From the looks of a host of headlines, America’s greatest threat is a force that goes beyond the pale — and at the same time doesn’t.
I’m speaking, of course, of that most dastardly of colored cabals: whiteness.
And in Minnesota, school leaders are wielding weapons to scuttle the scourge.
More than 160 staff members have formed “Good Trouble Principals (GTP).”
Their mission: to advocate for all nonwhite students.
“Go out there. Speak up. Speak out. Get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble. And help redeem the soul of America.”
—Rep. John Lewis, a true national hero pic.twitter.com/gb9jOGpmFz
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) July 30, 2020
“Are you ready for good trouble? Necessary trouble?” the page poses.
The group describes itself as “a loose collection of local principals bound together by a commitment to changing our nation’s future by engaging in better, more equitable educational practices.”
An official statement — published last year — starts with the horrific story of child murder.
“Fifty-seven years ago last month,” GTP recalls, “there was a March on Washington where Civil Rights leaders issued a call to action for Americans of all colors and creeds to be afforded equality. One of those leaders was the late Rep. John Lewis.”
Days after that march, a bomb was detonated in Birmingham, AL killing four children. Addie Mae, Cynthia and Carole were 14; Denise was 11.
Birmingham had recently been federally-mandated to integrate their schools. The girls were black. The bombers were white. The message was clear: Your fight for educational equality will result in death. The counter message was also clear: We will not be moved.
That was 57 years ago, the principals point out.
“How might we get in Good Trouble today?” they ask.
By shunning a shade:
(1) De-centering Whiteness.
Well-known agencies are being employed for evil:
Understanding that traditional organized whiteness ensures domination through forms like PTAs and Unions. We purposefully call out and lift up historically non-represented voices of color in our spaces to hold weight and power.
How do you keep white students from doing comparably well on tests? Abolish the bias:
(2) Dismantling practices that reinforce White academic superiority like bias in testing and the labeling, tracking and clustering that reflect an Americanized version of a caste system in our schools.
The Good Trouble folks certainly aren’t alone in their anti-ivory crusade; many an Ishmael is out to harpoon the horrible hue, as society resounds with the Great White Wail:
Can it be defeated?
Moby maybe not:
Mental Health Journal’s Article on ‘Parasitic Whiteness’ Laments There’s ‘Not Yet a Permanent Cure’
— RedState (@RedState) June 11, 2021
Don’t get the Good Troublemakers wrong — they’re not worsening things for whites:
We declare that we are not leaving white children behind by lifting Black, Brown and Indigenous children up.
GTP wants classrooms to finally stop convincing Caucasian kids they’re superior to differently-pigmented peers.
[O]ur White children have been done a great disservice by sustaining white-centered schools in America over all these years. And it is to their equal benefit to thrive in schools where they are not spoon-fed the poison that they are better because of their skin color…
The collective hopes those youngsters are led to “both humility and pride…where they have the beautiful privilege of thriving while their classmates of color thrive as well.”
The statement is “signed” by principals from all over Minnesota, because of the four little girls who were lost in 1963:
We sign our names below because Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise were all of our children then, they are all of our children now, and no amount of bad trouble is going to stop us from countering with good.
And in case another historical metaphor helps:
[T]hough we are operating in realities where national educational leaders have never been educators and state educational leaders uphold whiteness as the standard, we also serve in a reality where some of us operate under local elected and appointed leaders that exhibit deep commitment and courage, but others of us do not. And yet still, we have fire in our bones and conviction in our hearts to see these walls come down like 1989 Berlin.
Back to John Lewis, as noted by the Daily Mail, not everyone thinks the late lawmaker would approve of his name’s use:
Parents Defending Education, a group that opposes ‘liberal indoctrination’ in school systems, wrote in a rebuttal to the statement that principals refocus and prioritize educational goals.
‘John Lewis believed in diversity of thought and knew that every child needed to be literate and numerate if they were to have… agency and opportunity,’ said Erika Sanzi, the grassroots organization’s director of outreach.
‘The idea that 162 principals think they are honoring [John Lewis’] legacy by citing nonexistent research to defend prioritizing the “de-centering of whiteness” over the basic responsibility of teaching children to read, write and do basic arithmetic is troubling, but certainly not good trouble.’
Either way, if I had to guess, we’re all headed for trouble.
Call it good or bad, but it’s what results when a nation is divided against itself.
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