WhiteTeacher

5 Things Well-Meaning White Educators Should Consider If They Really Want to Close the Achievement Gap

Though I hate to admit it, I was once that well-meaning White teacher – the one that comes from a wealthy family, chooses to teach in a “poor, urban school,” the one who wrote in my cover letter that I wanted to be the “engaging teacher” with a “racial justice pedagogy” who could help his Black students “overcome their tough life circumstances.”

I was the teacher who said things like, “These kids just don’t have the best educational supports at home, so we really need to step in and model for them.”

Despite my “racial justice pedagogy,” I said nothing when my colleagues complained that “these students have to want to learn if I’m going to teach!”

I don’t mean to be self-depreciating, but I “just wanted to close the achievement gap.” And, sadly, I’m not alone.

Many of us fail to acknowledge that terms like “the achievement gap” place the responsibility of change on students – and specifically poor and working class students of Color.

Yet, in my experience offering professional development to educators, most of the White teachers I work with are well-intentioned despite the damage we may be doing with these victim-blaming, deficit-oriented beliefs.

However, when at least 80% of our teachers in the United States are White and the most powerful decision makers tend to be White or are pushing White-designed models of reform, is it any wonder that we inaccurately perceive this country’s educational inequity as being the result of a student-deficit “achievement gap” – a term dating back to White “reformers” of the 1960s – rather than, say, systemic oppression and marginalization?

This isn’t to say that we aren’t trying.

Increasingly, progressive educators are looking for alternatives in our language and reform methods that actually address the root causes of our educational injustice.

But here are some things that we really need to think through if we want to really improve the system.

Who Do Our Schools Serve – And Why?

Let’s be honest: Public education was created to serve as an entry point for lower-to-middle-wealth White people into the American middle class (by preparing White students for success in industry and farming).

Schools in the United States have always been tools for consolidating wealth into White hands, even when some people of Color have found success in these systems.

Even Brown v. Board, the landmark Supreme Court ruling to desegregate schools, didn’t serve to decenter Whiteness.

The “integration” of Brown v. Board didn’t change the White supremacist roots of education; it simply demanded that students of Color enter White schools, bend themselves to White systems, and learn from White teachers.

When we see our education system through this lens, we understand that it serves not only to consolidate White power and wealth, but to ensure that people of Color cannot succeed.

Yet when they don’t, they are blamed for their own lack of “achievement” in a supposedly “race neutral” system.

Notably the modern disparities in our educational system have come into starker contrast during this age of endless data collection from No Child Left Behind.

However, much of this data is used to judge and critique populations our schools were never designed to serve in the first place.

When we take these numbers at face value, we see that Hispanic/Latinx, Indigenous, and Black students trail their White and Asian peers by huge margins in every academic area:

NAEPReading

NAEPScience

Further, Asian success in the US education system is regularly used to “disprove” the idea that our schools are built upon White supremacy, but to understand Asian success in US schools is to understand the history of White supremacy that undergirds the Asian success story in the United States.

After all, the number one predictor of educational success in the US is parental education, andsince the Chinese Exclusion Act, the US has let in relatively few Asian immigrants without advanced degrees.

However, when we examine the NAEP data by parent’s education, though, we see that poorer, less academically educated Asians (such as Hmong refugees) and Whiteswhile still outperforming Latinx, Indigenous, and Black students – struggle to find the same success as those whose parents are well educated.

And simply put, when our schools have been set up to serve Whites while excluding all but a few people of Color, it makes sense that White people are far more likely to have an advanced education.

In fact, Black men in the US actually must have a higher level of education than White men to get the same jobs, so even when those who’ve been left out of the system succeed, the deck is stacked against them!

In the face of this tremendous disparity, no longer can we avoid placing responsibility where it belongs.

The Education Debt

In her 2006 address entitled From Achievement Gap to Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings explains,

The yearly fluctuations in the achievement gap give us a short-range picture of how student perform on a particular set of achievement measures. Looking at the gap from year to year is a misleading exercise.”

Instead, we must not focus on the gaps in achievement, but must zoom the lens out to understand the broader picture where “the historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral decisions and policies that characterize our society have created an education debt.”

