Time Magazine: A black man, with NYPD officers, during a march in New York City on July 7, 2016, after videos were released showing two separate incidences of police killing two black males.
At 3:56 I received a text from my daughter, “Whoa, WAIT A MINUTE, my friend is in a photo for Time magazine .” Yup, that just became personal. The young man in the middle is a friend of my daughter. So as the picture caption read “A black man…” it actually was Michael.
I became overwhelmed with the news of bombings , racism , and our very frightening political scene. As a form of self preservation I have not engaged with social networks for a few days. Instead I took some time to figure out what I can do. I boiled it down : I can control; my thoughts , my beliefs, and my actions.
I focused on bias and my personal bias.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have been analyzing my attitudes about my racism since 1979 when I began teaching in the “Girl’s Club of Tucson”. I have continued to peel back the layers to better identify and understand and reshape my attitudes since then. The school district that I have been employed with since 1986 has been a great support in my efforts . I constantly am face to face with the issues of racism working in that suburban district. The district provides avenues to explore the issues both in and out of the classroom . I have taken advantage of any offering that they have provided. My most recent experience was in a program called SEED, Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity. And still after 30 years there I am discovering new aspects that need to be tweaked .
I read an article by Eloise Farthwargle , “The Day I Discovered I Was A Racist” , where she expressed the same sentiment. Like her I too was raised by good people who taught me to “love one another”. My parents marched against racism, held Agape meals at the church and provided a home that was like the united nations because of the visitors and dinner guests that they invited into it. My father was the founder of an international youth exchange program called Operation Friendship, USA. They would be mortified to discover that they were racists. Even though my parents had good intentions there is institutional racism that they were not in control of. You see, that is the issue with institutional racism. I grew up in the US and racism is embeded in my daily rutines and I didn’t even know it. Watch Jane Elliot work with her 3rd grade class just after Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. This is such a hard pill for me to swallow and I certainly have never identified as a racist but now understand that I allow it to happen by not doing something about it.
What do I do when I am searching for answers? One thing I do is take tests. The Implicit Project was my “go to” test of choice this week to help me discover my personal bias. I was thankfully affirmed after taking several of the tests. My eyes were opened towards my general bias towards my students of color. Thankfully I am working with a community of kids that I am bias towards. Anthony Greenwald and Mazarin Banaji (pictured below)authored a book , Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, it goes in-depth on the topics raised in the Implicit Project.
My next step may be to purchase , or at least make a trip to my local public library and settle into a soft easy chair and read it. Because that is one thing that I can do.
The phone rang….wait a minute this is the 21st century… rather… I received a text the other day, well it was really two years ago next month. It read that one of the local colleges was giving away weaving supplies. So I drove down to find that they certainly were. I collected many boxes of fiber to take to use in school with my students and then sent a truck back to pick up an 8 harness Gilmore Loom. It had not been used for a long time and I needed to do some minimal repairs. It was a wonderful addition to my studio. I had been weaving with a loner 4 harness baby wolf for years and to get my hands on an 8 harness that I could call my own was a real dream come true.
I spent the first year getting to know my way around by weaving my way through Carol Stickler’s book : A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns From the Friends of Handwoven.
I thought it would be a way out of working in the public sector and a way to establish myself in a business for retirement. Funny how retirement means “find another job” these days. But because of life and the pursuit of happiness that’s what it comes down to for me.
The book is chock full of patterns and by working with them I really have a “good relationship ” with my Gilmore. What a fabulous loom. Early on I was on the phone, yes really on the phone talking with the Bob Allen who owns and operates the company. He has now changed his registry to note that I am the current owner of the loom by serial number. He has a ledger that keeps track of every loom that was handmade in the shop and has kept accurate records. He asked me to look at the heads of the screws to see if they were all facing vertically, sure enough they were. He said that no one has tampered with the loom then because that is the way they are positioned when they leave the shop. Apparently the loom is worth $10,000 today. MAN ALIVE am I a happy camper and feel so obligated to do it justice.
I spent a few weeks following his instructions regarding the removal of cushions that had turned to black goo, carefully applied a part that he recommended , used various colored nail polish to hand paint heddles, scrubbed murphy’s oil soap on the wood and replaced tie ups for the lams. It is a sight to behold. I am now an official Gilmore Girl.
So that year I designed and wove scarves and towels and got to know my loom.
I have noticed that over the past twenty years the expectations in my job as a public school artist educator have increasingly become unrealistic. But never before this year has it become so obvious that we need to say, ” no more!”
I have mixed feelings about the woman’s movement shouting that “we can do it all”. I graduated college in 1979 well in the throws of the movement, burned my bra, expected to be paid equal wages. I raised two children , have been married to their father for 29 years, balanced commuting 100 miles to work daily , did it “IT ALL”. I always left work at work until recently. Increasingly work has crept into my home . Thanks technology , now I can answer my mail 24/7. This became so apparent while doing the National Board Teachers Certification. During that year my son approached me to say, “I want my mother back.” Poignant because that is not something you expect to hear from a 17 year old son. So yes , mixed emotions doing it all has spread me too thin, to the point that the quality is just not there.
I found it quit unsettling and strange this past September when I first met my “wet behind the ears” administrator. In our first meeting I pointed out that in order to comply with the state standards she was going to have to do 470 observations . Keep in mind that there are 181 days of school and that at least 40 of them may be devoted to instruction and curriculum. (tongue in cheek) In 34 years I have always had administrators that saw their job was to clear the path of stumbling blocks for their staff. Every single one of them would have said that the expectations were unrealistic . Not this one. She was clearly hired to push through reform. At that moment I was struck with how most of the people that I work with are navigating in, what I call,” the climate of fear”. Unrealistic expectations are very obvious to all of them , but they do not say anything because they can be replaced, they can retire, they can leave the job for something better. I fear that in a short whole teaching will be done by people while they are contimplating what they will do with their lives. Look at Teach For America?
Thank you to this brave journalist and may it open the flood gates for more insight about how we can stop what isn’t natural and healthy. Honestly, you have to say to yourself , WHY? am I putting so much into work when what really maters is family? Time to call it as we see it.
This is a must read.
for my students