a list that celebrates being afraid to write
CELEBRATE This Week No. 225
There are a lot of thoughts bubbling in me about windows and mirrors to other cultures and experiences. I’m kinda afraid to write about this, which means it is just the topic I should be writing about. I hope this little corner of the blogging world will continue to offer wide open arms and endless grace as I find my footing in this topic that is beginning to demand more and more of my brain space and writing attention.
I used to believe that there were universal storylines and it didn’t really matter who was telling the story or what color their skin is. Then I became Jordan’s momma and I quickly realized there are very few books that have characters that look like Jay. Sure, the storylines might be universal, but sometimes it’s hard to feel that truth is universal when none of the characters look like you.
At NCTE I was at a round table with Tracey Baptiste. The words she spoke have wrapped around my heart and soul. She encouraged educators to read books written by authors who have firsthand experiences and perspectives of their characters. This is what drew me to Stella Diaz has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez.
I love her — the character and the author.
She makes me want to read more books about cultures different than mine written from authors of different cultures than me.
We talk about “not to be racist” a lot. It’s a phrase that keeps entering our house.
“Talking about race doesn’t make someone racist,” I say.
“That’s not what people at school think,” Jay says.
Sam, Jay’s younger brother, agrees. “Yeah, I said, my brother is black and the kids told me I’m a racist.”
Jordan laughed. “You’re not racist.”
Sam said, “If you’re white like me and you say someone is black, they call you racist.”
“That’s true,” Jordan says. “So you have to say, ‘not to be racist,’ and then you can talk about black people.”
My heart cringes.
I have no right words, so I just say, “You don’t need to use the qualifier, ‘not to be racist,’ because you’re not racist.”
Jordan laughs and says, “Anyway, what’s important is I have this really funny story — and it’s not because I’m racist, but it’s just because I’m black and no one can see me in the dark which means I can totally freak them out. So what happened…”
I’m pretty sure I have a lot to learn from him.
This post is part of a weekly offering to celebrate in the middle of the muddle. I hope you join the celebration!
Let's Be Email Pals!
Teaching writers doesn't have to drown us.
Enter your information to receive my free eBook, plus weekly tips and encouragement for teaching writers.
I have found myself, in the past couple month, thinking about what I say and how I say it. Talking about race isn’t something we should hide from, but we should be knowledgable about how to say things that we truly mean. In my middle school history classes, we talk openly about race and privilege. My students and their straight talk breaks down the barriers and opens all of our minds…mine included. Thanks for this post, Ruth. Mark
What a thoughtful post, Ruth. Thanks for modeling how to tackle tough topics in writing and for having the guts to share your thoughts.
This is beautiful. I have Stella in my pile. She will be moving up to the top for sure. I love Tracey’s words! Thanks for sharing.
Keep writing about things you are afraid to write about. You keep me thinking long after I have read your posts. I missed a celebration last week. Here is one for this week:
I agree with you that we must write about the things that are hard to write. Race is certainly on my list. Our attention is called to race more and more these days. The problem I see with this is in my students who don’t notice race. They’ve never really thought about it. And this is not because they are not surrounded by people of other races; it’s because they are. Times are not necessarily changing for the better.
Thank you once again for this open and honest post. I find myself wanting to grow and learn and have the right words and the right books – the current dialog is so important for all of us. Beautiful post and picture.
Thank you for writing about things that are hard. I’m still thinking about the topic of race. It has become personal for me also. I am not brave enough YET to share my thinking, but you have opened the door. Thank you for your courage. Here is my celebration: https://teachingin21.blogspot.com/2018/01/celebrating-her-heart-burst.html
I do want to write about race, but I really want to get it right…that means research an listening and then writing clearly. Getting older makes me want to write the truth as it was in 1940, 1968 and today. The ugly truth…our laws have changed, but people’s hearts have not. Everyone who is lucky enough to be a part of Jay’s life will profit from his knowledge and honesty. Kids do need to see diversity on the pages of the books they hold, who better to write it than Jay!!! xo
I adore your honesty. Your insights. Your words continue to be the best nudges.
Ruth, your little corner of the world certainly does offer “wide open arms and endless grace.” I am always finding peace tucked inside your posts that leave me reflecting. While I have been celebrating with family and friends, writing my NCTE proposals, or just living an ordinary existence, I have been thinking of this writing community and longing to write my celebration post. Today’s post took a different turn than I expected. It led me to think of the positivity of winter and dispel the negative notions about snow that I used to voice.
Oh my Ruth, please keep speaking these truths we face and don’t see clearly. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your beautiful boys with us. Oh and the book too. Thank you!
Your posts and story always have me reflecting about conversation at home and school. This one is so important. Thanks for sharing.
Wow! Love the photo of your handsome son!
And you know I love every word you write.
Ruth, thank you for your courage in opening up this conversation. I’ve been thinking the same thing. This training, Beyond Diversity/Courageous Conversations, (https://courageousconversation.com/seminars/) helped me understand that the first step is to be a racially conscious person/teacher. But what to do about it? Your blog is one step in the right direction. I look forward to following your journey and reading your thoughts about race as they evolve. I also just ran across this series that came out a couple years ago. We are not alone in our discomfort. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/01/opinion/a-conversation-with-white-people-on-race.html?mcubz=3
Your sharing from your life, your reading, Jay’s and Sam’s comments, help us in our understanding. The books published recently have been wonderful, hoping that many are reading them! Thanks, Ruth!
Loved your celebration this week and all the weeks I have read. The best example I had about “not being racist” was when a fellow college student told of a life changing experience for him. It was the day he decided not to stay quiet when someone made a racist remark or joke. He learned to abruptly walk away. Like the lyrics to an old rock song, “It Is Easier Said Than Done.” However, he constructed the goal posts for me. I have kept it in place many years now. Silence can be seen as permission. This leads me to celebrate my sister who while visiting her grandson in San Francisco participated in the Women’s march yesterday. Although she may have missed any other protest in her life, she is not silent. Yeah Mary!
I love this celebration. I know we have been discussing race in my classes too and we are still working through the idea that acknowledging or talking about race is not automatically racist. The word racist is being said in our school a lot lately. I’ve been informed by several students that the book Hey Black Child is racist when they’ve seen the book on display just because the word black is being used. There’s a lot of room for growth here and yes, we need to have so much more representation in books.
I love this. I want to be brave about what I’m writing about. Thank you for the encouragement. I loved this post.