10 Books I Wish My White Teachers Had Read

Source: http://www.bustle.com/articles/153390-10-books-i-wish-my-white-teachers-had-read?utm_source=FBOnsite&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=1

I can only remember having two non-white teachers during my time in school. From my early years at underfunded public schools comprised mostly of Black and Latino students to my later years at private schools with largely white student populations, my experience as a Black student learning from white teachers has ranged from incredibly inspiring to incredibly damaging.

As a Black student in public schools, I had a white art teacher give me a failing grade on an essay project as he explained to me that graffiti isn’t art. I was kicked out of classrooms for “having an attitude,” rolling my eyes, playing with my braids, or wearing a gang-related shirt (it was FUBU). Once, I was kicked out of class for telling (and attempting to show) an incredulous math teacher that I already knew how to do the work he was condescendingly explaining… again. I had white principal who refused to sign the recommendation letter I needed to complete my application for a private high school. Let’s not forget the metal detectors, police officers, and zero-tolerance treatment that make many of these public schools feel more like prisons than learning centers.

But fancy private schools aren’t off the hook, either. As one of few Black students at the private schools I attended, I had white teachers show photos of apes and compare them to African women. I had a history teacher touch my braids and ask, in front of the entire class, “Is this horse hair? I hear that’s how they do that.”

But I was lucky. The experiences of many other students of color in schools often includes dropouts, pushouts, arrests, even violence at the hands of their educators.

Being a teacher is tough. Being a white teacher of students whose experience is foreign to you is probably even harder. But I’ve had amazing white teachers, too. I’ve had white teachers who came to my birthday parties even though it was the in “the hood,” white teachers who encouraged me to explore topics about my culture within the curriculum, and white teachers who didn’t treat me like a unicorn for solving a math problem. In fact, my favorite teacher was one who (after my principal essentially sabotaged my application to private school) explained the situation to the school and managed to get them to let me test in despite the incomplete application. She was white, too.

Unfortunately, it’s true that the whole U.S. education system is broken, especially for students of color, but what one teacher does in her own classroom can make a world of difference. Teachers have a responsibility to examine their own prejudices and learn about the experiences of and oppressive forces working against the students they are teaching. Because when we walk into a classroom, both as teachers and as students, we don’t magically leave our struggles and life experiences at the door.

Maybe you can’t change the whole system, maybe rigid curricula and standardized tests have your hands tied, but, as some of my teachers showed me, reading a book can go a long way. These are some of the books that I wishmy white teachers had read.

1. For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood by Christopher Emdin

Why oh why couldn’t this book have been published ages ago? The strategies put forth in Emdin’s book are brilliant for any teacher, but its call for white teachers “in the hood” to reassess the ways that they see students versus how students see themselves is especially crucial for white teachers of students of color. An educator himself, Emdin offers real solutions to help white teachers check their privilege and connect with their students.

2. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schoolsby Monique Morris

This book! So many of the things in this book resonated deeply with my own experience. Morris shines the light on a group that is often neglected in discussions of education issues. She highlights the many ways that Black girls are misunderstood, neglected, and criminalized not just by the system as a whole, but also by teachers who fail to see past stereotypes of Black women as “sassy” or “loud.” She also touches on the experiences of Black women outside of the classroom and how they play out in the classroom.

3. Black Stats by Monique Morris

Yes, it is crucial to look at Black students as actual humans rather than just data points or statistics, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your stats, too. Morris’ heavily researched book looks at Black life by the numbers, busting up stereotypes and biases with numbers that prove certain commonly held beliefs are flat out wrong.The New Press actually followed this book with a Latino Stats book by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani, as well.

4. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

There’s a reason this book is a bestseller. It’s one of the most poignant works on Black life today. Coates’ writing about the experience of growing up and raising a young Black son in today’s climate articulates the feelings of a whole generation.

5. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

There’s a reason protesters at Black Lives Matter events are holding up copies of this book. The New Jim Crow reveals how mass incarceration has systematically disenfranchised, segregated, and stolen the lives of massive percentages of the Black population. With the school-to-prison pipelineputting more and more Black youth behind bars, it’s a crucial read for any educator.

6. The Mis-education of the Negro by Dr. Carter G. Woodson

The Mis-education of the Negro was published in 1933. Sadly, much of what Woodson describes is still relevant today. Woodson points to the harmful effects of a Eurocentric education system that teaches Black students to think of themselves as inferior, invisible, and detestable — an education that hinders them throughout their future lives. You don’t even have to buy the book; you can read it online over at History is a Weapon.

7. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

The eight stories in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere tell of people looking for truth, people trying to fit in, people with big dreams, people just trying to make it. Yes, most of these characters are Black. Yet, despite the absurd notion that Black characters are unrelatable, these stories are profoundly human. Is it sad that we need reminders that Black people are people? Yep. Do we still need it? Yep. It’s also just a beautiful collection.

8. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

While the story Alexander tells here is one of loss, it is also one of love and joy and family. Black people don’t see enough of stories and images of Black love, joy, and family, so I know white people aren’t seeing enough of these stories either.

9. The Sisters Are Alright by Tamara Winfrey-Harris

All too often, the gaze with which white people look upon Black lives is one of pity. With all the negative portrayals, hard realities, and racism, it’s no wonder. But Black people are not community service projects, and pathologizing Black students or looking at them like wounded animals is be damaging, too. The Sisters Are Alright counters the stereotyped narratives of Black women, celebrating them instead of disparaging, pitying, or insulting them.

10. The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein

If you want to change your future, you’ve got to know your history. Goldstein’s look at the history of teaching and schools in the U.S. takes on the hard topics, including the issue of race in the classroom and the necessity of teachers of colors in the classroom

Jim Crow Laws

Source: https://www.nps.gov/malu/learn/education/jim_crow_laws.htm

From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through “Jim Crow” laws (so called after a black character in minstrel shows). From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states (and cities, too) could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race. The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated. Here is a sampling of laws from various states.

Nurses: No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Buses: All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama

Railroads: The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to which such passenger belongs. Alabama

Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama

Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama

Toilet Facilities, Male: Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities. Alabama

Intermarriage: The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void. Arizona

Intermarriage: All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited. Florida

Cohabitation: Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars. Florida

Education: The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida

Juvenile Delinquents: There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together. Florida

Mental Hospitals: The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia

Intermarriage: It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void. Georgia

Barbers: No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls. Georgia

Burial: The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons. Georgia

Restaurants: All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license. Georgia

Amateur Baseball: It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race. Georgia

Parks: It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons…and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia

Wine and Beer: All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine…shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room at any time. Georgia

Reform Schools: The children of white and colored races committed to the houses of reform shall be kept entirely separate from each other.Kentucky

Circus Tickets: All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of…more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Housing: Any person…who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

The Blind: The board of trustees shall…maintain a separate building…on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana

Intermarriage: All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race; or between the negro a nd a member of the Malay race; or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void. Maryland

Railroads: All railroad companies and corporations, and all persons running or operating cars or coaches by steam on any railroad line or track in the State of Maryland, for the transportation of passengers, are hereby required to provide separate cars or coaches for the travel and transportation of the white and colored passengers. Maryland

Education: Separate schools shall be maintained for the children of the white and colored races. Mississippi

Promotion of Equality: Any person…who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine or not exceeding five hundred (500.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both. Mississippi

Intermarriage: The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void. Mississippi

Hospital Entrances: There shall be maintained by the governing authorities of every hospital maintained by the state for treatment of white and colored patients separate entrances for white and colored patients and visitors, and such entrances shall be used by the race only for which they are prepared. Mississippi

Prisons: The warden shall see that the white convicts shall have separate apartments for both eating and sleeping from the negro convicts. Mississippi

Education: Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school. Missouri

Intermarriage: All marriages between…white persons and negroes or white persons and Mongolians…are prohibited and declared absolutely void…No person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood shall be permitted to marry any white person, nor shall any white person be permitted to marry any negro or person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood. Missouri

Education: Separate rooms [shall] be provided for the teaching of pupils of African descent, and [when] said rooms are so provided, such pupils may not be admitted to the school rooms occupied and used by pupils of Caucasian or other descent. New Mexico

Textbooks: Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. North Carolina

Libraries: The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals. North Carolina

Militia: The white and colored militia shall be separately enrolled, and shall never be compelled to serve in the same organization.No organization of colored troops shall be permitted where white troops are available, and while white permitted to be organized, colored troops shall be under the command of white officers. North Carolina

Transportation: The…Utilities Commission…is empowered and directed to require the establishment of separate waiting rooms at all stations for the white and colored races. North Carolina

Teaching: Any instructor who shall teach in any school, college or institution where members of the white and colored race are received and enrolled as pupils for instruction shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00) for each offense. Oklahoma

Fishing, Boating, and Bathing: The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing. Oklahoma

Mining: The baths and lockers for the negroes shall be separate from the white race, but may be in the same building. Oklahoma

