Slacker Hacker Mom is a new venture. After years of parenting and being asked numerous times: “How do you have 4 kids, give talks around the USA, consult, and write books? You are super mom!” False. I’m a hot mess. I do not have my sh*t together. Most of you only know the online “life…
Click here to read the article. I'd love to hear fellow educators' thoughts! Re the most effective ways to teach democracy and do anti-racist work in the classroom
In response to the photos circulating of Charlottesville neo-Nazis, a number of my friends have asked whether it is ok for them to be fired from their jobs for attending the rally. I am curious what you think. Comments are open; please post your ideas below. Hate speech will of course not be tolerated.
Here's why I think employers have a perfect right to know who was there and to take action at their discretion. First of all, if an adult shows up in a public space and takes violent (physical or non-physical, and yes, violence can be non-physical) action against Black lives, should they not expect to be held accountable for those actions? "But what if the union can prove that it does not affect their ability to do their job?" I cannot think of a line of work, even tech jobs in which one is mostly in front of a computer all day, that involves no human interaction. Interacting with other humans in an effective way involves the ability to communicate non-violently and to interact respectfully with POC and Jews.
If an employer can fire someone only because of something the person did while on the job, that seems to put the onus on the employer’s customer to report the employee's racism and to advocate for themselves, when really it should be the employer's responsibility to hire people who will be respectful and who at least meet a moral baseline of "tolerance" in the first place (a problematic term itself, I know). Posting photos of the people at the Charlottesville rally does not mean the neo-Nazis didn't have the legal right to free speech (though the question of whether hate speech should be legally protected is another issue to debate), but means simply that employers and people in their social sphere have the right to know with whom they're dealing.
A friend wondered how would I feel in the reverse, if, for example, I was fired from my job for attending a rally in support of Mike Brown? When I attend public demonstrations, I expect people who see me there (or see photographs taken of me there) to think something about me because of it. My presence makes a public statement that I stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. I realize there may be people who will decide to not employ me or associate with me because of the social justice work I have done. I am privileged enough to be comfortable taking that risk, and can comfortably say I have no interest in being friends with or working for racists. I should think those who show up at a white supremacy rally can also expect to be judged for the public stand they've taken and face the consequences, some of which may be the termination of jobs and friendships.
Though there are debates about whether an employee can ethically be terminated for off-the-job activity, this particular action feels different. If I were convicted of vehicular manslaughter after a bad car accident, it would not necessarily impact my ability to teach kindergarten. It might indicate that I should not be trusted with school vehicles, but if that weren't part of my job description in the first place, it's irrelevant. It would not say anything about me as a human being. It would not indicate how I am likely to behave and the choices I am likely to make in the future, the way attending a white supremacy rally does. As far as I know (and correct me if I'm wrong), though public displays of hate are legal in the USA, it is just as legal to fire someone because of those displays. In employment law, white supremacists are not a protected class.
WHITE SUPREMACY IS BAD. Full-stop. See, Trump? That wasn't hard or complicated. The disgusting statements made by the man currently occupying the White House have revealed him, once again, to be a person upholding systemic racism and unfit to lead.
Black lives matter. I'm stating the obvious again, but white supremacy must be condemned loudly and in no uncertain terms. Systemic racism is real, and if White folk are not using our privilege to speak up to dismantle it, we are part of the problem. If we want to be allies, we must call out overt racism when we see it. We need to be having difficult conversations with each other and not put the onus on POC to educate us. We need to be educating ourselves, listening and reading more, and lifting up the voices of POC. Stuck or feeling paralysed? Here are two helpful starting points: White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville and Safety Pin Box.
Silence = complacency = complicity. I regret taking a hiatus from blogging in recent months. Though I was pretty sure no one reads this anymore, this blog/space existing means I should have used my privilege straight away to denounce the Charlottesville riot in one more place besides my social media posts. Hiatus over. Too often, we remain silent in fear of screwing up, but I have learned remaining silent is screwing up. Comments are always open on my posts, and I invite and am thankful for anyone to call me up on my inevitable mistakes. I am 100% still learning how to do this, but one thing is clear: White people, we have got to show up.
A couple of days ago, I posted 2 photos to Instagram with mostly the same tags. One was BLACK LIVES MATTER. The second was a cute tomato we'd just harvested from the garden that had grown in the shape of a heart. I was going to title this post "My first post that isn't a question," but here's one: Why did the tomato get more likes?
This week I have been wondering, who bears the responsibility to fix human beings’ mistakes? What does it mean to be responsible for something? What does it mean to take responsibility? Can you “be responsible” for something without taking responsibility? Can you “take responsibility” for doing something about a problem without being responsible for it? Why are most of the world’s injustices and crises being worked on by people who did not cause them?
Over the past two summers, I have had the privilege of working with extraordinary teenage activists at Youth Empowered Action Camp. Young people come from all over the world to spend part of their summer working hard with other activists, attending workshops, and learning how to be the most effective change-makers they can be on the issues that matter most to them. Many campers are working on environmental protection, and one of my mentees is starting a school club to get high school students mobilized to stop climate change and make the connection between factory farming and the massive harm that animal exploitation wreaks on the environment (more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector combined!) One of my 12-year-old campers in Australia (yes, she came to the USA from Australia for activism camp!!) is working to end live export. Since camp ended just a couple of weeks ago, she already has been gathering petition signatures, met the director of Animals Australia (!), and made progress on planning her animal rights-focused YouTube channel.
Another camper is working to change the name of her school so it no longer honours a confederate leader. It was named after this person in protest of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling against segregation. (Both links above include more info about the problems and petitions to support the campaigns.)
Another camper, a young woman originally from the USA but currently living in Beijing, is working to improve the air quality in China and get children access to masks. Did you know that the pollution is so bad now that children have to wear masks to go outside? And if, like many children, they don’t have access to masks, they have to just stay indoors because it is not safe? The latest exciting news on her project is that a company is donating 500 masks to her school.
These young people are standing up and taking action not because anyone told them to but because they are compelled by their own sense of justice and urgency. Here is an account by a camper I worked with last year who named YEA Camp as the coolest thing she had ever done, and came back as a mentor this year: http://yeacamp.org/2016/02/read-this-teens-answer-to-the-question-what-is-the-coolest-thing-youve-ever-done/
These teenagers are so inspiring to me and show us the future that can be. Too often, potential activists fall prey to the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility: Sometimes the more atrocious and urgent the problem is, and the more onlookers there are to the problem, the less likely someone is to actually intervene, because we each assume that somebody else must be taking care of it. What does it take for someone to step up and do something? What makes us choose to act on certain issues over others? Please engage with these ideas in the comments, and I would love to hear: Do you consider yourself an activist? What inspires you to take action? What are some obstacles that have discouraged you from taking action on an issue or issues that matter to you? What resources and support would you need to make the difference you would like to?