To My White Sisters: So. The Tina Fey Thing.

To my White progressive sisters who read my blog sometimes: We’ve had some space and time to think. Tina Fey’s sheetcake bit. We need to talk. I didn’t write this right away because you were very raw at the time of my Twitter and Facebook posts pointing out that Tina Fey’s crack about theoretical White supremacists in Central Park feeling threatened by the sight of “six foot four black men” was harmful in light of what actually had happened to an actual black man at the hands of actual White supremacists in Charlottesville not a week before. The assumption behind…

What Do I Say To My Students?

A teacher friend just asked me how I plan to talk to my students about Charlottesville on the first day of school. The country is on fire. White supremacy has taken over the White House. People are dying in the streets. What am I going to say? I do have a plan about what I’m going to say to the students in my English classes on Wednesday about the political turmoil in this country. It’s the same plan I had at the end of the summer of 2016 in light of the murder of Philando Castile and the police officers…

What Color Is Your Tiki Torch?

My dear White brothers and sisters who are expressing surprise at the expression of tiki-torch carrying White Supremacy, violence, and domestic terrorism in Virginia today, I would like a word. Yes, I’m talking to you who just said, “I can’t believe this is 2017.” If we are the type to be offended by racism, of course we are outraged by today’s news. Of course we want to distance ourselves from those uncanny, waxen-faced weirdos waving Confederate flags and making Heil salutes over the flames of their tiki torches. Distancing ourselves is not enough. In fact, I argue that we take…

What I Said at the Friendship Prayer Service

It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly. But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point…

To My White Sisters Amongst the 48%

We feel good about yesterday. We woke up this morning feeling better than we have since before the election. We exerted ourselves and we marched in solidarity with millions of others around the globe. We thought we were alone in a dystopian fascist world, but now we know we aren’t. We feel better. More comfortable. The march was so diverse, we are saying to one another. There weren’t just white people there. And wasn’t it nice that the cops were so supportive and smiley? No arrests. No violence. I’m only talking about myself, but there is a reason we don’t…

Were You Scared?

A few days ago, a beloved former student of mine (a black man) from the charter school where I used to teach tagged me on Facebook with the following meme:(It’s probably good to note here that I’m one of those teachers that is better in retrospect than I am in the present moment. I’m kind of like childbirth that way. When my class is over, you’re glad you went through it and tend to forget the pain.) Perhaps it is this amnesia effect that caused my beloved former student to forget that I ruin jokes. And I ruined this one big time….

One to Watch: Chantel Carnes

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. Chantel Carnes was in my Advanced Placement Language and Composition course five years ago when I taught at Sacramento Charter High School. She was one of those young writers whose papers I would place at the bottom of the stack when I was grading. It wasn’t fair to the other students for me to see hers first. She tended to set the bar pretty high….

5 Things I Do to Raise a Conscious Child

Listen to New York Public Library podcast programs with her on the way to and from school. My twelve-year-old daughter is too young to read Beloved yet, but after listening to Toni Morrison’s reflection on the writing of it, she deeply gets why, for example, the success of  a children’s book glossing over the horrors of slavery is dangerous for young readers. Read together. According to a 2013 study appearing in Science magazine, reading literary fiction has a tendency to improve a reader’s empathy for other people in complex social situations. In my house, we set aside regular time to read…

All I Can Think About Today

Yesterday author Daniel José Older spoke on a panel of authors and artists discussing diversity in children’s literature. One of the artists on the panel produced the illustrations for a recently published children’s book that is highly rated by critics while also highly criticized by many readers for its depictions of a slave mother and her child smiling through their work in the nineteenth century American South. I do not want to give the book any more press than it has already generated. Daniel José Older’s remarks on the panel to the artist herself were a schooling in what we who write…