“The oppressors do not favour promoting the community as a whole, but rather selected leaders.” Paulo Freire ~ Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
This quote resonates with me for many reasons. There are systemic problems in education that deal with race that many of us don’t feel comfortable in discussing. The systemic problems often deal with those in power. What kind of power are we talking about here? What problems arise from these power relations that exist in education? How does this impact our students’ teaching and learning?
As you can see an entire course can be designed based on the questions above, and so I won’t try to address them in a blog post, because it simply would not do the conversation any justice.
As a result, I have a few thoughts to share, but would like to keep this conversation going and hear from others about their experiences.
What do I mean by education: schools, districts, colleges, our offices, the classroom, conferences, social media, professional development. These are just a few examples of the spaces that are often occupied by those in power.
The silencing of people of colour in education is often a very subtle. It sometimes even starts off as one trying to engage with you on the same level. It’s quiet, it’s subtle and it’s scary.
It’s scary because often the oppressors seek to use minority as a platform to deliver their own agenda. But it’s scary because when this is spoken about out loud there is very little support. People choose not to believe. More importantly, people choose not to associate themselves with the oppressed. This is normal. And sad.
Here is where I think educators who want to fight injustices in education can do something about it. What can you do as an educator to help those who struggle on a daily basis?
Allyship. Allyship is a way to provide solidarity with the oppressed. This is often hard to do because allyship and solidarity are seen as acts of defiance by the oppressors.
- It’s an ongoing process of fighting injustices through words and actions.
- It is fighting the silent acts of racism that are experienced by students and teachers in education.
- It’s a process that involves a lot of listening.
- The hardest part of allyship is to be able to recognize that one’s experiences (white male or female) limits their perspective on race and racism, but will not stay silent as a result of this privilege.
So for me the biggest more impactful acts of oppression are the silent ones. We cannot stay silent through these acts though. We must fight these acts of silence through words and actions. Perhaps a good start is through these words that you and I can share together.