Minoritized and Marginalized

This week in the Seattle Times, a reporter by the name of Neal Morton struggled with the title of his article (Morton, 2017). The article was originally titled “Training program places more minority teachers in Seattle’s public schools.” This was at 4am. By 7pm that night he had updated the title to say “Innovative training program places more teachers of color in Seattle’s public schools.” It is important to realize that we are not minorities. “Minor” in itself means below, lesser in importance, seriousness or significance (Oxforddictionary, 2017). This term also implies that we are either inferior, subsidiary, or non-standard (as our own UW president Ana Mari Cauce said on record in 2016). We are minoritized. You can’t have a group of marginalized people without addressing the fact that others are privileged and benefitting from this system.

The meat of the story is about a program called Seattle Teacher Residency that partners with the University of Washington and the Seattle Public school district that has produced 74 teachers over 4 years placed in 31 schools. Only 41% of these teachers were of color, non-white, which means approximately 30 teachers in 4 years. Doing simple math that is one teacher of color for each of the schools. That’s pretty innovative don’t you think? This article came out three days after another article came out in the Seattle Times showing that Seattle has a practice of not allowing non-white students, particularly Black and Latino students into their advanced programs. This is how policies allow for disparity (Rowe, 2017). This is how privilege is sustained.

Take a look at Thurgood Marshall elementary school here in Seattle, located in the historic Black neighborhood of the CD (Central District). They don’t even have one instructor that is a person of color. They have four 4th grade classes and only one is designated as general education. If you look in this general education class you won’t see any white students, absolutely zero. Hopefully everyone is familiar with Thurgood Marshall; he is the first and only one of three, non-white justices that have ever served on the United States Supreme Court. He is famous for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case ending legal segregation in public schools (Biography.com, 2017). I would say he would be rolling in his grave knowing that they are back to segregating us in classrooms in a building that is supposed to honor his name and legacy.

I had the opportunity to attend the Graduate School Lecture this past Friday to hear Dr. Joe Lott give his lecture titled “Invisible Men: Black and Brown Males in the Academy” and it shows me that the ideological beliefs, policies and practices in our American society have not changed despite the end of segregation or the Civil Rights for Blacks and Browns. To clarify this, when I say/write Blacks and Browns I define this as and this encompasses all people that are non-white. Dr. Lott showed the student and faculty statistics of the University of Washington, a known PWI (predominantly white institution). These might have been shocking to some but is a reflection of what many of “invisible” students SEE every day in many aspects of our lives. Dr. Lott showed a powerful image of triangles that represented an eco-system. It included a triangle depicting faculty and staff at the top, a circle with brown and black male graduation gap in the middle, institutional policies and practices on left triangle, and students in the right triangle. These overlapping systems show the effects are always intersected and interdependent and effect those in the middle.

I would advise those who don’t see these issues as a problem to check your own positionality and privilege and realize that you are an individual brick aligned with others that create this wall for Brown and Black students. It’s not fair, and it was never meant to be. Not for us. It was meant to keep whites in the Ivory tower, the White house and many other spaces and places including the classroom. But we are here, we will, and are tearing it down, piece by piece, brick by brick. This is a public service announcement: We will be interrupting your privilege. UNAPOLEGETICALLY.

Truthfully,

Nicole Harris – Current scholar at the University of Washington, Educated Black Wombman, Community Organizer, Privilege Interrupter.

References:

Biography.com Editors. (2017, January 24). Thurgood Marshall Biography. Retrieved April 9, 2017, from http://www.biography.com/people/thurgood-marshall-9400241

Lott, J. (2017, April 07). Invisible Men: Black and Brown Males in the Academy. Lecture presented at University of Washington, The Graduate School Lectures: Interrupting Privilege in University of Washington, Seattle.

Oxford University Press. (2017). Minor definition. Retrieved April 9, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/minor

By Nicole Harris

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