Friday, January 27, 2012

"This is Panic Attack Rap"

Title thanks to Das Racist.

We are in a crisis that happens to be playing out in schools but isn't only about schools. It's about white supremacy, and those cuts run deep.

I assume NWF readers are aware of big events and generally keeping up with the news, so you probably already know about the ABSOLUTE FUCKING RACISM happening in Arizona schools right now. Here's one recap, and more from Common Dreams:

Arizona is closing public school ethnic studies programs that accuse whites of oppressing Chicanos and Native Americans on the grounds that these historical lessons constitute racist hate speech. But scholars and activists are protesting the state’s latest move as racist itself because it keeps students from these communities from learning about their own history and heroes.
As Paul Ortiz - a fellow radical historian at my university - says:

These people want us to mow their lawns, pick their crops, clean their public restrooms, teach their kids, and truck their consumer goods from coast to coast and yet they will not allow our children to read books about their own histories? What is the problem with this country?
And then:
What I'm trying to figure out is this: what is happening today in white American culture that is driving this kind of rage towards children of color? Many of us experienced these types of abuses in the 1970s as kids but had hoped that the nation had moved beyond pulverizing the minds of its children. Guess not....

The Tucson kids didn't take this shit lying down. Students from three high schools organized a walk-out. They met in a park, marched to the Tuscon United School District, and held teach-ins on the lawn. It's tear-jerking, it's awe-inspiring, it's heroic.

So, I didn't let this shit go untouched on my own Facebook wall. I had a conversation with Alert Reader Steve, who correctly pointed out that this is all part of the system and asked what I'd do to change it. I said this:

I want colleges of education and [the American Educational Research Association] and [Teach For America] to be less attached to assimilation, for instance. Instead of asking, "What's wrong with the brown kids that's keeping them from succeeding in schools," and placing the blame on communities of color, they could do some self-reflection and ask what's wrong with The System, and what they're doing to create schools in which only some kids can succeed. All the big research money goes to asking the "what's wrong with brown people" question, and when you ask the "what's wrong with the schools/system/us" question, you're a radical and they don't have to listen to you anymore. It's easy for colleges of ed and AERA to look at what's going on in Tucson right now and say "that's wrong," but haven't looked at their complicity in the system that allows it. They're still working under assumptions that the system that works for white people should work for everyone, for instance. They still, in general, marginalize other narratives of success and draw lines around what it means to be a "good kid" or a "productive adult." There is too much meritocracy at work. You should see the reactions that happen when you get white grad students to read Faces at the Bottom of the Well, for instance. I've seen it. It isn't pretty.

As for queer stuff - because, let's be real, the patriarchy is both white and hetero - AERA has been almost militantly silent. They have said they "don't take stances on political issues," even as kids are dying. Queer kids aren't a political issue. These institutions sanction a system that allows the queer kid to be kept out of school for "his safety" but lets the bullies have access to school. That happens all the time. They perpetuate a system that requires cis/hetero gender conformity. Etc.

In the cases of queer and/or of-color populations, schools are forces of colonization, socialization, and assimilation. That's gotta stop, because it's a milder form of what's going on here. Tuscon is a really visible attempt to silence and erase people, but in many ways it's more of a quantitative difference than a qualitative one.


We should be panicking right now.

Image via.


  1. Hooray for those kids in Tucson!

    AERA's stance on queer issues is deeply troubling. For it being a massive organization that attends to a broad spectrum of education-related issues, it is unfathomable that they do not assert a position that works to counter the homophobia/heteronormativity in schools and related institutions. But I guess the AERA powers that be are too homophobic themselves or far too concerned about stirring up controversy.

    This type of stuff is one of the reasons I'm contemplating returning to the classroom instead of a university when I'm done--chip away at the system from within and try to create a classroom that breeds activists (with both students and student teachers)!

  2. Desi: Yeah - I think you'd really like the book "Flaunt it! Queers Organizing for Education and Social Justice." I'm working through it slowly, and I think it might be too narrowly-focused for QRG, but I think you should read it. It talks about other professional organizations in education, too. And, as a colleague who's been involved with AERA for probably 15 years said to me last year, the organization still sees us as the faggots and dykes. And not in the Dyke Pryde way, you know?

    Anyway, as someone else said on the Facebook thread, whether I should be part of this organization is unclear. I dunno. I think a queer walk-out isn't the worst idea I've ever heard.

    1. Ooooo...yes! Sounds good! I added it to my wish list and will be investing in it after this semester.

  3. On a tangential note, Arizona is also about to make collective bargaining, and essentially unions, illegal for ALL public employees.
    The Wingnut State.