I can’t really remember the particular event that prompted me to send a message to my friend José Vilson, saying “We need to propose an Educon session on ‘privilege.’”
It might have been someone in a position of power in education arguing that “others” just need to learn to be more like them – or just have more “grit.” It might have been one of a zillion lists of “The Top” and “The Best” and “The Most Influential” in education that fail to recognize a single person of color. It might have been discussions about “genius” or “intelligence” or “success” in which these things are defined in such a way that, for most of us, these labels are unattainable – no matter how much we “lean in” – because these things are structurally unattainable. It might have been the bullshit we hear nevertheless about meritocracy. It might have been the bullshit we hear about revolution and resistance – about who should speak up and speak out. It might have been a story in the news. A blog post. A tweet.
I don’t know.
I can’t really remember the particular event that prompted me to send a message to José saying “We need to propose an Educon session on ‘privilege.’” And see, that’s the thing. It could have been one of a million things.
Honestly, I’m not sure José was thrilled with my idea. And I get that. This work is exhausting. This conversation, dangerous. There can be consequences – material consequences – when folks speak up.
I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Twitter, I admit, as a site where we do this work. Too fast. Too decontextualized. Too little nuance. I mean, I love Twitter, don’t get me wrong.
I thought Educon would be a good place to have this discussion: a small event for (largely) progressive educators. But (historically), it’s been a pretty white event. While Educon is held at Science Leadership Academy, a majority minority urban high school in the heart of Philly, many attendees work at independent schools throughout New England. So yeah. Privilege.
Today’s conversation – “The Privileged Voices in Education” – went well. Better than I expected. (I should note: sessions at Educon are supposed to be “conversations” – not lectures, not presentations.) We hoped to open a conversation, and I think we did that. The group talked about privilege and micro-aggressions and anger and humility and vulnerability.
A huge thanks to José, whose ferocity and wisdom I admire endlessly. And thanks to all those who attended. (I gathered some of the tweets below. There’s also a Google Doc with a few resources on the topic.)