To the Editor:
After reading Sonya Douglass Horsford’s opinion essay, “Whose Vision Will Guide Racial Equity in Schools?” (March 17, 2021), I was struck by the language and implications that followed. I can only read the remedy to past and current divestment and discrimination offered here as an essentialist, monolithic view of Black Americans. Setting aside the white/Black false dichotomy the article constructs, the essay also fails to recognize the many Black Americans who have historically held leadership positions in education, including Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Note: The only mention of conservatism lies between “white militants” and “conspiracy theorists.”
During my tenure as a teacher, I tried my darndest to maintain, above all else, rich personal relationships with as many students as would let me annoy them. Often those students were awkward young boys. I did not pretend to be blind to the color of their skin. Nor did I see it fit to assume their beliefs, cultural upbringings, or present abilities.
Asking parents and community members about their experiences and needs is one thing, but no single vision ought to dominate, nor are all Black Americans subscribed to the Teachers College school of thought on this matter. Even Horsford’s colleague Prof. John McWhorter has red-flagged the danger of seeing Black Americans as a monolith.
Educators are servants of the mind and soul—and perhaps our greatest tool, as Horsford relates, is to whom we lend our ears. If we are bold enough to listen mindfully and consciously to our neighbors, constant categorization of individuals into oppressor/oppressed groups serves little purpose. That mindset is worlds away from trauma-informed or culturally responsive practices. Misguided efforts to soothe our idea of a student’s racialized experience too often lead to a prejudice of low expectations among white educators motivated by guilt.
A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2021 edition of Education Week as Former Teacher: Essay on Equity Falls Short