As Water Reflects the Face

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 25 2013

Pre-Institute Work – Racism

Before a TFA Corps Member becomes a Corps Member, he or she must go to Institute and (hopefully) learn to teach. Before going to Institute, the future CM must complete a packet of pre-work. This is 45 pages that each have 1-10 weblinks on them. Part I is supposed to teach us about “The Causes of Educational Inequity and the Obstacles of Poverty.”

The first reading is the first chapter from Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum. I really like this reading. Tatum, the president of Spellman College and a Black woman, clearly explains the idea of privilege, but she does it without blaming the reader or making the reader feel bad about it. Even though obviously some readers should feel bad about their prejudices, I appreciate that Tatum makes the reader think about and acknowledge his or her privilege first, before talking about what we can do about it. Tatum even writes, “these uncomfortable feelings can hinder further discussion.” One of the best lines in the chapter is, “I assume that we all have prejudices, not because we want them, but simply because we are so continually exposed to misinformation about others” (5).

If you’re interested and want to compare Tatum’s approach with one that is a little less gentle, I read “White Privilege, Male Privilege” by Peggy McIntosh for a Women’s Studies class (Tatum spends time talking about McIntosh too). She “unpacks” a list of little things that make her privileged by not being a minority where she lives. The examples are both eye-opening and thought-provoking, but it’s still an easy read. Also it’s nice that while Tatum focuses solely on racism, many of McIntosh’s examples apply to racism, sexism, homophobia and even class prejudice. Here’s a link!

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… so one's life reflects the heart.

Eastern North Carolina
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