When we refuse to invest properly in the education of those with the least access, we see the results in our test scores and in every other measure of injustice in our society: poverty, employment, wealth accumulation, health disparity, exposure to violence and stress, and so on.

Ladson-Billings goes on to describe the ways that each form of debt – historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral – creates a demand for accountability that places responsibility with those who run the educational and economic systems that enforce this debt.

Thus, we have a responsibility to shift our language and approach in education away from a victim-blaming, deficit-oriented gap model and toward addressing the startling education debt.

This is of particular importance for White educators, as we are those with the most power to further entrench the debt.

Just as much as White educators tend to reify the education debt, we also have the power to help repay it, particularly when we are led by communities, parents, students, and educators of Color.

Repaying the Education Debt

Thus, drawing upon the analysis of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, here are some of the ways that we can begin to repay the tremendous debt that is owed to students of Color in the US.

1. Address Funding Injustice

funny-equality-justice-baseball-fence

The educational debt rests upon hundreds of years of unequal funding that persists today.

While adequate funding alone cannot settle the debt, it can go a long way to providing the resources needed to create just schools.

In the school where I taught, an almost all-Black school in a neighborhood of Chicago where 99% of students live in inter-generational poverty, about $9,000 per pupil per year was spent on the students.

In the nearby New Trier High School, just 24 miles away in a mostly White suburb, spending per pupil totaled $21,000 per pupil.

My classroom had one set of textbooks for all 9th grade social studies students, while New Trier offered a rich array of courses and extra-curriculars.

Taken over generations, this unequal funding, not only in our schools but in nearby social services, creates a tremendous debt.

However, to repay this debt, we should not simply strive for funding equality.

There should be disparity in education funding. We should be spending more on our schools in the lowest-wealth (disproportionately Black, Brown, and Indigenous) communities than in wealthy, predominantly White communities.

That doesn’t mean that we should cut funding to wealthy, White schools. So long as we think about our problems in education from a model of scarcity, we forever lose.

However, a massive, disproportionate investment in education in our lowest-wealth communities would go a long way toward reducing class size and offering robust student resources in the least-served communities while addressing the racialized wealth debt in the long term.

As educators, we must be the ones leading the charge to address this funding inequity.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

I Do Not Mourn

10 Things All White Folks Need to Consider about the #BaltimoreUprising

As I reflect upon the most recent Baltimore Uprising taking place in the wider movement for racial justice in the United States, I can’t help but be simultaneously frustrated and inspired by the White people in my life.

I’m inspired by White friends and mentors who are striving for accountable solidarity to Black people within the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and I am constantly taking notes about how I can do more to advance the cause of racial justice through my own work, words, and activism.

But I’m also frustrated and disappointed in how so many of us are choosing to direct as much energy as possible to blaming people of Color for their own oppression and to condemning them for expressions of grief and rage that make us uncomfortable and afraid.

So as I reflect on those simultaneous feelings, I wanted to reach out through the medium of my writing, one White person to another, in hopes of inspiring us to think and engage more critically as people of Color literally fight for their lives.

1. As White People, We Are Not Victims of Racial Oppression

There is not a statistical measure that exists by which White people are oppressed while people of Color are privileged.

As such, we get zero say in how people who are oppressed respond to their oppression.

There is vast dialogue and debate within Black communities and other communities of Color about the most effective ways to realize justice, and in none of those conversations should the voices or leadership we White people who benefit from systems of racial oppression be centered. 

2. A Movement of Nonviolence Has BeenOccurring – We Just Weren’t Paying Attention

So many of us call on oppressed people to act nonviolently when they are being brutalized by violent police, institutions, and systems, but people of Color have been in the streets nonviolently for years calling for an end to racist police violence.

Where were we?

Yes, many White folks have shown up and shown out in solidarity, but by and large, we White people have been silent.

It’s entirely possible for us to believe in the transformative power of nonviolent revolution without patronizingly telling Black people how they should express their anger and rage that comes from being murdered in the streets by police.

It pains me to see anger, hurt, frustration, and pain boil over into the throwing of stones and destruction of property, but we need to remember the source of this pain: systemic racism expressed through police violence.

