Growing up in the North, I lived a decent life. There wasn't ever a time when I needed something that my family wasn't able to provide. I went to an elementary and middle school that was of mixed demographics. I had friends that looked like me and ones that didn't. I was on competitive teams for swimming and track, and played the violin. Three out of the four of us "Tucker Children" attended a private Catholic school. Two out of the four of us attended the Naval Academy. To many, including myself, this was a life of privilege.
While working towards my Early Childhood degree at Georgia State University, I can remember attending multiple cultural education classes and not being able to relate to some of my black peers. Arguments would erupt about affirmative action and which race actually received more handouts than the other. One girl cried in class because she felt constantly judged by the color of her skin and hair. Another girl, who I felt was even more privileged than me, was right there agreeing with her. Yet, here I am...with my (sometimes colorful) locs side-eyeing everyone like, "What are you talking about!?" I was damn near 25 years old and completely naive! Thinking back to those days, I feel as stupid as Lil' Wayne when he interviewed and said, "Racism doesn't exist." #dontjudgeme
It wasn't until we got to the topic of segregation, that my eyes were opened. Wait! What do you mean segregation started in the North!?
During the era of slavery, most African Americans resided in the South, mainly in rural areas. Under these circumstances, segregation did not prove necessary as the boundaries between free citizens and people held in bondage remained clear. Furthermore, blacks and whites lived in close proximity on farms and plantations and geographical isolation made contact between neighbors infrequent. However, free people of color, located chiefly in cities and towns of the North and Upper South, experienced segregation in various forms. By the time the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) that African Americans were not U.S. citizens, northern whites had excluded blacks from seats on public transportation and barred their entry, except as servants, from most hotels and restaurants. When allowed into auditoriums and theaters, blacks occupied separate sections; they also attended segregated schools. Most churches, too, were segregated. Lawson, Steven F. “Segregation.” Freedom’s Story, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. August 16, 2017 <http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/freedom/1865-1917/essays/segregation.htm>
After that discussion, it all started to make sense. That's why, even though we all went to the same school, there was the East Side (blacks) and the West Side (whites). That's why, my dad had us in swimming (a predominantly white sport) and sent the last three of us to predominantly white Catholic schools. That's why, my white "friends" called my hair (from my head) pubes when they saw it in the showers after practice or would say things like, "You're not black. You're white in a black person's body." That's why, I never felt like I truly fit in with my white friends in high school. That's why, I started to hate being the "token" black girl and started to join cultural clubs and the STEP team. That's why I focused a lot on teaching my black students how to code switch (sigh). And the list goes on...
I HAD experienced racism and discrimination throughout my whole life, and somehow, just like most whites, I had learned to "let it go" and suppress it. I now know that white people like me, gravitate towards me, and hire me because I know how to talk like them, think like them, and that they don't 100% see me as being black because of my skin tone. I know that becoming "woke" is a process and not something that happens over night. Placing a quote online or having one discussion does not mean you understand racism. If I am still learning everyday as a black person, then there is much more learning for you to do as well.
Before I share the lunch break Ted Talks with you, I want to share a very paraphrased quote from Amanda Seales that resonated with me as I watched her Instagram stories. She said, "There is some notion, amongst whites, that blacks have received this secret education on being black and racism. We haven't. Many of us were not educated in schools about our history. We had to do this research ON OUR OWN! So, if you don't know where to start...READ A BOOK!"
And now...the TED TALKS! I chose these talks because they will challenge you to understand how our brains have been conditioned and the internal struggles of all people. These videos offer different perspectives of citizens experiences with racism and ideas for creating change within your classrooms and communities. Enjoy!
As a black woman from a tough part of the Bronx who grew up to attain all the markers of academic prestige, Dena Simmons knows that for students of color, success in school sometimes comes at the cost of living authentically. Now an educator herself, Simmons discusses how we might create a classroom that makes all students feel proud of who they are. "Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one's own skin," she says.
Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”
If you look like me, you’re used to colorism, says Stanford Graduate Business School student Chika Okoro. She calls the phenomenon known as colorism – discrimination against those with a darker skin tone -- “both as sinister and as subtle as racism.” In a world where light skin, light eyes and long “real” hair are sought after features, Okoro tells us how she copes, and what we can do to unlearn this deep rooted, destructive mindset.
When Ranna Abduljawad became a mother after twelve years of marriage, she never imagined she would have to explain discrimination to her daughter at an early age, but as a Muslim mother, that has been her reality. In her talk, Abduljawad explains how prejudice and fear profoundly affect families, especially children. Too often, stories of anti-Muslim speech, action and violence go un- or under-reported, and quickly fade from memory, but when each of us takes a stand, we can be the stories of change, uniting with our brothers and sisters of faith and working together to build a happier, safer world.
What do you do when you realize you have a bias, even against yourself? Kristen Pressner is the Global Head of Human Resources at a multinational firm, and a tireless advocate for, and promoter of, women in the workplace. In this enlightening talk, Kristen explores how we can recognize our own hidden, irrational biases — and keep them from limiting us.
In this powerful TEDx Talk, diversity advocate and Beyoncé super fan, Brittany Barron translates Beyoncé's music as a road map about race relations in the United States; demonstrating that being "colorblind" is not the goal, but diminishing our nation's "expertise" in racism is.
Liz's TEDxLehighRiver Talk is based on one of the unique perspectives of many multiethnic people, and how that perspective is critical to help all of us learn how to engage and connect with each other across stereotypical race “color lines”. She offers strategies for overcoming sub-conscious racism.
Despite having elected a black president, says Eric Deggans, the conversation about race in America is just beginning — but it's vital that we not shy away from it.
CHRISTOPHER EMDIN is an assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he serves as director of Secondary School Initiatives at the Urban Science Education Center. He writes the provocative "Emdin 5" series on contemporary social issues for The Huffington Post. He is the author of the recently released book Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation. Emdin holds a PhD in urban education with a concentration in mathematics, science, and technology; master's degrees in both natural sciences and education administration; and bachelor's degrees in physical anthropology, biology, and chemistry.
For more empowering speeches please visit www.ted.com.
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