Day 88 (of 187) on MLK day and a share by @jessstohlmann
I grew up in rural BC – where the colour of skin was noticed and many misunderstandings happened because of that. I don’t recall there really being a clear racial majority within the community, but I know (thanks to my parents) that when considering role models, especially in education – there was a clear cut majority…..and many of my friends didn’t see “people like them” in positions of authority….and in positions of power of systems that did things “to” some and “for” others…
And it’s hard because I try to make things equitable for all but am aware through conversations and experiences and books like Michael Bennett’s book: “Things that make white people uncomfortable” … which didn’t make me uncomfortable but did speak eloquently about the experiences in a society that definitely has some bias based on skin colour.
And in Marin Luther King Jr day, there are some topics we (as a white male educator) need to be cognizant of and willing to talk about with others. And me of my “favourite” discussion points in Canadian (BC) education is around our First Peoples education programs and when I’m asked a question….because white males have such a good reputation working in this realm (tongue-in-cheek as my father was named an honorary chief by one of our local nations)
And I stumbled on a great group of “hot topics” via @JessStohlmann:
Because segregation still exists in more ways than just “by year of birth to grade in school”. Here are my quick takes on good discussion points for #MLKDay
MAD pride: mental wellness has long had stigmas – especially with the uncomfortableness in working with people with mental health challenges. It has led many schools to send learners to “alternate learning spaces”. But more and more people are becoming willing to wear their challenges publicly. A great example is TSN personality Michael Landsberg who created the #sicknotweak mindset to share about his struggles with depression. And a good reminder when people talk about depression and “others” wonder what they have to be sad about when they seem to have it all, sad is not the same as depression..
Trauma. Education is becoming better aware of trauma and ptsd (post traumatic stress disorder) and what may be traumatic to one may not be for others – and a terrifying event either experienced or witnessed – sometimes re-experienced through flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts (often at unpredictable times) As my son created to represent his over-thinking brain:
We know that the trauma impacted brain requires time….and patience….and sometimes repetition. And some times will be worse than others and there isn’t much we can do other than be supportive and inclusion.
Neodiversity: figuring out how to deal with people who aren’t like you – and that goes beyond being the same as others based on their gender, skin colour, etc. It means treating everyone as unique individuals. It makes stereotyping very complicated, angst inducing and at times aggravating!
Coercion: when you are being persuaded to do something by using force or threats. When “or else…” escapes the mouth… reinforcing that things are to be done because others have decided it to be so or else a consequence would be issued. A great way to increase anxiety and decrease trust and make relationships….not happen. And the obvious question – being mindful – how much coercion goes on in schools….
Whitewashing – not quite the same as white privilege, but wanting to make things cleaner than they may have once been. Canada likes to pride itself on being a multi-cultural society – except for the times we did t want some cultures to come on shore… it also is a way to try to make decisions from the past appear different. And I’ll admit having more tolerance for past decisions based on what was learned/known at the time. We can’t ignore the element of slavery as part of the US civil war and we have to acknowledge Canada’s government role in residential schools. We have t learn from our past injustices to stop them from happening or to stop using them on other groups of people.
Epistemic: the study of the nature of knowledge, justification and rationality of belief. The obvious problem is that justifications can be different as can the rationality of belief depending on which lens(es) are being used. This can go in many different directions (most recently seen in the US Vice Presidents wife joining a school that feels it rational to exclude staff and students who are not strictly believers in only heterosexual relationships….)
Injustice: Again, this can depend on a point of view. Was an uncalled penalty that (maybe) allowed a football team to reach the super bowl – or was it a way to punish the other team! But definitely when it feels rules and laws and decisions are made based on who the person is and not necessarily “just” on what they did – or not punishing (finding justice) because of “who” the accused are/look like etc.
Peer support: can be some of the most powerful intervention. A small group of students in Atlantic Canada helped start Pink Shirt Day around bullying. As I said earlier – it’s not appropriate for the white guy in the office to take on the burden (phrasing chosen mindfully) of solving all perceived problems. But when peers stand up to support (and call-out) each other, this can start a movement.
Marginalized groups: if you wonder why there’s a #metoo movement or why people talk about white privilege, this isn’t you. Have I been oppressed? At times. But not all the time. My conversation with my kids about what to do if the police pull you over is different than other families. Marginalized groups have reasons to distrust police, paramedics, hospitals, schools, courts etc. And it’s not just about the colour of skin. This can involve socio-economics, religion, gender identity, political affiliations, etc etc. And it becomes imperative that those of us who don’t feel marginalized help those that do feel it, feel supported and ensure they feel a sense of belonging (that is authentic). Heck, sometimes I’ll even change my conversation tone because while I’m university educated….I grew up on “a side of the tracks” that knows….different….
Data: while one of my favourite STTNG characters…. can help and hinder. You can find data to tell you what you want to see and ignore some that make you….not want to believe it. Nobody likes to talk about the data about addiction and impacts to the developing brain when debating the legalization of cannabis and prefer the anecdotal data of it being able to help anxiety as opposed to the data warning about use with anxiety and depression because of the paranoia it causes.
Critical suicidology: one of those topics we hate to deal with proactively but get so worried about when we need to react to it – either an attempt or an actualization – such as when a high profile person claims their own life. We can’t just exclaim “they had so much to live for” because…. well …. We should be looking at some groupings that may be more at risk than others and see that it’s not clear cut: our Canadian First Peoples are at risk, as are people with gender questions, but so are white males we need to talk more about the unfathomable: why? And how connections matter. How a sense of belonging matters -the good and the bad.
Martin Luther King Jrs “I Have A Dream” speech was definitely about the segregation of America by race: white vs black, but also white vs “all others including some whites”. But a call that future generations will be able to sit together and focus on character. Where “we” will all work together, struggle together and just be… irrelevant of whom we love. The colour of ones skin. The faiths followed. The type of job we have (we all need lawyers; we all need the trash taken away). The “increase” mental wellness we are facing – everybody is battling something – temporarily or long term.
We are all individuals – social justice matters to keep MLKs dream flourishing – judge me on my character; what I do matters (as does what I say); even -maybe especially- as a white male educator who is trying to ensure Dr Kings dream exists in our learning community.