We simply have no right to tell a community that lives with the brutalization of White supremacy daily how they should direct or express their rage.

3. The Destruction of Property Pales in Comparison to the Destruction of Lives

Why is it that we as White folks seem to be ten times more outraged by the destruction of property than by the fact that police kill Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people every 19 hours in 2015

Why are we ten times more outraged by the setting of fires than by the racist, capitalist systems that produce the poverty that devastates communities of Color?

We can say all we like that we are “feeling for the small business owners and individuals who lost their property,” but every one of those broken windows can be replaced and every burnt building can be rebuilt.

The lives of people taken by police and consumed by our systems’ endless appetites for Black, Brown, and Indigenous suffering can never be returned.

Source:  David Ellington Wright

4. Dr. King Wasn’t Here for Us – And He Still Isn’t

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a cudgel for White people to use against Black people who respond to their oppression in ways that we do not find palatable.

The Rev. Dr. King was a radical revolutionary who called for a complete overturning of the racist, capitalist system in which we live. We do not get to coopt and distort his legacy or that of any civil rights leaders to maintain the status quo.

We would do well to actually read the writings of Dr. King (rather than cherry pick the quotes that support our agenda) and consider his words for White moderates:

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quote

5. Stop (Seriously, Stop) with #AllLivesMatter

When we say #AllLivesMatter, we are participating in the erasure of the lives who sadly do not matter within our systems of oppression while injecting our own need to be centered into a movement for racial justice.

#BlackLivesMatter is a revolutionary call for change in systems where Black lives, cultures, and communities are devalued.

Here are a few links that explain this better than I ever could:

What You Mean By #AllLivesMatter” by Arielle Newton of Black Millennials

Please Stop Telling Me That All Lives Matter” by Julia Craven at Huffington Post

What’s Wrong with ‘All Lives Matter?” by George Yancy and Judith Butler at The New York Times

Tweets from Arthur Chu @arthur_affect. "Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run thru a cancer fundraiser going "THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO" "WTF is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. Do you crash strangers' funerals shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS"

Read the rest of the list at Everyday Feminism.

Got-Privilege

When Privilege Goes Pop: How Mainstream Conversations On Privilege Can Hurt Justice Movements

We live in a time when conversations about privilege – the everyday benefits and advantages that people receive in society because of their identity – have become incredibly commonplace.

From a side note to “check your privilege” to the growth of the critical White Privilege Conference to references in major newspapers and magazines, it seems that recognizing privilege as a concept has broken through into the mainstream.

Privilege has gone pop.

I mean, how much more pop can you get than having Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debate whether White privilege is real on one of the most-watched television programs in the US?

And if you’re not sure just how privileged you are, Buzzfeed has a quiz for that! Ain’t nothing like a hyper-simplistic measure that conflates all identities and privileges into one aggregate “score” to convince someone that they need to reconsider the benefits their identity gives them!

That said, it really is amazing that the privilege conversation has gone so mainstream considering that scholars and activists, particularly those without privilege – people with marginalized and oppressed identities – have been talking about privilege for a long time!

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about the privileges White people receive in society as far back as 1935, and countless scholars of Color have explored the implications of White privilege (though notably and problematically the most famous scholar on the subject is a White, cisgender woman – Peggy McIntosh).

We shouldn’t downplay the power of this moment – that privilege discourse has entered mainstream discourse is a powerful change.

But is privilege going pop a good thing?

Problematizing Pop Cultural Privilege

Privilege being discussed in the mainstream has the power to start some important discussions about identity and systems of oppression.

However, the problem with pop culture is that it isn’t exactly supportive of nuance and complexity.

Take pop music (which, let’s be real, I love): With rare exception, it boils music down to the simplest concepts, sounds, and lyrics for mass consumption.

The same is now happening with conversations about privilege.

And pop culture privilege isn’t actually a good thing.

To the contrary, to talk about privilege without complexity, nuance, or connection to wider systems of oppression actively hurts movements for justice.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about privilege.

After all, I can see a bunch of dudes using this argument to say, “Stop talking about my privilege! You’re hurting the feminist movement!”

