I have a new ‘do!

I never did pick a word for 2017, haven’t set any goals (well, except one) and haven’t made any resolutions. Yet, this year feels so new and so filled with possibilities!

For the first time, I paid attention to the solstice, watching the shortness of those deep screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-4-10-53-pmdark days of December and actually noticed the growth in the length of daylight toward the end of the month. On 1 January, without intending to, I was up in time to watch the sunrise. That brought a much greater sensation of newness to me than staying up until midnight (sober or not) has ever done.

I haven’t re-arranged my bedroom in the five years that I’ve been in my apartment but this weekend, it’s going to take on a new look.

Yes, change is in the air. I’m focusing on taking care of me, on improving my health and nutrition practices. I’ll be working on another institute this summer with area teachers for their renewal and I’m pretty sure self-care will be the focus of my session. Reading is something that so many people do for relaxation and for escape but it’s not always that when it’s part of your vocation. I plan to get the job done by specifically focusing on self help, self care and self maintenance books.

I recently read Jerica Coffey’s “Storytelling as Resistance” in which she relates various lessons used to teach narrative fiction in her classroom. She begins the piece by relating a lesson when she asked students what people think of the community where they live and she then asked what they themselves thought of the community. She compared outsiders’ perspective to an insider’s; an opinion based upon second or third hand information contrasted to lived experience.

But here’s the thing; here’s my light bulb moment: whose perspective is wrong?

I think therein lies a basic problem with the “diversity” discussion. As much as I want to believe an outsider’s perception of my community is wrong,–hard typing this—it’s not. It’s their perception. Of course, I want to believe that the insider knows their world –their language, food, geography and familial relationships – best, but ‘perspective’ is much like truth in that there’s yours, mine and ours. Children’s and young adult literature is filled with books written in whiteness, my contention is that it needs to be decolonized. It needs to brimming with authentic insider voices; with another perspective.

I think I would have missed this point if I hadn’t just read Laura Jimenez’s interview on Reading While White.

What I’ve discovered is that treating White, straight, able people as the problem or the enemy does not work.  I take that stance seriously.  Whiteness as an identity can’t be the problem–I start with that in mind.  I have to give them opportunities so they have the chance to be aware of their own identity.  It sounds strange to people, but I truly believe that White people do not realize that they are White.  It’s like trying to ask a fish to identify the water.  So I try to give them opportunities to see the water.  I have them identify their identities out loud.  I get them used to literally saying the words out loud: race, racism, White, Latinx.

If you’re looking for a resource to help you grow your perspective regarding race, consider reading selections from #CharlestonSyllabus. The syllabus originated from a discussion on Twitter after the massacre in Charleston on 17 June, 2015. The material has been developed into a book that attempts to contextualize the history of race and racism. It’s this contextualization that gives meaning to our stories. I have a pdf of the readings and plan to use it to grow my own awareness. It’s a new year, how about a new perspective?