There have been nearly 2 million views of the June 14th video showing a white man, described as intoxicated, harassing a woman who chose to wear a Puerto Rican flag shirt in a Chicago Forrest Preserve on the Far Northwest Side. In the video, the man tells the woman that she should not be wearing “that shirt.” The shirt looked like a Puerto Rican flag and had the words “Puerto Rico” on it. According to him, she should “not be wearing that in the United States of America.” He repeatedly walked up to her and, at times, got directly in her face, pointing at her. He asked her insulting questions like, “Are you educated?” and “Are you a citizen?”
What right did he have to ask her about her status as a U.S. citizen? Puerto Rico has been a territory of the U.S. since 1898 and, since the Jones-Shafroth Act passed in 1917, anyone born there is an American citizen. Puerto Ricans can maintain dual citizenship and can come and go from the island to the mainland just like any other citizen. But because Puerto Rico is not a state, they can’t vote in Presidential elections. So what does all that matter to this white, 62-year-old man? What makes him think that it was within his right to approach this woman and question her at all?
One possible answer is white privilege. The best description of what white privilege is might be something like, “the unearned advantages white people have just because they are white.” Or another way to think about it might be, “being able to go almost anywhere, do almost anything, almost whenever one wants without being questioned.” One of the best articles I’ve seen recently, that includes a short video, discussing the concept of white privilege is here.
This white man in the viral video decided that what the young woman was wearing was “unAmerican.” In effect, he is defining being “American” as being “like him” and not “like her.” He was “being defensive” of what he believed it meant to “be American” and she was “being offensive” by “disrespecting” his internalized definition of “being American”.
What was it in his mind that made her different from him? Was it the color of her skin? I don’t know. What I do know is that he saw Puerto Rico on her shirt and defined her as being UnAmerican. What I do know is that he had no qualms about walking up to her, questioning her and insulting her. Please don’t excuse his behavior with “because he was drunk”. I won’t buy that. Being drunk may have been the oil that loosened his tongue, but the alcohol didn’t create the mean, ugly, racist thoughts he expressed that came from inside of his head.
I haven’t always recognized or understood the privilege I have as a white woman. In fact, I’m still learning to recognize instances when I’m blind to my bias as a white person. After all, I’ve been bathed (conditioned) to think that being white is the equivalent to being “normal” and to think that my experiences are the same as everyone else’s. But, they aren’t. When I walk into a store, no one follows me. If I cross the street, no one fears me. It never crosses my mind that when I call a landlord about an apartment listing that I might be judged and maybe even turned down based on the sound of my voice.
I’m an educator. As a part of my professional development work in my school district, I have been involved in workshops and discussions that help me learn about race and privilege. These workshops have not been short, one- or two-hour, sit-and-listen affairs. They have been intense, involved and deep learning experiences. I have listened to People of Color (POC) tell about their life experiences and I have been saddened, shocked, angered and ultimately humbled by listening deeply to their stories. I have often felt guilty that people like me have created these realities for them.
Feeling guilty won’t help to change these realities. That’s been hard for me to learn and accept because feeling guilty comes very naturally for me. What I’ve come to realize is that I have a responsibility as a white person to continue to educate myself and to speak up about what I know. I have a responsibility to be on the lookout for situations like the one the young woman in the video experienced and speak out about them. Speaking out is just the beginning of what I have to do as a white person.
Conversations about race aren’t comfortable. Talking about white privilege is hard, especially for us white people. But it’s not as hard as the daily lived experiences of people like the innocent young woman in the Forrest Preserve pavilion who just wanted to celebrate her birthday while wearing her Puerto Rico flag shirt.
UPDATE: The aggressor in the story above has since been charged with a hate crime.
And the Forrest Preserve officer, who ignored the woman’s pleas for help, resigned.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Regarding the issue of how to treat people who cross over our U.S. border, whether they do so legally or not, I’m going to side with humanitarian concerns first.
I recently read a post on Facebook that didn’t surprise me but got me thinking. The person who posted it is a neighbor. He’s originally from El Salvador. He’s lived here a long time. I don’t remember every detail of his whole story, but I will say that I know he has experienced a lot in his life. He didn’t always make the best decisions (welcome to the human race!) and has seen/been involved in his share of trouble. But, to see what choices he has made as a husband and a father, I’m proud to call him my neighbor and friend. He is an outstanding human being and citizen.
