miss one's mark

5 Ways to Avoid Common Ally Pitfalls by Learning From Your Mistakes

miss one's markOriginally published at Everyday Feminism.


Over the years, I have been asked to talk and write on a number of occasions about the notion of allyship and solidarity, about what it means to be an ally, how one goes about effective solidarity work, and how not to be so very terrible at being an ally.

I think this trend of asking people who share my identity about this topic is simultaneously ironic and important.

It’s important because these are 100-level questions, and unless they have explicitly offered themselves as a resource to those of us with privilege, it is not the responsibility of oppressed and marginalized people to be our educators. Those of us who strive for solidary should be willing to put in that emotional labor to help those who share our identity understand some fundamental tenets of ally work.

It’s ironic, though, for two reasons.

First, as much as I can offer from my experience on these topics, the best thing people of any form of identity privilege can do to understand solidarity is to simply listen across difference. If we are willing to listen over time, we will understand pretty well what is expected of us by those with whom we want to act in solidarity.

Second, considering how much I’ve screwed up in my own journey, I don’t always feel super qualified to be offering help to others.

But I suppose in some ways, my mistakes are what make it possible for me to have anything at all to offer other White folks or other men or other able-bodied people; hopefully, my learning can help other people with privilege consider how to strive for more accountable allyship.

So often, our “learning” must come at the expense of marginalized and oppressed people. So hopefully, offering some of the lessons I’ve learned about solidarity from making difficult mistakes can help you consider different ways of being that don’t demand so much from marginalized and oppressed people.

So here are some important lessons I think all people striving for allyship should know – ones I wish I had known so that my mistakes didn’t have to demand hurt or emotional labor from others.

1. The Moment You Think You Have Allyship Figured Out, You’re Going to Fuck Up

Solidarity isn’t a state of being, and “ally” isn’t an identity. There is no point that someone can reach where the work is done.

And even knowing that in theory, there have been times where I have gotten comfortable, where I have felt like I knew it all, and where I was complacent about what solidarity can or should look like.

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manspread1

From Manspreading to Mansplaining — 6 Ways Men Dominate the Spaces Around Them

manspread1Originally published at Everyday Feminism.


A few weeks ago, I was having a meeting with a friend at a coffee shop. It was hot out, I was slouching a bit, and without my really noticing, my legs were sticking out into the aisle. A woman who came by had to walk around them to get inside.

My friend laughed. “Dude, are you manspreading right now?”

“Am I? Maybe. I don’t think so. Maybe…”

I totally was.

In truth, at first I was defensive and had assumed that I wasn’t mainly because I’m not “that guy” – you know, the super entitled jerk who takes up more space than he deserves.

But that’s the thing about manspreading. It’s not about men actively choosing to be jerks or trying to be sexist and ableist (since the outcome of our manspreading not only takes up space under the guise of our needing more room, but also often makes space less accessible for some people with disabilities).

It’s entirely about our socialization – about how we’ve been taught (in subtle and overt ways) never to consider how entitled to public space we may act or feel.

So when countless women point out (often in hilarious ways) that we’re manspreading all over the place, we quickly hear the refrains of “Women do it, too!” and “Stop conflating someone being rude with sexism and toxic masculinity.”

But the problem actually is toxic masculinity and, by extension, sexism – it’s just not as obvious as sexist name-calling or men being physically abusive.

After all, it’s our masculine socialization that ingrains in us from the youngest of ages the idea that we are entitled to what’s around us.

And this is intensified when we add in other forms of social power (or a lack thereof) to the equation.

When male entitlement compounds with class privilege, White privilege, and other forms of privilege, we see the amplification of this privilege and entitlement (all too perfectly exemplified in Donald Trump’s “I’m rich, so I can do what I want” braggadocio).

On the other hand, when White supremacist systems endlessly brutalize and humiliate men of Color while reducing them in the media to strict portrayals of hypermasculinity, then masculinity, the only sense of social power that some men of Color may feel, can show up in hypermasculine expressions or in a sense of entitlement to public space.

We as men have been so inundated with the idea that all space is our space that we, often subconsciously, act as if that’s true – both in our body language and in more overt expressions of entitlement like dominating conversations, talking over other people, and harassing women on the street.