We should talk about privilege, but when we do so, we must do so with the kind of complexity that actually holds people of privilege accountable and draws more people of privilege into movements for justice.

So how does pop cultural privilege discourse hurt movements for justice?

1. It Gives People of Privilege an Out

More and more, we’re seeing people of different identity privileges owning that they have privilege, which is, in some small ways, a great thing.

Unfortunately, though, for too many people, it stops there. Many of us act as if simple acknowledgement of our privileges is anti-oppressive when it’s not.

Just as it’s not actually anti-racist to acknowledge racism exists, acknowledging your privilege does little to actually address the systems of oppression that engender privilege.

I’ve seen this most often with politically “liberal” White men who are willing to acknowledge their privilege publicly, but aren’t willing to do anything to actually decenter their Whiteness or maleness to cede power to, say, Women of Color.

For instance, a friend of mine is currently running for the presidency of her student body at a large university on a somewhat radical platform. She and her running mates and campaign committee refuse to spend the thousands of dollars that groups usually spend to get elected, and they are calling for a restructuring of the top-down leadership model that has traditionally favored White male power.

The White men she’s running against, though, have effectively coopted social justice language, labeling themselves allies and naming their privileges, all while further entrenching the same old White male leadership that has characterized student government at this university.

If acknowledging privilege at a surface level enables those with privilege to avoid the radical work of ceding power and working in solidarity, it gives us an out from actually doing justice work.

We can pretend that we’re down for the cause without ever really changing anything.

2. It Erases Intersectionality and Prevents Deeper Engagement in Work for Justice

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

From Truth Telling to Land Return: 4 Ways White People Can Work for Indigenous Justice

It’s important that when talking about Indigenous justice, we talk in specifics because of how colonization has impacted different Indigenous people in varied ways.

Waziyatawin

Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

This article will focus on the context of colonization in what we now refer to as the United States, and it is informed by the activism and expertise of one Dakota person, Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

Thus, while there are surely ways that this article can inform activism outside of this context, it should be understood to be limited in this way.

In their seminal work linking Critical Race Theory to education entitledToward a Critical Race Theory of Education, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. William F. Tate, IV explain how the United States is founded fundamentally on property rights rather than human rights.

If human rights were central to the constitution (rather than property rights), it would have been far more difficult for European colonists to continually legally justify slavery, genocide, and the theft of virtually every acre of land in North America.

Thus, the mark of success in the US constitutional system is ownership of property. Whether we’re talking abstract “assets” like stock, the ownership of people, or ownership of land, the longest-running “smart investment” for those legally and financially able to access it, property, drives wealth and prosperity in the US and most Western, capitalist societies.

As a result, any conversation about Indigenous justice threatens the positionality of all settlers — non-Indigenous people — because, in the words of Dr. Wazayatawin, “[W]ithin Indigenous worldviews, land is life. Colonization, in its fundamental sense, involved disconnecting [Indigenous people] from our homelands (so our homelands could be occupied by settlers instead).”

And in my experience, any time we start talking about land return or reparations, White folks (those settlers like myself for whom this property-based system was built) collectively freak out.

If we’re going to talk about what justice actually can and must look like, we have to start talking about the decentering of settler identities and people and about the recentering of Indigenous people and struggle — no matter how uncomfortable that may make us.

So Who Are Settlers?

If we’re going to have a conversation about what justice can actually look like, though, we need to be precise with our language.

One of the countless things I appreciate about Dr. Waziyatawin in her scholarship and activism is that she reminds us of an important distinction within very language.

Indigenous people are notably different from other oppressed people in the United States in that they are simultaneously colonized andoppressed.

As Dr. Waziyatawin puts it, “Colonization is always a form of oppression, but oppression is not always colonization… a population must have a land-base before it can be colonized.”

And that distinction is vital.

It’s not to take anything away from the distinct oppressions of settlers of Color, and surely those stolen from their lands and sold into slavery come from colonized lands and have lost their land-base in that process. But this distinction makes one thing clear: The system of colonization in which we live was built for White people, and White people are privileged above all and benefit form that system.

