Here’s to all teachers and educators returning to the classroom, wherever that might be for you. And what a first week it’s been. Below are some of our most popular posts that may be helpful as the new school year begins.
Here are some things we’ve been reading amidst the onslaught of daily news. As always, our goal is providing resources that may be useful to teachers and/or students, whether in the classroom or in the larger world.
Common Sense Media has updated a previously-published article, “Explaining the News to Our Kids,” in light of the events in Charlottesville. The article includes tips and strategies for discussing difficult news with children by age-range, which we found particularly helpful.
This weekend we read Carol Anderson’s editorial, The Policies of White Resentment, in the New York Times Sunday Review. For us, it provided a framework for understanding the series of incendiary social policies coming from the Administration in D.C., from the ‘Muslim Ban’ in January to the President’s recent call to law enforcement officers to rough up arrestees.
Professor Anderson holds an endowed professorship at Emory University, and earlier this year she won a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for her book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. We found her article’s synthesis of current events helpful. (Our readers who are more knowledgeable about the politics of race may find it old hat. Please let us know if this is the case! And feel free to point us to other reading we ought to be doing.)
We’ve excerpted the article here, with a link to keep reading if you’re interested.
The Policies of White Resentment, by Carol Anderson
“White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House. And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties.
“If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that no other Republican candidate could match, and that credibility has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.
“The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.
“Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week, Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.
Small Stones publishes diverse first-person narratives related to education, civic-minded action, resistance, and anything else fascinating that falls into our laps. You can download a description of our interview process here.
Our guiding beliefs and goals for these interviews are:
History is personal as well as factual. Facts and statistics are part of history, but so, too, is personal experience—otherwise known as ‘your story’ or ‘oral history.’ First-person stories are humanizing because we all have them, whether we’re famous or not.
Stories can be transformational. People learn about themselves and the human condition by sharing, reading, and hearing stories. They also foster connection with others. We aim to to foster a sense of agency in our narrators and ourselves via storytelling.
Oral history is an opportunity to honor a person. We aim to be respectful, trustworthy, and accurate as we listen to and share our narrators’ stories.
Our standard process is to record, transcribe, and edit the interview cooperatively with you. However, you remain in control: you can call off the process at any time; you can edit the interview; and we’re happy to publish the interview anonymously if that makes sense for you.
“Perspective is everything.” Hiking the Appalachian trail, by @rahawahaile.
The essay below, Going It Alone, was published in Outside magazine in April 2017. Its author is Rahawa Haile of Oakland. We invite you to read it, both for the beauty of its language and also, most importantly, for its thought-provoking content. We then invite you to read this ‘Behind the Story’ article from the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Elon Green about and published in June. If we can sum up why we’re sharing this article, it’s probably a brief line in Ms. Haile’s article: “Perspective is everything.” – Sm.St. eds.
From Outside Magazine:
“What happens when an African American woman decides to solo-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine during a summer of bitter political upheaval? Everything you can imagine, from scary moments of racism to new friendships to soaring epiphanies about the timeless value of America’s most storied trekking route.”
It’s the spring of 2016, and I’m ten miles south of Damascus, Virginia, where an annual celebration called Trail Days has just wrapped up. Last night, temperatures plummeted into the thirties. Today, long-distance Appalachian Trail hikers who’d slept in hammocks and mailed their underquilts home too soon were groaning into their morning coffee. A few small fires shot woodsmoke at the sun as thousands of tent stakes were dislodged. Over the next 24 hours, most of the hikers in attendance would pack up and hit the 554-mile stretch of the AT that runs north through Virginia.
I’ve used the Trail Days layover as an opportunity to stash most of my belongings with friends and complete a short section of the AT I’d missed, near the Tennessee-Virginia border. As I’m moving along, a day hiker heading in the opposite direction stops me for a chat. He’s affable and inquisitive. He asks what many have asked before: “Where are you from?” I tell him Miami.
He laughs and says, “No, but really. Where are you from from?” He mentions something about my features, my thin nose, and then trails off. I tell him my family is from Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa, next to Ethiopia. He looks relieved.
“I knew it,” he says. “You’re not black.”
I say that of course I am. “None more black,” I weakly joke.
I’m tired of this man. His from-froms and black-blacks. He wishes me good luck and leaves. He means it, too; he isn’t malicious. To him there’s nothing abnormal about our conversation. He has categorized me, and the world makes sense again. Not black-black. I hike the remaining miles back to my tent and don’t emerge for hours.
“I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was…”
Our third Small Stones interviewee has requested anonymity. She is a civil rights lawyer actively working on what we non-legal minds like to call The Legal Resistance (hey, it sounds cool). We hope this interview will be just her first foray into educating laypeople about what’s going on in government and the implications it may have for our lives.
As you might expect, she’s experienced some pushback, and therefore we’ll be keeping her identity under wraps. Though we can’t tell you who she is, we’re happy to be able to publish our conversation in full below. Read on to find out what keeps her heading into work each morning, despite some very real misgivings about where the system is headed.
Small Stones (SS): How would you define what you do? I’ve been poking around your firm’s site, and it seems like you deal with a lot of good things!
A Lawyer (AL): I say I’m a civil rights lawyer, but I also do workers’ rights and consumer protection. I do a lot of “this looks important and interesting and like I could be useful. I’ll do that for a while.”
SS: That’s actually an excellent segue to my most pressing question. How are things different for you all, day to day, under this administration?
AL: A few ways, I think. First, when everyone thought Hillary would be elected, we had all of these plans about how we would push forward and make the world better, and we still have those, and some of them are still viable. But a lot more of what we do now is trying to protect the status quo.
With Scalia’s death and the new appointment, we were gearing up to try to get a bunch of things before the Supreme Court , and now we’re on the defensive. And that’s true with everything.