A hilariously perfect illustration of male entitlement to public space, the KoolAid man busts through a wall of a party, shouting “not all men.”

Thus, I do think manspreading is a problem– not because it’s the ultimate example of misogyny, but because it’s a perfect, public representations of the much more concerning issue of sexist male entitlement.

So when we as men experience a lifetime of messages that tie up our identity with entitlement to space and bodies, it makes perfect sense that we would take up more than our fair space on a crowded bus – but we must also understand that this is indicative of something so much bigger.

The point is that, in and of itself, manspreading in public isn’t inherently sexist.

But when it’s taken in the context of power and oppression and all of the other ways that we consciously and subconsciously assert our entitlement into public space, it’s suddenly something entirely sexist.

With that in mind, here are six spaces in which our entitlement shows up in forms other than manspreading, offered with the hope that we as men will reflect a bit on how we can work toward better ways of being in community.

1. Men Dominate Physical Space

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WhiteTeacher

10 Ways Well-Meaning White Teachers Bring Racism Into Our Schools

WhiteTeacher

This post was originally published at Everyday Feminism.


Teachers are some of my favorite people in the world. I mean I really love teachers! They tend to be enthusiastic about changing society, and more often than not, they care so deeply about their work and their students. What’s not to like?

As a former teacher myself, I feel so very fortunate to meet teachers from all over the United States in my work. Despite all of the BS that teachers have to deal with in our political climate, they remain optimistic about the state of education, which honestly blows my mind.

It is from this place of love that I work with teachers to help them improve their practice. And with the realities of the “education debt” and considering that 80% of our teachers are Whitewhile nearly half (and growing) of our students are youth of Color, part of improving teaching practice means paying more critical attention to race in our schools.

Though I know there are actively racist teachers out there, most White teachers mean well and have no intention of being racist. Yet as people who are inscribed with Whiteness, it is possible for us to act in racist ways no matter our intentions. Uprooting racism from our daily actions takes a lifetime of work.

Thus, as we head into the first weeks of school all over the US, here are 10 ways that White teachers introduce racism into our schools paired with things we can do instead.

1. Lowering or Raising Achievement Expectations Based on Race/Ethnicity

It’s probably best to start with one of the more common and obvious ways that racism can enter teaching practice: our expectations of student ability and achievement.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are constantly inundated with racist messaging about what students can and can’t achieve.

Whether we see media narratives about the math prodigy Asian students or the “ghetto” Black students who are reading 5 grade levels behind, we end up getting pretty clear messages long before we start teaching about what our student can handle.

In my own teaching, I know that I had a hard time actually teaching my students within theirZPDs because I was told from before I even started teaching that they simply weren’t capable of writing complex papers about world events. But they could! All it took was coordinated effort from multiple teachers pushing them as hard as we could!

We know that the expectations students are held to often correlate less to their ability than their race and class, so what should we do about it?

What to Do Instead

First, we need to spend some serious time reflecting about our own internalized biases. We all have them (not sure about yours? Consider taking this test!). And if we are working to understand our biases, then we can begin to mitigate their effects.

Second, we need to be sure that we are using effective, non-culturally-biased measures to determine student ability and to push them to their zones of proximal development. By making sure we are basing the ways we push our students in data drawn from legitimate (if limiting)measures, we can hopefully use that data to check some of our own biases.

2.  Being ‘Race Neutral’ Rather than Culturally Responsive

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20 USEFUL VIDEOS TO ENGAGE MEN IN GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE PREVENTION WORK

Emiliano C. Diaz de Leon

Now that you’re well into another busy school year of working with men on college campuses, military bases, athletic teams, places of worship, etc., I thought it would be a great time to share my collection of videos that I use on a regular basis in my work to train prevention workers on strategies to engage men in gender-based violence prevention work.

The Ladder of Manhood presented by Jeff Perera

Masks Off – A Challenge to Men by Jeremy Loveday

A Call to Men presented by Tony Porter of A Call to Men

 When by Breakthrough

Violence Against Women – It’s A Men’s Issue presented by Jackson Katz

Porque by National Latino Network

It Ends Where it Begins by White Buffalo Calf Women

Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street by Stop Street Harassment

Be That Guy by Breakthrough

It’s On Us: Sexual…

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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.