Getting back into the flow after break – I know, I’m a teacher, I get a lot of time off, I’m not complaining about it, don’t hate me – we’re in the year 2020. Just writing that seems odd. This is the time I always associated with the future. But we’re here.
My students do not seem to be fazed by it as much as I am. Probably because they were born in 2006 or later…gasp! They’re in the midst of examining bias, discrimination, and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird.
‘We have to stop thinking about racism simply as someone who says the N-word,’ she says. ‘This book is centred in the white western colonial context, and in that context white people hold institutional power.’ This means understanding that racism is a system rather than just a slur; it is prejudice plus power. And in Britain and the US at least, it is designed to benefit and privilege whiteness by every economic and social measure. Everyone has racial bias but, as DiAngelo is determined to establish, ‘when you back a group’s collective bias with lingering authority and institutional control, it is transformed’.
They’re doing a PHENOMENAL job of accessing the text and making connections to outside sources and their own lives. What’s more, they’re having authentic conversations about race that most adults have been hiding from for decades. For a generation more entitled than mine, this is a step in the right direction.
Learning to talk about challenging subject matter and listen to varying viewpoints and actually HEAR them and communicate productively even if you do not agree is critical in giving a voice to all and beginning to deconstruct past and prejudicial power structures. I write this as people become more entrenched in their beliefs on both sides of the aisle and are increasingly less willing to consider the perspectives of others. Who would have thought that in the year 2020 political affiliation would supersede the ties that bind us as humans?
Pivoting away from the current state of our country, on a positive note I’m beginning to get back into writing. For the first time in a long time, I have an April deadline set on old work; namely, ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’. Then, I will return to Westchester to see my old friend Foday Samateh – author of the Good Country trilogy. While I have not done a good job of keeping in touch since I left, he has. Because he’s just that good.
After that, it’s either full steam ahead on ‘The Heroin Times’ or developing a fictional text tentatively titled ‘The School.’ We shall see. That and obviously developing new and engaging lessons for my students. Poetry, Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Night are all coming after To Kill a Mockingbird.
Writing goals, professional goals, life goals – they’re what keep us moving, keep us motivated, give us our purpose for getting up beyond just the paycheck we get from our nine-to-five or six-to-seven – however you want to look at it.
Regardless, we endure with the promise of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow that will be bountiful whenever it comes.