Telephone Booths: The Corporation Commission is hereby vested with power and authority to require telephone companies…to maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths. That the Corporation Commission shall determine the necessity for said separate booths only upon complaint of the people in the town and vicinity to be served after due hearing as now provided by law in other complaints filed with the Corporation Commission. Oklahoma

Lunch Counters: No persons, firms, or corporations, who or which furnish meals to passengers at station restaurants or station eating houses, in times limited by common carriers of said passengers, shall furnish said meals to white and colored passengers in the same room, or at the same table, or at the same counter. South Carolina

Child Custody: It shall be unlawful for any parent, relative, or other white person in this State, having the control or custody of any white child, by right of guardianship, natural or acquired, or otherwise, to dispose of, give or surrender such white child permanently into the custody, control, maintenance, or support, of a negro. South Carolina

Libraries: Any white person of such county may use the county free library under the rules and regulations prescribed by the commissioners court and may be entitled to all the privileges thereof. Said court shall make proper provision for the negroes of said county to be served through a separate branch or branches of the county free library, which shall be administered by [a] custodian of the negro race under the supervision of the county librarian. Texas

Education: [The County Board of Education] shall provide schools of two kinds; those for white children and those for colored children. Texas

Theaters: Every person…operating…any public hall, theatre, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons, shall separate the white race and the colored race and shall set apart and designate…certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof , or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons. Virginia

Railroads: The conductors or managers on all such railroads shall have power, and are hereby required, to assign to each white or colored passenger his or her respective car, coach or compartment. If the passenger fails to disclose his race, the conductor and managers, acting in good faith, shall be the sole judges of his race. Virginia

Intermarriage: All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattos, Mongolians, or Malaya hereafter contracted in the State of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void. Wyoming

Rick Lavoie Story: Taking A Beating to Avoid Reading

 

Published on Jun 2, 2014

“I was the youngest of three brothers. And in the first grade, my dad used to beat me. He used to beat me because he liked beating me. He didn’t need a reason to beat me. We’d be sitting at the kitchen table and he’d reach across the table and slap me in the face. He was an extraordinarily cruel man and he used to beat me for no reason. Generally, when my Dad beat me he beat me in the living room or the kitchen and I could just run away and go hide until he fell asleep. But when I did something wrong or made a mistake, I used to get what my brothers and I called a bathroom beating. A bathroom beating went like this: my father would take me, drag me into the bathroom, close the door behind us, lock the door, and then beat me until he got tired of beating me. And in a bathroom beating you couldn’t get away. You ran in the closet, he was there. You ran behind the toilet, he was there. You jumped in the shower, he was there. That was a bathroom beating when you did something wrong.

“In the first grade, I couldn’t read. I just couldn’t read. And I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t read. The way they used to teach reading in my school system when I was a kid, is Mrs. Donovan, the reading specialist from the district would come every other Thursday and she’d take all the kids in the first grade who couldn’t read and bring them to the front of the class and make them read out loud in front of the other kids. That was so embarrassing and humiliating for me that every other Thursday before Mrs. Donovan arrived I’d go into the boys’ room and take my reading glasses and twist them until they broke, or break one of the lenses, or pop one of the lenses out. Then when Mrs. Donovan would come I’d go up to her with the broken glasses and say, ‘Mrs. Donovan, my glasses are broken. I can’t read today.’ And I did that every other Thursday for a year with the full knowledge that when I got home I was going to get a bathroom beating for it; when I showed my father the broken glasses, that I was going to get a beating.”

The saddest part of that story is, I’ll bet you anything, if you look at that child’s file, some where Mrs. Donovan probably wrote that this kid is not motivated. You don’t break your glasses every other Thursday for a year unless you’re doing it on purpose. She must have known he was doing it on purpose and interpreted that the child was not motivated, which is so sad. That child was probably the most motivated child Mrs. Donavan will ever, ever have. His motivation was to avoid the humiliation. Imagine if she could have taken that motivation and injected that into his desire to learn to read. He was an extraordinarily motivated child.

I own a little 1972 Karmann Ghia. It’s my pride and joy. I love that little car. It’s very, very special to me. My wife bought it on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was manufactured the year we were married and I love that car. But if you told me in order to keep that car I’d have to take a beating twice a month I’d say, “Well, keep the car. It doesn’t mean that much to me.” I’m not that motivated to keep the car. This little boy was so motivated to avoid being embarrassed that he was willing to take a beating from a grown man twice a month. We need to understand the incredible impact that an inability to read has on the life span of a child into adulthood.