To understand positionality, though, is to understand, in Dr. Waziyatawin’s words, that “there are certainly varying degrees of culpability and poor, landless, oppressed people of Color have not benefitted to the same extent that White, wealthy landowners have. And, those who have come as slaves, through sex-trafficking, etc. cannot be held responsible for their presence on Indigenous lands. But free populations, even oppressed ones, are settlers on someone else’s land.”

Thus, if we are ever going to realize true anti-colonial racial and class justice,we have to understand our positionality and collaborate accountably across difference toward Indigenous liberation.

What Can White Settlers Do to Help Realize Indigenous Justice?

Notably, as the author of this piece, I am a White settler. It is not, nor should it be, my position to tell Indigenous people or settlers of Color how to engage in work for justice.

Thus, while that conversation can and should take place in coalitions of people of Color, from here forward, I will be offering suggestions, as informed by Dr. Waziyatawin, for how White settlers can work for justice.

For those of us who consider ourselves progressive, it’s not enough to, as Andrea Smith puts it in Conquest, “bemoan the genocide of Native peoples” while “implicitly [sanctioning] it by refusing to question the legitimacy of the settler nation responsible for this genocide.”

We have to act — and in doing so, we have to risk something.

1. Listen To and Call Other White Settlers to Listen to Indigenous Truth Telling

In her book What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland, Dr. Waziyatawin devotes an entire chapter to the importance of Indigenous truth telling, noting “for those of us who believe in the transformative potential of education, our hope derives from the expectation that once people understand the truth, they will be compelled to act more justly.”

Sadly, though, both research and the lived experience of many marginalized and oppressed people tells us this is not quite the way things work.

In our interview, Dr. Waziyatawin even noted how her views on the role of truth telling have evolved. Particularly when people are vehemently opposed to learning a truth, truth telling can simply leave oppressed people open, vulnerable, and hurting while those of us with privilege can walk away, more resolved in our ignorance.

But that does not mean that truth telling has no place in working for justice.

For those of us striving for an accountable solidarity as settlers,acknowledging, reflecting upon, and then acting from the truths of Indigenous people are vital first steps in working for justice.

As Dr. Waziyatawin puts it, “There is righteousness and strength to be found in truth telling, as well as guidance and direction.”

2. Support and Donate Money or Land to Indigenous Land Return Efforts

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It)

By  and

When Annie Lennox, legendary Scottish singer from the Eurythmics, recently declared that Beyoncé is not feminist with the statement “Listen, twerking is not feminism,” she firmly established herself as a representative for White feminism.

What is “White feminism?” We’ll let Cate fromBattyMamzelle define it for you:

“White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of color. It is ‘one size-fits all’ feminism, where middle class White women are the mold that others must fit. It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual White feminist, everywhere, always.”

Now, Lennox likely doesn’t think of herself as a White feminist, but by referring to Beyoncé’s feminism and expression as “disturbing,” “exploitative,” and “troubling,” she expressed the politic many White feminists are known for advancing: “Feminism must look like we want it to look, or it’s not feminism.”

It’s usually not that overt, and most White feminists would deny that this is what’s being said or done, but you notice it in more subtle comments like “Why do you have to divide us by bringing up race?” or “Are Trans women really women? There should be a distinction.”

In the face of calls for a more intersectional feminism, there are even White feminists who claim the whole concept of intersectionality is just academic jargon that doesn’t connect with the real world.

Yet the irony seems lost on some feminists who make these claims while staunchly opposingthe language of “humanism” in place of “feminism.”

Source: Rosalarian

Simply put, it’s not those who are calling for a feminism that is responsive to the specific issues they face that are being divisive. It’s those of us who refuse to acknowledge the need for an intersectional ethic in feminism.

What Is Intersectionality?

It makes sense in many ways that those of us with identity privilege would have a harder time including in our feminism those who are oppressed. Privilege conceals itself from those who have it, and it’s a lot easier to focus on the ways that we are marginalized or oppressed.

But without an intersectional lens, our movements cannot be truly anti-oppressive because it is not, in fact, possible to tease apart the oppressions that people are experiencing. Racism for women of color cannot be separated from their gendered oppression. A Trans person with a disability cannot choose which part of their identity is most in need of liberation.

