fair: my dark complexion, hair texture, Afrocentric features, and body size simply don’t help matters.
However, through studying the work of the late French philosopher Michel Foucault, I learned that it is a mistake to assume that power and oppression flow in only one direction. I learned that power and vulnerability flow in all directions, although typically not to the same degrees and usually not to the same effects. The abiding point, however, is that people who are oppressed in one regard can indeed be oppressors in others.
Thus, I learned to acknowledge my privilege. I am a dark-skinned, kinky-haired, plus-sized Black woman, yes, and there are prices I pay for this; but I am also a cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied US native who is highly fluent in English and who has deep associations with Christianity. These are my privileges. These are not substitutes for whiteness, but they are ways in which I get to access some of its benefits. The fact that I am highly educated and a good writer only helps matters.
Even as I am harmed in a racist, colorist, classist, sexist, featurist, texturist, fatphobic society, my list of privileges has more easily and more often than I care to confess become the basis by which I have harmed others. I am guilty of intellectual snobbery, moral judgement, and dismissal of others who do not measure up to what I have regarded in myself as the right and proper standard. This truth not only hurts; it devastates the educator in me.
The gift of being an equity worker is therefore a cunning one.
Equity work allows me to cut through centuries of -isms. By speaking simple truth to others, I get to seek justice on my own behalf and on that of many others who are unreasonably and unjustly harmed by these oppressive, lethal forces.
Critically, however, this work also forces me to come face to face with my own internalizations of these very sins. I must look myself in the heart and come to terms with what is there, calling it out, if only to myself, and demanding better.
By speaking searing truth to myself, I am compelled to accept accountability, make amends, and seek redemption. Through this, I understand the need of others for the same.
Seeking to expand the reach of justice in CV, we all have this work to do. As we pursue understanding of where our systems are failing us, let us not neglect to check the systems that are alive and engaged within us.
These internal systems, triggered and activated by our privilege, all too often determine what we see and what we don’t, whom we see and whom we don’t, the problems we feel compelled to fix and the failures we are comfortable accepting. The external, or organizational, systems governing CV can only be a reflection of what is happening inside of us. All. Of. Us.
So if you started reading this wondering whether I was talking to you, I was indeed.
And if you started reading this wanting to know whom I was calling out, I was calling you out.
Along with myself and every other adult in CV.
No matter who we are, we must check our privilege. We all have work to do.
For a deeper look at privilege, study the following image, and then, consider these questions: 1) What do you see in this chart? 2) In what places on the axes do you find yourself? 3) How have your various placements shaped who you are? 4) What kind of person are you in relation to others who don’t share your socially dominant statuses? 5) What can you do to challenge your oppressive or dismissive mindsets and behaviors? 6) In which areas will you need time to grow, and how will you hold yourself accountable for making progress?
The students who currently populate CV high schools land quite comfortably within Generation Z, or “Zoomers.” The years for this generation start in the mid-to-late 1990s and end in the early 2010s. Within four years, the succeeding generation, Generation Alpha, will step onto our campuses for the first time.
Generations Z and Alpha are known as “true digital natives,” as they have little to no experiential knowledge of the analog world and none at all of the massive cultural shifts that took place as those of us born before 1985 slowly and fitfully immigrated to the digital universe. Our current students and the ones who are soon to replace them in our classrooms were born into the ubiquity of smartphones, high-speed internet connection, abundant wireless tech, and nonstop digital life.
It is therefore imperative that these true digital natives have the opportunity to read, think, write, and speak regularly about what their sophisticated tech existence means. Access to technology is indeed an important aspect of educational equity, but so is the chance to engage at length in academic and personal considerations of this lightning-fast, consummately powerful element of modern life.
Beyond our Digital Literacy curriculum and our CTE coursework, our students, throughout the course of their high school lives and regardless of their affiliation with a particular Pathway or Academy, need to engage with contemporary discourse on technology. In what ways might CV learners take advantage of space to analyze this force that organizes much of modern life, contemplating what its limits should be, pondering over when its benefits outweigh its dangers, determining when the reverse is taking place, and developing ideas about what to do when this is the case?
The CVUHSD Graduate profile affirmatively states that students in our care will leave us as college-and-career-ready individuals who express themselves and their ideas competently; who lead ethically: who think critically, in both independent and collaborative situations; and who take responsive action as citizens because of their highly developed social awareness.
Technology and its wide-ranging implications are the perfect subject matter for sharpening these defining characteristics within our Gen Z and soon-to-be Gen Alpha learners. Moreover, support of CV learner tech awareness can happen across the curriculum and take many forms.
We cannot see the future, but we do our best to brighten it when we equip our students to understand more fully the world they inhabit and to act thoughtfully and courageously to shape it in positive, just directions.
Below are a few resources that could make for rigorous engagement in CVUHSD classrooms. Please review carefully to determine appropriateness for your students. Some are publicly available; others are accessible via subscription only. If you have trouble accessing a text you’d like for your class, let me know.
If you already have favorite resources that you use to engage students on the topic of their technological world, please use this link to share the titles with me. I would be happy to compile a districtwide list.