Earlier this year, around October, I met up with a history educator who had sat through one of my summer trainings and she wanted to get some advice on the ways she could transform her content to be more culturally responsive.
We sat and she delved right into content asking questions like, how do you teach the Renaissance from an African perspective, what about the Cold War or the Green Revolution?
Immediately, I understood that she thought CRE was all about teaching Diasporic Blackness. Now I knew this was my fault, because I always tell people how I taught Global History from a Diasporic perspective and my students were always successful.
But I lied.
Well not lied. Lol! I just didn’t explain the entire process.
While I did and do teach from a Diasporic perspective that doesn’t mean “blackifying” every darn thing. Lol! Rather, it means centering everything my students learn in their identity as diasporic youth.
I stopped this teacher and began asking questions about the student dynamics. I needed to know her relationship to the students, to the neighborhood, to the content and to administration.
I then need to know about the students relationship with all those factors. How did the students feel about her? Of course, she said it was a good relationship full of trust and gave anecdotes to support this.
When I probed about their relationship to the school, other teachers and admin, her response was like warm and full of teenage angst and disdain.
When probed about their relationship with the content, she said in a exaggerated tone, they think is boring, and that’s why she wanted to meet with me. She was inspired to change their feelings.
I finally asked her what was their relationship with each other.
And that’s where the shit hit the fan.
She says, “oh girl, they hate each other.” Here she was in a school in the Bronx with a majority male immigrant population. She explained, the Puerto Ricans hate the Dominicans, the Caribbean students hate the Black Americans and the African students are hated by everyone and bullied. Added to the mix, Muslim students and Southeast Asian students and you get this complex picture.
I asked her, so how are you going to teach from a Black perspective when none of those people want to be Black at best and despise blackness at worse.
She looked at me puzzled.
I told her, your first job is to get them all on the same page, helping them to see they are all suffering from a colonial mind. I then asked, how are you going to do that?
She looked at me, laughing and said that’s what you’re here for.
Family, how would you answer my question regardless of if you teach humanities, the arts or STEM.
How would you create the environment that would cultivate community and kinship with such a diverse population?
You got nothing?
Each group she listed has been deeply impacted by European colonial ideology. So, I told her, she must approach teaching global history from an anti-colonial, anti-biased and anti-racist perspective and that would require her to investigate her own colonial, biased, racist ideology.
We talked for hours that sunny Saturday and then she said, so I won’t be able to start this next week.
Lmao! I shook my head, no.
Developing a Diasporic ideology and pedagogy requires us to De-Colonize our beliefs, policies and practices.
However, I didn’t leave her hanging, feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied with our meeting. After sharing my out of Africa unit with her, we worked together to flesh out a mini unit on colorism.
What is my take away for you? Please recognize that “all skin folk ain’t kin folk.”