Yet there is regularly confusion about what intersectionality really is.

Renowned law scholar and critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the term in 1989 in her paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

She noted that “problems of exclusion” of Black women from both mainstream anti-racist politics and feminist theory “cannot be solved simply by including Black women in an already established analytical structure. Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.”

While her immediate focus was on the intersections of race and gender, Crenshaw highlights in “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” that her “focus on the intersections of race and gender only highlight the need to account for multiple grounds of identity when considering how the social world is constructed.”

In short, intersectionality is a framework that must be applied to all social justice work, a frame that recognizes the multiple aspects of identity that enrich our lives and experiences and that compound and complicate oppressions and marginalizations.

We cannot separate multiple oppressions, for they are experienced and enacted intersectionally.

Thus, in the words of Flavia Dzodan, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”

Understanding Intersectionality in Context

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

cosby

On Cosby, Rape Culture, and Accountability: Change Is My Responsibility

anacronAnacron is a singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist with two decades professional experience in the recording industry. When he’s not performing on tour or delivering University-level music business lectures, he’s an experiential educator in his hometown of Los Angeles, specializing in facilitating progressions for team building and leadership programming. http://anacron.LA

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TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE

A few days ago, several of my closest homies and I were conversing and clowning as we typically do, delving through discussion of recent news and happenings as it relates to and affects us; a group of almost-young, artistic, educated, cultured, and employed Black-American men.

After an in-depth and deeply involved interaction on the unsurprising indictment dismissals for police that murder men like us, we then tap-danced hurriedly through a brief discussion around the other “hot button” issue concerning and creating an uninvited and often counter-productive buzz around people of Color in the media right now.
cosbyWe hit the topic with vigor, via the naturally obvious segue of differential treatment and judgement from both media and public. We noted that as with those lost indictment opportunities, blatant racism was an obvious source for the unfair treatment of, and response to allegations made against, the popular Black figurehead at the center of this traveling media circus.  We spoke, of course, of the Bill Cosby rape scandal.

Back In The Day

I grew up in a Black middle-class home during the 80’s. My father was a superstar sociologist at one of the top universities in the country, while my mother was the director of public health for an entire city, inciting progress in leaps and bounds. I had two beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic sisters, and I was the artsy and outgoing baby of our socially atypical Black family.

For all intents and purposes, we were the real-life Huxtables, a fact that many of my friends from single parent homes would jokingly poke fun at by calling my mom “Claire” at any chance they could. My experience, in many ways, brought me much closer than the casual viewer to the Huxtable family and their clever, funny-face making father.

Maybe it was the nostalgic memories of this reality that prompted my own initial and immediate “yeah, right” upon hearing about the resurfacing and new accusations of rape made against Bill Cosby. Maybe it was the image of a frozen-treat loving funny guy that had been established and developed over the course of 5 decades that sparked insensitive comments like “those chicks weren’t even cute” from voices in conversation with my pals.

Maybe it was the impending media-wide attack on one of Hollywood’s limited representations of intelligent and successful Black men that cued the colorful conspiracy theory one of my buddies offered up, which was too far-fetched for me to even consider. Maybe.

Then again, maybe it was something more, something rooted in the rape culture deeply ingrained into the American society that I am regularly, regrettably, influenced by and contributing to.

Not more than several days following that inappropriately humorous group chat, something caught my eye while surfing the web. Beverly Johnson’s first-hand account of her encounter with Cosby had apparently become the rage of the day, and suddenly I was interested. Why in the world would this successful celebrity, someone who had nothing to gain by becoming a part of this media whirlwind, forgo her privacy at risk of judgment and scrutiny?

I stopped everything and took the time to read her account, linking through accordingly to a related article detailing Janice Dickinson’s similar brush with Bill. I marveled at the fact that these women, with whom I was only connected through their appearances as guest judges on America’s Next Top Model, had instantly validated the collective attempted/completed rape claims for me.

