Opinion
School Climate & Safety Opinion

When Is It Enough?: On Sh*thole Countries and the People Who Come From Them

By Christina Torres — January 12, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What is there to say about the nature of your country and your safety in it when its leader says that where you’re from is a shithole?

Teacher Nate Bowling put some of this in perspective yesterday:

What is there to say about trying to exist in a place where your existence in and of itself is considered a burden?

Or that the leader of our country assumes those wanting to come here—as nearly all our ancestors did, save for the Native peoples the U.S. killed and colonized—are “not their [countries] best,” as though there is something inherently wrong with them?

Or, beyond the “sources” and the “tough language” and “did-he-or-didn’t-he” debates, what does it mean to live in a world where we’re no longer shocked that this kind of language is used to discuss those who flee oppression (for very valid issues, some of which are historically U.S.-involved)?

In short, where is the compassion, kinship, or humanity in any of these discussions?

The thing is, when many of us heard about this, we weren’t surprised. I was going to write that there is a “tenor of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee” sentiment in the discussion of many U.S. cities until I realized that it wasn’t just anti-immigrant and anti-refugee—it’s that there’s still racism embedded into our country’s discussions.

It’s not “the tenor” of it. Racism is alive and well, and at the heart of these issues. It’s why we send freezing students to school in Baltimore (and housing segregation is a prevalent factor in who is affected) or refuse to support communities in Puerto Rico or allow a teacher who tells a Black student he may be lynched for not doing work to keep his job. It’s why we have accepted a country that allows our peers and colleagues to treat students this way.

I was reminded of James Baldwin’s words on “The American Dream":

It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians when you were rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians were you. It comes as a great shock to discover that the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity, has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you.

...

If one has got to prove one’s title to the land, isn’t four hundred years enough? Four hundred years? At least three wars? The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship, or my right to live there, how is it conceivably a question now?

Teachers, we have to answer the question for our students: we must firmly confirm to them that they are, in fact, enough. Their culture and histories are enough. Far from being a burden, our students must know that their voices and stories matter in our classrooms.

When we cannot trust our country and its leadership to ensure the socio-emotional safety of our students, it is our job as educators to step up and answer the call. It is our work to imbue that sense of humanity and compassion into our classrooms. Our work is not just to dispense knowledge, but to create a space for our students to not only see the power within their own stories but to value and celebrate those who differ from them as well.


Some ideas:

Photo via EdWeek


Find Christina online:

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in The Intersection: Culture and Race in Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says A Hallmark of School Shooters: Long History of Social Rejection
New research finds that shooters in K-12 schools are more often "failed joiners" than loners.
5 min read
Butler County Sheriff Deputies stand on the scene at Madison Local Schools, in Madison Township in Butler County, Ohio, after a school shooting on Feb. 29, 2016.
Sheriff deputies were on the scene of a shooting at Madison Local Schools, in Butler County, Ohio, in 2016.
Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP
School Climate & Safety 4 Myths About Suspensions That Could Hurt Students Long Term
New longitudinal research shows that longer in- and out-of-school suspensions have severe consequences for students.
5 min read
Image of a student sitting at a desk in a school hallway.
Jupiterimages/Getty
School Climate & Safety Photos The Tense and Joyous Start to the 2021 School Year, in Photos
Students are headed back to school with the threat of the Delta variant looming. How is this playing out across the country? Take a look.
School Climate & Safety Former NRA President Promotes Gun Rights at Fake Graduation Set Up by Parkland Parents
A former NRA president invited to give a commencement address to a school that doesn’t exist was set up to make a point about gun violence.
Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
2 min read
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks during the CPAC meeting in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2010.
David Keene, the former president of the NRA, promoted gun rights in a speech he thought was a rehearsal for a commencement address to graduating students in Las Vegas. The invitation to give the speech was a set up by Parkland parents whose son was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP