I Am Numb

Discussing race in a time of hopelessness…

By Adell Cothorne
I would love to say my heart is heavy as I try to process the senseless executions this week of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Yet, saying my heart is *heavy* would be a lie. My heart is NUMB. I am NUMB.

Black_Lives_Matter_protest_against_St._Paul_police_brutality_(21552673186)I am numb because I cannot fathom how much more it will take for some REAL change to occur. I am NOT condoning violence. But I DO wonder how many men and women of color have to lose their lives at routine traffic stops or outside storefronts before something tangible and systemic is done to ensure the right to live.

One cannot pinpoint just one situation that brings us to where we are today. There are a myriad of situations and conditions which have made some members of our society view other persons as animalistic or *less than.*

We can go back centuries and read the works of one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Yes, him again. In Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson hinted that African Americans’ skin color may be derived from bile and they produced a very strong and disagreeable odor.  He also wrote of how African Americans were inferior when it came to reasoning, imagination, and the composition of complicated melodies. Trust me, there are PLENTY other noble statesman who can be called out for their racist thoughts, but Jefferson’s views were used as the bedrock for a racist nation in which we currently reside.

stop killing usTalking race
As a long-time principal in both urban and suburban school districts, issues of race and equity have been at the center of my life. These days, as I transition from principal to teacher at a predominantly white Catholic university, discussions of race occupy a central place in my classroom. Many of my students will teach in areas with a sizeable population of African Americans, including Baltimore City. A number of them have shared with me that this will be the first time they will interact with people of color on a consistent basis. Each class period usually involves a discussion on how race impacts teaching and learning. My students are preparing for future teaching careers in which race will be front and center, even as they try to make sense of a world in which violence against people of color is a daily occurrence. These are the sorts of questions and comments they have for me. Continue reading →

Sit Down and Shut Up

I went to a high-performing charter school to become a better teacher. Instead I learned how to silence and punish kids.

Editor’s note: the following piece was written by a charter school teacher whose request for anonymity I honored. Leave comments or email them to me at jennifer@haveyouheardblog.com and I’ll pass them along. 

It’s sexy to be *woke* right now. Some schools are infusing social justice into their curricula, while others are scaling back on harsh discipline practices. At an individual level, an increasing (and still too small) number of people—including a growing number of teachers, most of them young—are posting pictures and statuses on social media about how #BlackLivesMatter.

seth-tobocman.jpg (750×199)I’m no exception. Indeed, this growing movement has had a profound impact on the way I view my role as the white teacher of all students of color. I know it’s vital that I’m aware of the cultural differences between me and my students. I want to show them amazing literature by authors who look like them and expose them to new perspectives. I’m aware of the disparate manner in which discipline is applied at schools along racial lines. I don’t want to contribute to that disparity, or to the school-to-prison pipeline.  In a recent meeting led by teachers of color at my school, I excitedly engaged in a conversation about a cartoon that juxtaposed a white officer yelling at a black man against a white teacher yelling at a black child.

But I have a confession to make… Continue reading →