SS: As a layperson, it’s been a bit disheartening to see how many governmental norms are really dependent on everyone agreeing that they are norms.
AL: Yeah, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was—and just how quickly it could change when everyone decides to just stop agreeing.
If you’re like we are and you find oral histories fascinating, you’ve probably encountered Studs Terkel’s Working. If not, you have a major treat in store. Terkel went around the country in the early 1970s, interviewing people about what they did all day. The result was an incredible collection, one that gave insight into the lives of a wide range of ordinary people. We can attest that it’s excellent for high school or college classroom use, whether in full or as excerpts.
Radio Diaries, in partnership with Project&, has now done one better and made some of Terkel’s audio tapes (via available for online listening. Check them out if you’ve ever been interested in hearing the voices that Terkel preserved so well.
Over here at Small Stones, we are busy with our own oral history project (come talk to us!), and one place we love to go for resources is Voice of Witness. Today, here’s a look at what they offer for educators.
First up: a webinar series on conducting oral history projects with students. Registration is required, but resources are available to check out now. We particularly like the resource guide “Listen Up: How to Plan Your Oral History Project.” At the top of the PDF is a list of excellent examples of other projects, notably some from high school students.
Also available, as a free download (or for purchase as a physical book): a teacher’s guide, The Power of the Story. You’ll find curricular material that can be used with Voice of Witness’s oral history collections, material that stands alone, and guides to creating your own oral history project.
From the foreword, written by William Ayers and Richard Ayers:
Oral history can be a truly revolutionary pedagogy. Because the work is propelled by questions instead of answers, it liberates students from the dull routines of passively receiving predigested in- formation. Instead, they become actors in constructing history and contributing substantively to the trajectory of the curriculum. They invent and experience the method of science, proposing explana- tions of the world, and then investigate to test the truth or to modify their explanations.
Students can approach the work as artists, filled with creativity and inventiveness, generative mistakes and sparkling epiphanies. Teachers can learn to take an attentive and supportive backseat, after sufficient preparation, and watch democratic education emerge from projects that the students themselves have learned to own. Through these projects, the stories that have been hidden, sup- pressed, and ignored begin to take center stage, and the real dimensions of one’s community and its struggles burst forth and grab the mic. This is why oral history, in form and content, can become a central project of social justice in our classrooms.
So your weekend reading editor is currently doing battle with a nasty cold–not hers, but the rest of her family’s. What we are presenting, therefore, is a list not of things we’ve read, but of things that we would love to read, just as soon as the taking temperatures/getting orange juice/running out for popsicles eases up a bit.
If you haven’t yet encountered Brain Pickings, we will assume you haven’t been hanging out on the internet much. Go on over and check out her recent post on Ursula K. LeGuin’s thoughts on aging and beauty.
Beauty always has rules. It’s a game. I resent the beauty game when I see it controlled by people who grab fortunes from it and don’t care who they hurt. I hate it when I see it making people so self-dissatisfied that they starve and deform and poison themselves. Most of the time I just play the game myself in a very small way, buying a new lipstick, feeling happy about a pretty new silk shirt.
Essence covers a story that’s getting attention long-past due: missing black women and girls in Washington, D.C.
According to the latest FBI data, as of February 2017, there are a total of 13,591 active missing person records for African American women stored in its National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Of that total, 8,042 were of the ages of 18 and under; 1,419 were between the ages of 19 to 21.
The numbers trouble Natalie Wilson, 47, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., (BAM FI), a nonprofit she launched with her sister-in-law, Derrica Wilson, 38, back in 2008.
“Black women and girls are going missing and it’s not just in Washington D.C. It’s happening in Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban areas around the country,” she said.
We missed this one when it was first published–if you did, too, make up for lost time and take a look. Over at Black Perspectives, there’s a great interview with Erica Armstrong Dunbar about her new book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital, after a brief stay in New York. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Happy reading, and here’s to a quick end to cold and flu season!
File this under “things we didn’t know we didn’t know”: there’s a fairly large population of undocumented Irish nationals living in the US.
What set us Googling was a series of Tweets referencing Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly’s visit with Donald Trump yesterday, in which the PM brought up the status of the 50,000 or so undocumented Irish immigrants currently in the US. Kelly said to Trump,
“This is what I said to your predecessor [Barack Obama] on a number of occasions – we would like this to be sorted,” he told the president at a lunch event. “It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say: ‘Now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can.'”
Some additional searching brought up regular news stories about undocumented Irish immigrants, from a 2015 NPR report—
Gerry is one of an estimated 50,000 Irish who are not authorized to be in the U.S., according to the Irish embassy in Washington, D.C. Most of have stayed too long on their visas, and most live in the large Irish populations of New York City, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.
— to a New York Times story from 1989 detailing similar issues.
The interesting through line in the articles is the fact that Irish people generally look white — though in the 19th century, they were often viewed as an inferior “kind” of white — and therefore aren’t subject to the same profiling as people of color.
A 2007 LA Times article points out that being a white illegal immigrant can be useful:
Irish immigrant advocates are acutely aware that the American public doesn’t identify the Irish as alien, let alone illegal, and they consciously leverage this positive prejudice to their advantage. “The fact that they’re white Europeans agitating for immigration reform is helpful,” said Niall O’Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper. “Bottom line is that every ethnic group brings their own strength to the debate. We can’t put a million people in the street, but we have positive political identification and a lot of access to Democrats and Republicans.”
Still, a CNN article this week notes that undocumented Irish are feeling scared under the Trump administration, too.
All in all, it’s food for thought about the relationship between skin color and anti-immigrant feeling, and a reminder that assumptions about who’s foreign have changed a lot over the decades.