Why I Will Not Be Teaching About Charlottesville | Teaching Tolerance

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

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Should white supremacists be protected?

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.

Thoughts?

What Do We Tell The Children?

“Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong.”

It goes without saying that I’ve been reeling with grief and shock this week. Here are some concrete words I was able to pull strength from in my conversations with students this week, from The Huffington Post. The article bears reading in full:

What Do We Tell The Children?

“Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.”

“We need to teach students how to disagree—with love and respect. These skills will be priceless in the coming months and years as we work to build a democratic society that protects the rights of all people ― regardless of the cooperation or resistance those efforts face from the executive branch.” 

Now we regroup, and we tell the people we love that they are loved and they matter over and over and over again. My question to myself this week: How can I most effectively leverage my skills and the privileges I have left to stand up for and support the young people who are going to spend a key portion of their formative years under the reign of a bigot who promotes sexual assault?

If you are devoted to this same goal as a fellow educator and/or advocate and/or restless globetrotter, I’d love to hear your ideas below. More to come soon. 

What are we telling our children?

What do we want our children to learn from this election?

*content warning non-graphic references to sexual assault and racial violence*

First of all, please watch this. Michelle Obama has articulated what I have been wanting to say over the past week most clearly than I seem to be able to. (I wish she would run for president.)

Now. To anyone who thinks staying home for this election is a sign of protest against a corrupt system or a showing of solidarity with a third party candidate, please realize: Staying home on November 8th is an act of complicity. For anyone who believes abstaining from voting would send a message, you’re right. But it may not be the message you want to send. Not electing Hillary Clinton would be a message to politicians, to our children, and to the rest of the world that the majority of adult United States citizens are willing to give the most powerful position in our government to a publicly racist man who is proud of sexual assault. It would be telling our kids that as much as we say social justice, human rights, bodily autonomy, respect, and basic human decency are important values, what really matters is being a wealthy, white cis-het man who is comfortable doing whatever it takes to get himself ahead. It would be teaching our kids that the things he has said and done claiming women’s bodies as his playthings and endorsing public violence are somehow excusable. Handing this man the presidency would be telling the world that the basic rights and safety of women, people of colour, Muslims, immigrants, and children mean nothing us. His most recent comments are alarming, but not surprising. As others have said again and again, his most recent comments are exactly consistent with whom he has shown himself to be for years.

Every time there is an election with a particularly onerous candidate getting a lot of press, I get upset and discouraged, but something about this candidate, as Hillary Clinton said clearly in the last debate, is different. We do not just disagree on certain issues; he is injecting so much bigotry and fear into the public sphere that I have not been able to find the words to express myself, and as a writer at heart, that terrifies me. That said, I’ve been silent on this blog for too long as some sort of act of self-preservation, because it’s all too painful to think about for long enough to put words down, and that is not okay. If with all my cis White American privilege, I can’t even bring myself to make a public statement, then I feel like I’m just rolling over for him. We need everyone in our country shouting from the rooftops that this man does not represent us. We are not complicit.

Unfortunately, we do not have the choice of whether or not to give this man power. He already has taken it. We do have the choice of how much more power to give him. Please ask yourself what you want to tell your children, your siblings’ children, and your friends’ children when they ask you what you did to stop this man from becoming president. We are not complicit. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. I don’t know how else to plead. A missed vote for Hillary is a vote for her Republican opponent. Please vote.