A Shared Moment of Shame

It took no more that a moment to realize that I’d just participated in something that I generally pride myself on being well removed from: the great American pastime of succumbing to celebrity influence. A spark of clarity flashed somewhere in my mind, and I regrettably recognized that I’d also leaned into something far worse; the pattern of dismissal, disbelief, and victim-blaming that perpetuate and enable the cycle of rape culture that exists in our society.

As any well-behaved and civilized social networker would do, I promptly emblazoned my artist pages with this moment of self-critique, in hopes that it might cue similar realization for others:

Not sure what to say about this #BillCosby drama… Other than I’m terribly ashamed I didn’t pay attention and doubted there was any validity to any of the stories until “relevant” or “familiar” celebrities like Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson got involved. How embarrassingly pathetic and terribly pop-culture-consumer-American of me.

It sucks to come to an internal realization that my own reaction to these accusations mirrors the typical response that most abuse victims face; “whatever,” “you’re just looking for attention,” or “she’s just making it up.” Normally, I speak out against this type of persecution and vilification of a potential victim; but today, it’s been both confusing and disappointing to find myself falling into the exact same pattern of behavior that not only perpetuates, but enables the rape culture that exists within our modern society.

This has been for me what my good friend & amazing experiential education facilitator Michelle would refer to as a “learning opportunity”, and I’m only sharing in hopes that my own experience might serve as such for others as well.

When Rape Hits Close To Home

Only a couple days after this moment of introspection, I became absolutely infuriated as one of my closest, strongest female friends revealed to me that she had recently been raped. It was painfully obvious through our discussion that the emotional and psychological scars left behind from her horrifying experience with a man she was dating, a man she had trusted, were rightfully still very fresh.

As the society defined and assigned “Man” in me wanted to vindicate her, seek revenge, be the aggressor and protector; I found myself almost on autopilot, asking why she hadn’t told me about it sooner. The reasoning in her answer, much like my ultimately unimportant question, was almost textbook in relation to the patterns that we’ve established as a norm in our society when dealing with rape.

She was afraid. She was confused. She blamed herself. She didn’t want to create a “scene” in the circle to which she and this predator both belonged. All of these things that had seemed so unrealistic when expressed by complete strangers in regards to a rich and famous man became autonomously valid when coming from a directly valued and loved personal connection.

My experiences and relationships have inserted a constant state of hypocrisy into my life, an ongoing internal battle to find balance between right and wrong, fair or unjust. My parents raised me to be respectful and understanding towards women, no matter what. The hip hop and gang cultures that I chose to be a part of while growing up taught me that it’s okay to disregard and dehumanize women.

As my daughter has matured, I’ve become increasingly aware of and intent on changing the messages regarding women that I convey through my own music. I’m a man that can admit to having objectified, womanized, disrespected, and otherwise abused the rights and liberties of women. I’m the son, brother, father, and friend that desperately hopes the women in my life will never have and/or have had to experience what those at the center of the Cosby saga have been challenged to endure, both at the hands of a predator and the public.

Ending Rape Culture is Up to Me

I’m not proud of the ways I’ve mistreated women and overlooked their rights over the course of my life, nor do I seek to justify my actions by rattling off a list of societal and environmental influences as to why I’ve made the choices to do so. At the same time, I refuse to beat myself up for my transgressions against the fair and just treatment of women, because I don’t see that as either constructive or productive.

The question then, is simple: How do I become more understanding of and empathetic to the experience of female rape victims?

How will I help to write the guidelines that lead current and future generations of men and boys to dispel the stigmas associated with rape survivors and victims?

How can I, a man, proactively fight the patterns that normalize misogynistic practices and desensitize all of us to the horror and severity of rape?

The notion of even asking these questions aloud makes me scoff, reminding me too much of the ironic absurdity behind a White liberal asking Blacks what they can do to help fight racism.

I believe that as with many of the major changes that need to happen in our modern society, the change needs to begin within each individual. It has nothing to do with creating awareness, blogging, posting, sharing, or tweeting. It has nothing to do with protesting, fighting, marching, or inciting revolutions.

