Wow, dusting off my blog….it is been more than a hot second but for a legit reason. I needed to mentally take a step back from being a connected educator. To be honest being a connected educator has been great for my growth and also helped me establish really great relationships and close friendships with other educators all over the world. With those connections has also created an oxymoronic feeling of murky transparency that I didn’t like and wanted to be away from. There are people that I feel like I know really well and others I thought I knew, but I’m still surprised by their actions and choices. I guess I feel social media should really allow people to “live their truth” but quite often I’ve noticed instead people don’t really do so. Why is that? I do feel connected educators need to do more internal work. What are you really about? What things in education really matter? Am I letting my bubble skew my understanding of the world around me? Am I really a desultory educator? Do I act like a cat and a laser pointer, always jumping the next catchy buzzword or trend? Many things in education are not fun, innovating, trendy, or glamorous. How are you addressing those things? Those are some of the hard questions I wish connected educators really thought about, worked through internally, and honestly answer.
Equity, inclusion, and advocacy work are examples of those topics that aren’t as glamorous. Equity and inclusion aren’t the flavors of the month although many on EduTwitter are treating them as such. Equity and advocacy work can’t be treated like the Hokey Pokey. You don’t get to put one hand in because you finally hear the music that’s been playing for quite some time. Genuine pursuits for equity and sincere advocacy efforts for marginalized groups last a lot longer than a catchy song and require a lot more effort than shaking all about. Oftentimes, especially in the early stages, the work requires you in the words of Mr. Lamar to: “Sit down, be humble.” The equity and advocacy party has been around a very long time. Don’t arrive, attempt to change the music, invite some of your friends, then bounce shortly there after. Don’t arrive on the scene because it’s now the popular place to be, take selfies, and brag about being there once. Don’t ignore the people who’ve been at the party from the beginning or for a very long time and dismiss/ignore their efforts to continue to keep the party bumpin’. It doesn’t work that way. Genuine advocacy work is long suffering, active, visible, and full of humbling moments. Dismissing the work of and not listening to veteran advocates who have come before is disrespectful, ungrateful, and disingenuous. All connected educators must do better in this, stop ignoring and patronizing those working to improve these educational issues with more than buzzword, hashtags, and gadgets.
I’m still a bit baffled by the idea that people think patronizing, minimizing, erasure of people of color is okay. Black women have dealt with erasure since forever (ever, ever) and I feel maybe people think that’s what makes it okay. It is dehumanizing when someone literally removes or eliminates your brilliance, ideas, thoughts, or words. Doubly troubling is when these same ideas, thoughts, and/or words are used for someone else’s gain, ego stroke, or benefit. I respect the following quote from Truman: “it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” but that adage is faulty for this reason. These accomplishments are tainted because they stem from ego-driven elimination of another individual’s value. When you silence, ignore, or co-opt someone else’s message/idea/thought you see them as less, and not as worthy or valuable. Co-opting is new school form of unpleasant piggy backing. Quite often when you co-opt, you’re changing the value of originator to an object, standing on their shoulders so you can be seen, thus demeaning and dehumanizing them.
In my twelve year career as an educator, I’ve seen a lot erasure, disrespect, inequity and dealt with my fair share as well. I find it so peculiar that no matter the variety and wealth of my experiences and abilities, I still can be treated in educational circles at times as an nonentity. Microaggressions, unfair labels, silencing, co-opting all happen consistently and usually because other people are uncomfortable. In this situation, like most others, the why is forefront in my mind, and the what is a byproduct. Why do I get silenced? Why do I experience microaggressions? The question I’ve now instead begun to ask is this: Why am I causing you enough discomfort so you’re acting this way towards me?
“Shana, you’re so direct.”
“Shana, that’s mean because you didn’t agree with me.”
“Shana, because you don’t smile at me all the time, I think you don’t like me.”
“Shana, you won’t help me when I want you to.”
“Shana, you speak up too much and your tone is aggressive.”
Above are just a few of the things that have been said to me by adults (most of them not to my face) but via written format or my favorite, having someone else deliver the message to me. Labels like advocate, determined, skilled, strong-willed, passionate aren’t always used by some people to describe me. Instead its aggressive, mean, disruptive, trouble-maker, or outspoken. Why? Some of us know why. I know a lot of other educators of color (especially black women) will raise their hands about being described by the latter adjectives more often than not. This is another form of disrespect, devaluing, and erasure that at this point in my career I should not be subjected to.
Again, I ask: Why does my existence cause you discomfort? Do you recognize the reason why yet? Again that internal work is necessary here to answer these hard questions.
Am I supposed to be docile and accept things the way they are? Should I never offer pushback or a reminder to pause and listen? Should I never speak up and speak out when people continue to trivialize serious issues? Should I allow myself to be dehumanized so you can feel better about yourself?
Well, news flash, my responses to the above questions will continue to be nope, nope, nope, and nope.
7 thoughts on “Why do I cause you discomfort?”
Amen, amen, amen! Thank you for so clearly and eloquently expressing such an important view. I have become increasingly distraught with the number of people jumping on the equity bandwagon who so clearly fail to understand what it really means for us to be white allies in this work. And the fact that having a following on social media somehow means you are an “expert”.
Hoping our paths may cross at some point. I think I would enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation with you.
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Shana, when you do crank up this blog it is always with purpose, clarity and yes, fire. I’m here for all three because with each you help me see the way, remember why I’m out here and still committed to engaging. Thank you. Always.
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I was described as “scary.” I asked why, and she became flustered. Is it because I refuse to tolerate disrespect or nonsense? Ridiculous! Thank you so much for this article Shana!
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Love this. All too familiar. Hang in there and continue to let your voice be heard.
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This rang home for me to the Nth degree! Thank you for being explicit and truthful. The experience is real and all too often we are brushed aside, overlooked, or not taken seriously. I’ve experienced such actions over the past two years and did not back down. I refuse to sit idle and silent when unfair and unjust situations, particularly involving students of color take place. Thank you for expressing what so many of us are thinking, feeling and experiencing. Great read!!
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While I’m not a woman of color and could never truly understand what it feels like, I am a woman and have been told many of the things you have been told. I can relate to feeling ostracized, minimalized, and ignored. I love being a connected educator because of what I’ve learned about myself and others, especially throughout my leadership journey as a female leader. Thank you for all that you do and what I have learned (and continue to learn) from you.
Thank you for articulating what I have felt and experienced for many years. Although the above described behavior of the adults at my school is disheartening at times, my commitment to the students keeps me in the game. The struggle continues!