My neighbor recently posted about the current situation going on at the southwest border of the United States. He posted a video that showed a mother and very young child talking, hugging and crying before being separated. He asked those that continue to downplay the Nazi connections demonstrated by this current Trump administration to watch the video and imagine that was their own child. He said that these people saved every penny they could and left everything they knew for a chance to wash their dishes so they could feed their kids. And he reminded us that this was the same thing that Italians and the Irish had done in the past as well when they immigrated to the U.S.
The reactions to the post were common, based on which side of the political spectrum one is on. There were those who sided with keeping the families together because treating human beings this way is wrong (morally). There were others who believed that the issue boils down to following the law (legally). How does one bring those on each side together to find a humane and fair solution to these issues when these positions appear to be polar opposites?
I believe we have to keep in mind the context in which we live today. For example, we have a president who lies regularly. Then he lies about his lies. He fires anyone who doesn’t support him 100%. He and his party passed tax reform legislation that gave the biggest breaks to corporations and the rich, increasing income inequality in a country that was already grotesquely divided between the haves and the have-nots. This is important because people everywhere have basic human needs that have to be met in order to live. Which side of the current issues one chooses often depends on which side of the economic divide you see yourself (or hope to one day to find yourself?). Those who have the privilege of money and power want to pass laws and make sure everyone else follows them. Those who lack money and power fight to get their basic needs met, even if it means having to break laws that prevent them from doing so.
It’s very telling to me that the Trump administration does not distinguish between those who cross the U.S. border. To them, it doesn’t matter if some of them want to declare asylum because they believe their life is in danger if they remain in their native country. To them, they are all “illegal” and must be prosecuted in criminal court. The process of sorting out who is coming over and why doesn’t matter. They see it all as a “legal” matter of “breaking the law.” They claim that too many of them are just bad actors and sees no need to sort them out. Instead, this administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance policy” on all who cross the borders without proper documentation.
Others understand that the countries that many of these families are coming from are in crisis. The crisis isn’t only of their own making. The United States for at least 150 years has had a hand in creating the conditions that have led to the current wave of people trying to come here from Central America. Therefore, it’s not just a legal matter, it’s also an ethical matter. If you make a mess of people’s lives, don’t you have a responsibility to help them?
My response to my neighbor’s post, especially in light of those who sided with the legality of the issue over the morality of it, I said the following:
If immigration laws and procedures were fair and equitable here in the USA, we wouldn’t be having this side of the conversation [legal]. If this country’s citizens welcomed immigrants and refugees of all colors and backgrounds, we wouldn’t be having the other side of this conversation [moral]. The truth is, his country was founded on racist and bigoted policies from its beginning and right now it’s at the height of hypocrisy, hate and abuse. You need to know the history in order to see how it’s being repeated. Once Upon a Time it was legal to bring black people over here to be slaves. So don’t stand behind what’s legal or not legal in order to frame what you think is right and wrong in this conversation. Laws can change but people are always human beings and should be treated that way. The lines that separate our countries are merely political, not natural. Human beings are natural. They should be able to live on this planet regardless of where they are. But when that isn’t happening, when they are suffering and cannot feed their families or are in fear for their lives, people move and look for a better place to stay alive. Think about that.
Ultimately, laws should help people live together peacefully and in harmony. But when the way of life becomes unbalanced and people cannot get their based human needs met, we can’t hide behind the “legality” of it. He must confront the “morality” of what is happening to our fellow human beings on this planet. We must be willing to deal fairly and equitably with these issues that lead to suffering and sometimes, too many times, death.
Humanists believe in the Golden Rule. So whether one follows an established, organized religion or not, I hope that we can all come together believing in the importance of, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Let’s strive to treat others with consideration, understanding, compassion, and love, regardless of our interpretation of the law.
I dropped out of the writing scene for quite a long time. I had barely gotten started, really. I had some personal and professional challenges sap my energies and dominate my time. But I’ve missed writing and think I’m ready to revisit my blog and explore some interests and share some experiences. I also want to use this blog as a way to explore my thinking on various topics. After all, isn’t that how one figures out what they truly think or how they truly feel, by writing it out, until conclusions come bursting forth? I’ll be testing out that theory.
