Editors Note: This post was originally published on Catherine’s blog on Medium.
DO NOW: What is Whiteness?
After taking out their supplies and getting ready to engage, my students reacted to the question I’d written on the board as their “DO NOW.”
Some students giggled. Others made faces – perplexed, overwhelmed, entertained. A few began to chat with classmates. Some looked at me hoping for guidance. My co-teacher, having just entered the room, said, “That’s a great question!”
After giving my students time to react, I told them I knew it was a difficult question, but I wanted them to think about it. I told them there were no right answers, but they should draw upon their lived and learned experiences — and that I expected them to try to respond.
It’s Sunday, February 12, 2017 and the top headline of The Huffington Post reads, “MILLER CHILLER: SUNDAY CIRCUIT WHIFF!” Now, I’m an educated person who reads the news daily, and in addition to feeling alarmed (which I imagine is the author’s intent), I’m also confused. So I click into the article to find a revised title: “Trump Adviser Stephen Miller Disastrously Tries to Defend Trump.” Miller Chiller… Circuit Whiff!… Disastrously tries… hmmm. I think I know where this article is going.
I wonder what the “other side” of the aisle has front and center for us today? With a quick search, I find the following in large print featured on Fox News: “‘ENORMOUS EVIDENCE’: Trump advisor says there is proof of voter fraud in U.S., while critics call for data.” I wonder which part of this headline will resonate most with readers: the enlarged, emphasized opening crying, “ENORMOUS EVIDENCE,” or the little opposing part at the end about a potential lack of sufficient data to support Trump’s claim?
As an educator in the Oakland Unified School District, I immediately wonder what meaning the high school students I serve would make of the headlines above. What background knowledge do they have, both on the subject matter and on the two publications? What predictions might they make about each article just by reading the titles? What similarities might they notice? What differences would they identify? Perhaps most importantly, what do I understand about the significance of these competing headlines that our students might not immediately grasp?
Over the course of the last week, I watched in horror as the imaginary world I live in, or lived in, came crashing down around me. I built myself a world where discrimination was largely a thing of the past. A world where people worked together to achieve equal rights for all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my daughters, and even my students, that things are different now. I lied. I lied to the children; I lied to myself. We still live in a country where it is open season on black people.