Below is an excerpt from Larry Ferlazzo’s interview with Django Paris and H. Samy Alim on their new book, Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World.
LF: What would you say to teachers who claim to “not see color” and teach all students the “same”?
Django Paris and H. Samy Alim:
No matter how well-intentioned, when a teacher (often a White teacher but as we mention in the book, teachers of color, too, can be invested in “Whiteness”) claims that they “don’t see color” they are engaging in “colorblind” rhetoric that is harmful to communities of color for at least three obvious reasons: (1) They are denying their own “Whiteness” (and/or their investment in “Whiteness”) and all of the social privileges and power that they gain from that, and (2) They are denying other folks’ “Blackness,” “Brownness,” or “Asianness” (as examples) and all of the social discrimination that flows from that, and most importantly, (3) They are constructing racism as individual and intentional, rather than institutional. Racism is structural; it is historical and enduring. The U.S.—unfortunately for People of Color—is structured from top-to-bottom by race (including infant mortality rates, quality of educational opportunities, housing and employment discrimination, and so on and so on; all social science research confirms this).
As we write in the introduction to the book, our work on CSP has been informed by justice movements like the Standing Rock #NoDAPL movement for Indigenous sovereignty, land, and clean water for all people and by #BlackLivesMatter. We’ll leave readers with this #BlackLivesMatter meme that went viral and, we believe, has direct relevance to this question:
SAYING ALL LIVES MATTER IS LIKE SAYING “ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL” WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY ENSLAVING OVER 4 MILLION HUMAN BEINGS.
If the message still isn’t clear, then consider this. Saying that you “don’t see color” whenever People of Color are vocal about racism and discrimination is akin to saying you “don’t see gender” (or more accurately, gender expression) whenever women (of any gender) raise their voices about sexism and harassment. It is dishonest. And frankly, we have no time for it. What we do have time for, though, is genuine, open, honest, courageous conversations about racism and how education can disrupt racism.
This book brings all of us together in a collective effort to address racism and all other forms of discrimination in our educational policies, practices, and pedagogies. We hope you will join us in that effort.