When I started this blog it was as a response to being oppressed and abused by the very people I was trying to collaborate with in order to fight back against the corporate takeover of public schools. My own COLLEAGUES in the teaching profession!! I was HOT! I was P.O.ed! And I was passionate and frustrated! That was a LOT of pent-up energy with nowhere to go! Now that I’ve had some time away, I’ve had time to let the dust settle, get back in my writer’s chair and dust off my blog. I hope that means that I’ve gained some perspective on matters from the past and can make a go of moving forward with purpose and productivity! That’s my goal.
I’ve had some professional development experiences within the last year that have filled me with a new energy and renewed passion. Most of this work has been about understanding institutional racism and fighting for equity, particularly racial equity. I plan to share some of the things I’ve learned and continue to educate myself as a White woman.
I hope to find folks, especially fellow White folks, who are willing to put down their defenses and dig deep with me into the history of racism in this country and see where this “conversation” can take us. It is my hope that it helps us to move our country in a more equitable, fair and compassionate direction. In my personal opinion, creating the world we want to live in starts locally, but grows globally as our conversations with others expand into other circles. I look forward to this journey.
Will you join me?
We are on a roll. Today I hear that Randi Weingarten has put into writing her support of opting children out of taking standardized testing like PARCC. Even though I think it has taken this union leader way too long to back efforts that support real teaching and learning and are meant to protect not just teachers, but the children and the profession as a public good, at least she has finally said it.
Let’s continue to find and share this good news and work to create more of it daily!
Dr. Jesse “The Walking Man” Turner:
“I am a man on a mission to bring the joy of learning to the classroom. An advocate and activist for children, parents, and teachers.”
I’m am pleased to share with readers the writing of Dr. Jesse Turner. This piece of writing, in particular, is being shared far and wide because it is touching so many hearts. At a time when the field of education, the practice of teaching, teachers and public schools are under attack, these words strike a chord in those of us who understand the forces at work against us and the price being paid by everyone, especially our children, until we take back the reigns of control from the heartless, monied interests.
I Love Public EducationI cried the first time my Mother left me at your door,
I would learn to love you with every morning cookie and container of milk,
I would love you more with every song we sang within your hallowed walls,
I found your love in every teacher’s smile in your halls
I loved the reverence and respect you showed our flag every morning.
When the evil darkness of assassination
took the life of President Kennedy ~ you were there,
You calmed us, and helped us understand that although things could never be the same ~ our nation would be mended,
You kept us warm during the winters from 9:00 to 3:00 ~ when there was no heat in our old cold-water flat,
You were there when they murdered our heroes Martin and Bobby, to help us wipe away our tears,
You ensured that although they were taken from our world ~ these men would remain in our hearts forever,
You gave us hope through the riots and the protests,
You gave us color when there were no crayons in our homes,
You gave us poetry to ease our pain,
You gave us poetry to celebrate our lives,
You gave us history to give us roots,
You gave us geography, the stars and the moon landing ~ just to let us know we had no boundaries,
You taught us mathematics and science,
But most of all you gave us literature,
You gave us a love of books,
You handed us a little more of our dreams every single day,
You were there, year after year, as we spent our summer vacations under the cooling spray of fire hydrants ~ dancing in the streets,
As every summer ended we longed for another school year to begin,
You were beaming with pride at every graduation,
My loves still grows
I am confused by:
A nation’s leaders ~ who bash public schools at every opportunity,
An American media ~ that ignores 150 years of noble service to our nation’s children,
I find myself distraught ~ by the titans of industry, who blame you for every social ill, while they drink from the cup of plenty, time and time again,
I am troubled by their mantra of testing will save us,
I am saddened by their infatuation with fictional heroes like Superman, and homage to those with no real classroom experience,
I am bewildered by leaders who say teachers are the essential ingredients to success, and then in their next breath say our teachers are not good enough.
All I am I owe to you,
I can’t remember one single standardized test,
I do remember teacher after teacher telling us those tests were no measure of who we really are,
I remembered loving Mr. Bass’s reminders that poor boys and girls could be anything they dreamed,
His boys and girls were more than test scores,
We were his endless possibilities,
Yes, I love public education,
I love public education enough to fight for it,
I love public education enough to stand up for it,
I love public education enough to take it back from the
The billionaires club,
The policy makers,
The ones who only see test scores,
The ones who count numbers not tears,
The ones who refer to America’s children as “Data”
Yes, I love public education; enough to walk to Washington DC again in 2015.