I Am A Work In Progress

Sometimes the answer is as simple as saying, “I am responsible for ME.” I don’t identify myself as a male feminist, a female rights activist, or some kind of superhero here to save all women. I’m an imperfect guy with many of the same faults and flaws as the next man struggling to live within the bounds of what’s fair and good. However, instead of making excuses, self-deprecating, or asking questions, I try my best to focus on making progress, initiating self-realization and improvement, and sharing the answers and insights that I discover through my own journey towards getting right.

I continually try to make conscious efforts to identify and acknowledge the moments at which I fail to give women the equal and appropriate respect that they deserve. I often strive to consider the impact of my actions, and attempt to appropriately assume responsibility for the ideas that my choices might relay to others. I regularly work to reassess, learn, change, and grow every day. First and above all else, and possibly the most effective step that every man can make towards abolishing our global culture of sexual violence and the victimization, objectification, domination, and oppression of women and their bodies: I don’t rape.

Everyday Feminism

Abusive ‘Feminist’ Men Exist – Here Are 6 Things Men Can Do to Stop Them

The first time a woman told me she distrusted me because I’m a man, she tried to explain that it wasn’t personal, that she’s not been given many reasons to trust me (or any man for that matter). She said she’s especially skeptical of me because I called myself a feminist.

That last part really threw me for a loop. She didn’t even really know me! And I’m a good guy!

Fast-forward a few years and how can I blame her? Male “feminist” allies have a history of abusing women’s trust.

For fear of making the movement look bad, the male “allies” of the Occupy Wall Street movement stood silent when multiple women came forward after having been sexually assaulted by other “Occupiers.”

After being lauded and defended by many (including myself) as a model for how to be a better man, Hugo Schwyzer was exposed to be a racist, abusive liar (as if many women of Color hadn’t been saying so all along).

Charles Clymer has been exposed as abusive and self-serving as he attempts to brand himself a “feminist” hero of some kind.

And this is nothing new!

There are stories going back to every era of the feminist movement — stories of men talking the talk of feminism, gaining trust, and using that trust to hurt, abuse, and act in profoundly anti-feminist ways.

It’s easy to criticize the misogyny of the MRAs or the PUAs. But how often do we turn the lens around?

When considering how often people like me (cisgender men who call ourselves “pro-feminist” or “feminist”) act in anti-feminist ways, I finally understand the distrust. After all, if those of us who fashion ourselves “allies” are unwilling to expose abusers, why should we be trusted?

Our role is not to be out front in the movement.

Our role needs to be to work with other male-identified people to uproot male supremacy and to transform what it means to be a man. And the place where we need to start is with other feminist/pro-feminist men.

Here are six simple (though often incredibly difficult) things we need to do starting right now.

1. Listen to Women, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People

Sometimes I feel like a broken record in my writing, as I cannot say often enough how important it is for privileged people to listen. But I will say it again.

One of the foundations of effective ally work is listening to those who are impacted by oppression.

By starting with listening more and believing those impacted by oppression in what they’re telling us, we center the truths that we cannot every fully know.

And listening will go a long way in understanding what behaviors we need to expose and talk about with other men, particularly those behaviors so subtle and subconscious that we miss or ignore them.

2. Pay Attention to Intersectionality

In order to actually understand the harm done by male abusers, let alone male abusers who carry the feminist flag, we need to understand others and ourselves intersectionally.

If we’re going to call in other men, we need to recognize our positionality as informed by race, sexual identity, wealth, and other aspects of identity.

I once tweeted, “God, can he just go away forever!?” in response to something misogynistic Chris Brown had done. My friend Emiliano, a man I greatly admire and from whom I’ve learned a lot, tweeted something to the effect of “Jamie, I hear you, but please consider the implications of a White man calling for the disappearance of a Black man in the US.”

He was absolutely right. As a man striving to be an ally to women, I have a responsibility to call out male violence against women. But if I do so in ways that reinforce racism, I’m no intersectional ally.

Similarly, it’s a wholly different thing for me to call out a transgender person (regardless of how they identify) than it is for me to call out another cisgender man.

Does this mean that I cannot call in/out a transgender person? Absolutely not. After all, I know a few trans people who toe the MRA line.

I just need to consider my privilege and positionality in how I call someone to do better.

3. Start with Yourself

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.