Friday, March 6, 2020

SOL20 Slice #6: Whitewash

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL20).  
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2020.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

I am out of town, attending an educational conference. I went to a session about early childhood materials, a special approach to use in the classroom. 
I am a little stunned. 
Actually, I am horrified. 
Why? Here's why:

There was a slide show, with many photos of children and families interacting with these materials, and:

Not a single photo of a child or adult of color.
Not a single photo of anyone with a disability.
Not a single photo of 'different' family groups, say - a single mom, or (dare I imagine this?) two adults of the same sex.

There was a list of suggested picture books to support the exploratory play, and not one of these texts featured characters that were Black or Brown.

Do you know how many amazing books there are, by diverse authors, that would have been just perfect? 

I teach in Washington, D.C. I teach in a diverse school. I am so accustomed to seeing 'variety' that I think I forget how there are many pockets of the United States that are not like this at all.  

There were Black and Brown teachers at the conference. I wonder what they thought. 

Is it just me, or isn't this terribly tone-deaf on the part of the presenters? I mean, seriously. It is really subtle how we - the dominant culture - whitewash the world.

This feels so wrong. White people cannot afford to be like this anymore. Oh, wait, you are a white teacher and there are only white kids in your class? Well, stretch their understanding of the world and show them what the majority of the world looks like. Give them perspective. 

Are the equity and inclusion workshops the only place where diversity appears?

I am appalled.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


  1. It is not you, Maureen. That session sounds like a hot mess. Did you (will you) notify the conference organizers and/or those presenting the session? There are authors, Kate Messner comes to mind, who are doing excellent work on these issues and refusing to participate in white only conference sessions. I wrote most of four proposals for four sessions at NCTE 2020, and diversity was a discussion point for all four. My co-presenters and I absolutely made sure all four proposals include representation. It’s our job to lift the voices of underrepresented teachers, students, families, and writers.

    One final thought: You could redo that presentation next year so it’s representative of the students and families erased in the one you attended.

    1. It was just one workshop; I'm thinking about writing the presenters with book if I am assuming that this was accidental. I do think their world is a heck of a lot smaller than mine - but, good gracious, how can anyone miss this in 2020? You are right that I should write the organizers - this seems like a huge oversight, something that should be expressed in expectations for presenters. I am making a separate presentation, tomorrow, and it's pretty dang diverse and not about equity! Ha!

  2. I love your title, the tone of this writing, so direct and stark. The hard realities of representation need the direct approach and education needs to reflect and represent the marginalized.