Forever in your debt,
Follow him Twitter: @readdoctor
Dr. Turner will start his walk at Central State University on June 11th and it will end in Washington, D.C. He will walk about 400 miles in 40 days. Check out his event page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/297723840427078/
Anchor Chart = An instructional tool created by the teacher with students to support a lesson being taught. It can be used to remind students of routines or what is important about the content of a lesson. It is created as the lesson is being taught or during a class discussion. It is a routine part of the life in the modern classroom and often becomes a permanent or semi-permanent part of the classroom environment. Anchor charts and other teacher-made or store-bought posters that support student learning are plastered all over classrooms in the United States. In my school, they are on bulletin boards, chalk boards, white boards, doors, on the sides of bookshelves, on cabinet doors and drawers, filing cabinets and even taped to windows or clothes pinned to the blinds of windows. THAT is how important they are in supporting students’ learning.
However, during the PARCC tests coming up twice before the end of this school year, those charts and other posters are on the “FORBIDDEN LIST” when it comes to preparing the classroom environment for testing what kids know and can do with what they know. So rather than being another learning tool in their repertoire of learning tools to be referenced, these have become objects to be memorized and taken down or covered up during the test. In my mind, it’s kind of like having to memorize the dictionary rather than referring to it when a key word needs to be clarified before going on in reading a story or article.
Let’s see . . . does a lawyer have to memorize the contents of his or her books in the law library? Do doctors have to write up the contents of the articles from memory about the dangers of diabetes for each patient who becomes diagnosed? Do mechanics have to memorize the correct tire size or wiper blade size for each make and model of car, domestic or foreign made?
What is the point of these hyper austerity measures being imposed on children today? How do these expectations resemble the real world and how do they prove that children are learning or not learning? Which colleges and careers require that children deny using reference materials to do their work or to do their jobs? COME ON??? WHAT IS THE POINT???? I’M SERIOUS!!!!
In my state, on the previous state standardized tests that we have given for years and years, the only things we had to cover up or remove were name plates on desks that included things like multiplication charts as well as posters that included step-by-step directions on how to write an essay. All other anchor charts or posters were allowed to remain visible in the classroom, just like any other day in the life of learners.
As a matter of fact, this whole concept that I value immensely (and so should we all) of “keeping it real” for students reminds me of a book I’ve been reading. More on that in a future post! But for now, chalk this post up to one more reason we need to:
PERMANENTLY PARK THE PARCC!!!
LET’S WORK TOGETHER TO STOP THIS MADNESS!!!
It is critical that we all understand that everything about the PARCC test is a sharp departure from the previous kinds of standardized testing that has ever been done. The standards upon which they are based were agreed to before they were even written. They were backwards designed from college all the way down to kindergarten. There were few people who are experts in the field of education and zero early childhood educators to help create them. The few who were knowledgeable in their fields have since come out against the standards. The standards are copyrighted and therefore OWNED by this one group and cannot be changed, except by them. And now these tests are going to take longer than those that adults who wish to become lawyers or doctors must take. There is something significantly wrong with this whole process. It has been highly secretive, left out important stakeholders in a democratic society, and has not been proven to accomplish what it claims to do: assure to prepare kids to be college and career ready. Yet they are being forced upon us, regardless of the legitimate concerns expressed, full speed (and a FAST ONE AT THAT) ahead! This speeding train needs to be stopped. Children are on board. Their safety (mental and physical) is at stake! We need to have our kids refuse to take these unfair, unproven tests that will be used to close our schools and continue to unjustly justify opening up more non-community, privately owned and operated charter schools that hand-pick which kids they want to serve. Save your communities by saving your public schools! Say no to PARCC testing and to the Common Core non-State $tandards they rode in on!
If my child is going to sit for 500 minutes to take a test there better be a good reason. To date, I have not heard of any.
What we know:
-The results are given in 6 months.
-We can never see the test.
-We are told every answer is “plausible”.
-We are told the text is above grade level.
-Only15% of ELA standards are tested. Writing, listening & speaking are left out.
-Field test questions are on the test.
-Prepping for this test has taken a month (or more) out of our children’s education and fractured a love of learning.
-There is no proof that this is a measure of college/career readiness.
-We are not preparing them to become “good” test takers, because this is the only 500 minute test they will ever take (regardless of college/career).
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