Teacher helps students come to terms with the police murder of a classmate’s father

terence crutcher
Source: scarymommy.com
On 21 September, Rebecca Lee shared her experience on Facebook of helping the children in her school process and come to terms with the shooting death by a police officer, of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher was the father of a student at the Tulsa, Oklahoma school where Rebecca Lee is a literacy coach and writing teacher and ten other students at the school were related to him.

Crutcher was shot after his car stalled in the road and arriving police decided to brutalize and kill him, instead of offer him assistance. The white, woman police officer who murdered Mr. Crutcher has been charged with manslaughter.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Crutcher. I pray that your daughter and other family members find comfort and solace in the eternal loving embrace of Our Maker.

Ms. Lee writes:

Today at school, our staff decided we needed to press pause and create a space for kids to share their thoughts and feelings in response to the killing of Mr. Crutcher. I was part of facilitating three small group discussions throughout the day: a fifth grade group, a sixth grade group, and a seventh/eighth grade group. I want to share what I experienced with the kids today, because I am convinced that if you can put yourself in the shoes of a child of color in Tulsa right now, you will have a clearer understanding of the crisis we’re facing and why we say black lives matter.

1. I look at the wide-eyed faces of the fifth graders surrounding me: 10 and 11 year olds, waiting to hear what I had to say. I tell them we will read a news article about the shooting together so we can all be informed. As I read, the students busily highlight and underline parts that stand out to them: Fatally shot. Hands raised. “Bad dude.” Motionless. Affected forever. I finish and I ask them, “What are your thoughts?”

They answer with questions. Why did they have to kill him? Why were they afraid of him? Why does [student] have to live life without a father? What will she do at father daughter dances? Who will walk her down the aisle? Why did no one help him after he was shot? Hasn’t this happened before? Can we write her cards? Can we protest?

As the questions roll, so do the tears. Students cry softly as they speak. Others weep openly. I watch 10 year olds pass tissues to each other, to me, to our principal as he joins our circle. One girl closes our group by sharing: “I wish white people could give us a chance. We can all come together and get along. We can all be united.” Let me tell you, these 10 year olds are more articulate about this than I am.

We agree to love one another, to take care of one another. I tell each of them that I am white and I love them and they matter to me.

2. The group of sixth grade girls that surround me are either red-eyed or withdrawn. They sit next to Mr. Crutcher’s daughter in class. They are her friends. Nearly every student has a tissue as we read the article together. When I open the floor for discussion: silence. It hurts to talk about. It hurts to think about. It hurts.

I fight the urge to fill the dead air with my voice. A few quiet words are whispered about sadness and unfairness, but the rest of the time is spent wiping eyes and hugging one another. It becomes clear that no one else is in a place to speak. I give them the space to process silently. Then I tell them, “We have different skin colors. I love you. You matter. You are worthy. You are human. You are valuable.” Shoulders shake harder around the circle. I realize that this is the first time all year I have affirmed my love for them.

The rest of the cafeteria is hushed. The sixth graders are quiet. The tragedy lives and breathes among them. It could have been their father. Boys are scattered across the cafeteria with their heads buried in their shirts. A girl who just moved to Tulsa from New Orleans because her father wanted to “escape the violence” is choked up as she speaks in the group next to mine. When we come back together whole group, one boy is still crying as another rubs his hand on his back soothingly.

3. These students are older– thirteen and fourteen. They are hardened. They are angry. Some students refuse to hold or look at the article. The speak matter-of-factly. One says she feels like punching someone in the nose.

Another student says, “I used to read about this happening and think, oh that’s sad, and then kind of forget about it. But this happened so close to home. It feels real now. I take 36th St N to and from school everyday. It happened right by my house.”

“What made him ‘a big bad dude?'” a boy asks. “Was it his height? His size–” I look at the boys in my circle, all former students of mine. They have grown inches since their first day in my class. Their voices have deepened. Their shoulders broadened. They all nod their heads in agreement at the student’s last guess– “The color of his skin?”

I share this story, because Mr. Crutcher’s death does not just affect the students at my school. I share this story, because we are creating an identity crisis in all of our black and brown students. (Do I matter? Am I to be feared? Should I live in fear? Am I human?) We are shaping their world view with blood and bullets, hashtags and viral videos. Is this how we want them to feel? Is this how we want them to think?

I share this story because I spent the last two years teaching kids that we write to interact with and understand the world, that our voices matter and that our voices deserve to be heard.

I share this story, because while I could never capture the articulate things kids said or the raw emotions students shared today, my privilege requires that I speak. I ask that you read. I ask that you use whatever privilege or platform you have to speak. I ask that you put yourself in the shoes of black and brown children growing up in a world where they see videos of their classmate’s father shot and bleeding in the street.

I ask that you love and love hard.

More: New York Times coverage

The “Model Minority” Myth victimizes all People of Color – including Asian-Americans

AAm Model Minority
Source: APSA via reappropriate.co
I love Kim Tran’s post about the difficulties of teaching Asian American Studies to students who have swallowed the “Model (Asian) Minority Myth” hook, line and sinker and fervently believe in it entitled, “Asian Americans Aren’t ‘Basically White’.” reappropriate.co pulls this myth apart too:

The Model Minority Myth — which, let us remember, is a myth — was invented for this explicit purpose: its first appearance in the American political zeitgeist was in a 1960’s New York Times Magazine article (“Success story: Japanese American style”) as a reference to Japanese American immigrants who overcame discrimination through alleged “perseverance”, in stated contrast to African Americans who were focused on overcoming discrimination through political action (i.e. the Civil Rights Movement). In other words, the Model Minority Myth has always been a fiction invented by Whiteness and has always been used as a cudgel to denigrate, belittle, or dismiss African American efforts to agitate for political equality, while simultaneously appropriating and limiting the roles that Asian Americans can politically inhabit.

