Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 02 2012

Master’s in Race, Economics, Education and Utter Failure

I’ve finished my trips to Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore, and New York City. Currently in Magnolia, Arkansas listening to the new Nas album, Life is Good on Spotify.

In all the dead-time that accompanies travel, and in the post-Institute remembrance of “real life” socializing, and as a result of a conference facilitator who requires me to have about 15% participation in seven hour workshop days, I’ve started watching my twitterfeed ridiculously close.

I fairly firmly (oxy moron?) believe that my lack of attention to current events lost me a substantial scholarship, consistently puts me far behind my more academic peers, and leaves me ignorant to the point of embarrassment almost daily. Twitter has put me a tiny step closer to alleviating that, because without watching and waiting for 30 minutes of a news segment or sorting through news whose biases I don’t have memorized quite as well as my more seasoned friends, I can keep an eye on my NPR and NYTimes headlines, watch friends’ more humorous responses, and, in general, know what’s up in the universe.

There’s something I’m trying to figure out, though. My recent personal favoritism of Black (black? African American? I can’t even figure out what’s best for me to use, but this editorial helps) news. Yesterday, after following a number of links at about this time of night I came across an article on Ebony about Arian Foster’s new switch to vegetarianism. Do I know anything about football? No. Did my new [football-savvy, Black-- which doesn't matter but does because it made me slightly self-conscious] Dumas brother immediately ask me why I was posting articles about him on my Facebook? Yes.

Through that, I started reading about Laveranues Coles and the principal of Black boys being molested and how much works against anything being done about it. Today it was a guy in Dayton, Ohio being “greeted by a racial slur” in a hotel room.

I’ve been obsessed with Frank Ocean for the past two weeks, after a CM from my CMA group hooked me on the new Channel Orange. Because of that and spending so much time in an urban area, I had a chance to read five or six editorials and reviews about his new album and, more often, about his public love story about another man. About being with another man. I keep eating up this Black culture, Black acceptance or non-acceptance of LGBTQ issues, masculinity, pride.

Today I found the Black girl champions Doc McStuffins and Black Girls Code via this sudden Black news spurt. In my hotel room, I cheered loudest and smiled widest for Gabby, and in googling her came up with this Jezebel article: Haters Need to Shut the Hell Up About Gabby Douglas’ Hair. The more I read, the angrier and more embarrassed I get.

I’ve called myself and been called a raging feminist since joining TFA, I’m already subject to and an enthusiastic participant in any type of education news slaughter, but for a white girl from a white suburb my most vulnerable state is still in talking about matters of race. (BTW: Why is it primarily Black news I’ve been reading, and not Asian or Hispanic or other general racial categories I can’t even spit out at midnight?) I’m not sure how to admit to the mild awkwardness that creeps up my neck when I’m reading Ebony in the Holiday Inn lobby, or how I hesitated posting that Arian Foster article primarily because of the response I thought I would and did get: Caroline, what are you reading? Why are you reading it?

I think about conversations I’ve had in the past two months, when people ask about Dumas. How one description I try so hard to bite my tongue about but always unleash, always before the conversation ends: We have a black pool and a white pool. We have a “members only” bar. My town is literally divided by railroad tracks.

Depending on who I talk to, jaws drop or heads grimly bob up and down in gentle understanding. It’s a place like that.

What am I doing? I won’t run into a classroom and tell all my black kids to show up at the white pool (when to capitalize Black and when not?). I won’t plan an integrated middle school dance. I won’t show a picture of two of my best friends in the first week of school and say “These are two of my best friends, they just got engaged. She just moved to DC, and she lives in Chicago.” I never tell people that  3/4s of the reason I don’t like talking about marriage is because they’re not allowed to do it, but are my two friends I want to see married the most. I won’t preach to my kids about the percentage of them are likely to be in prison within the next ten years, or the tiny numbers of them that are likely to graduate from college.

I have found a new line to walk, a new way to push myself now that I’ve dried from the rough waters, the massive waves and shocking undertows, the choking gulps of bitter water that tried to drown me my first year of teaching. Finally I am pressing into things that simultaneously terrify and magnetize me. It makes me want to get a masters in African American studies, or Literature, or Sociology, or Urban Studies, or something that includes an intense look at race, economics, education, and utter failure in the United States.

Is that a masters I can get? Race, Economics, Education and Utter Failure? That’s what I want to learn about most.

Just get ready, faithful readers. I recently wrote a post for TeacherPop about vulnerability, and I figure I may as well practice what I preach:

I’m usually/always/constantly nervous when I talk about issues of race and poverty publicly, so I’m going to actively do so as much as humanly possible.

7 Responses

  1. Have you read Blaming the Victim by William Ryan? It’s old (I think the original publication date is 1970), but I found it incredibly useful in pushing me to challenge implicit white privilege. Doing so really makes a difference white educators’ practice, I think. Good luck!

    • I haven’t read or heard of it, but will definitely find myself a copy. Thanks for the tip!

  2. WOO! Let’s do this!

  3. sarah

    Yes :) You can come to North Carolina and get your Master’s in Public Policy with a social policy concentration with meeeeeeeeeeee :)

    • Ya riiiiiight, girl. I’d rather go to Texas on a full ride. ;)

      • sarah

        ha! just read your money post— youre not supposed to care about finances, right? :P

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