…The Model Minority Myth is an overt and potent tool of white supremacy used to justify structural racism against virtually all communities of colour (including Asian Americans). For many of us who identify as descendants of the politicized Asian American Movement, dismantling the Model Minority Myth has been of tantamount importance.

Tran defines racism as “Racism = power + prejudice” and points out:

Asian American political campaigns at the height of the civil rights movement were always coalitionary, or working in solidarity with other communities of color.

Moreover, they had significant female leadership. They were guided by powerful women like Pat Sumi, Evelyn Yoshimura, Carmen Chow, Wilma Chan and of course Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs

Resistance is in our history. It is in our blood.

These truths are the reason Christina Xu kindled the flame that became the “Open Letter to Our Parents About Black Lives”, which Asians from many cultures cooperatively wrote to explain to their families why they endorse and stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Hundreds of Asian Americans create Google Doc letter in 1 day to tell their families about the relevance of #BlackLivesMatter

An Open Letter
Source: Letters for Black Lives
Brian Fung of the Washington Post reports on a completely new phenomenon that came to life this week when Christina Xu started a letter online to explain to Asian elders why the #BlackLivesMatter movement has relevance and importance for the Asian community, called for community input and acquired hundreds of collaborators in the space of just a few hours.

Using social media tools and the Google Docs platform, Americans with origins from many Asian countries worked together all of Thursday to write an open letter explaining this matter to their families and today, collaborators remained busy translating the letter into, “at least 11 Asian languages, from Japanese to Vietnamese.”

They call it, “An Open Letter To Our Parents About Black Lives,” by Letters for Black Lives. The reason they’re doing this is contained in the text of the letter itself:

“Black activists fought to open up immigration for Asians in the 1960s … Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return.”

Thursday night, Filipino Jose Antonio Vargas approached Xu to offer help. Vargas is the young lawyer, Pulitzer prize winner and, “founder of #EmergingUS, a journalism start-up focusing on race and immigration,” who is famous in immigrant rights circles for being the only bar-admitted attorney in the United States who is also an undocumented alien.

My own belief is that supporting other ethnic or social groups takes nothing away from us. And doing so may expand our horizons, our strengths and our capabilities. I’m very much looking forward to the results of Christina’s experiment in justice and education sitting squarely and unabashadely at the point where social media, technology and real-time collaboration converge: they can only be magnificent.

Sign up to receive updates about the Open Letter project.

Ben Carson is after white approval & votes, not for #blacklivesmatter

Ben Carson dinosaur wrangler
Photo source: DonkeyHotey on Flickr
Ben Carson’s not trying to win over the black vote. He has his eye set on courting conservative white people. US News quotes university professor David Lublin:

When he argues that the black community needs to reject government handouts and the Democratic Party’s “welfare state,” Carson offers “validation for positions held by [white] Republicans” that structural racism doesn’t exist, or are uncomfortable with a black president insisting it does … He’s a Republican. He speaks at conservative forums, which are mainly forums for white people. Certainly black Twitter isn’t rushing to gush about Ben Carson.

Lublin points out:

…whites who support Carson back many of his hard-line policies, like his stance on immigration or his belief that a Muslim president would be more loyal to the Quran than the Constitution he or she would be sworn to uphold. Both positions will likely drive Latinos and Muslim-Americans – two growing voting blocs largely comprised of people of color – into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party.

Color me pink! I can’t personally see as that’s anything but good.

On the Matter of Black Lives Panel @ ECC 2/2

Newark police brutality panel 150202A Movement or a Moment panel discussion on police brutality, racial profiling and the matter of black lives will be presented on Monday as part of the Fireside Chat Series at Essex County College.

Monday, February 2 2015 6-8pm
ECC Fireside Chat Series Panel:
A Movement or a Moment,
on the Matter of Black Lives

Siegler Hall, Essex County College
303 University Avenue, Newark, NJ
Cost: free

This free program is being offered in response to the high-profile deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and the subsequent court rulings and responses. It will center on whether the matter of black lives is an event of the moment, or an ongoing and growing movement.

Scheduled panelists include writer and activist Darnell Moore, activist Walter Fortson Jr., community advocate Laquan Thomas, criminal defense lawyer Ada Nunez, activist Michael Kramer, a representative from the Newark Police Department, and Michele Kamal, whose son was shot and killed last year by Irvington police. Essex Associate Professor Linda McDonald Carter, director of the College’s Paralegal Studies Program, will serve as moderator.

The discussion is presented by the College’s Urban Issues Institute and sponsored by Alpha Rho New Jersey Alumnae Chapter of Omega Epsilon Rho Service Sorority, Inc. Additional information is available from the Urban Issues Institute at 973-877-3239.

Lion King Crew’s I Can’t Breathe Challenge

Lion King cast singing
I Can’t Breathe Challenge featuring the Cast & Crew from Disney’s The Lion King Nat’l Tour

While the national dialogue around #ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter is being framed, it’s important to remember that racism hurts all people in a society: those who practice it and those victimized by it.

Let’s make 2015 the Year of The People and take our world back.