No Longer Colorblind

Jennifer Anderson, Portland Tribune, January 19, 2012

A black teacher at a North Portland’s Open Meadow School sent an email to fellow teachers and staff last week with the subject line of “Whiteness,” asking for “articles or anything that helps explain what ‘Whiteness’ is and the impact it has.”

At nearby Jefferson High School, the white principal is working with her majority-white teaching staff to be more culturally responsive to the largely black student body.

Across town at mostly white Mt. Tabor Middle School, the black principal is encouraging open discussions in the classroom about the recent black-on-white assault of a 14-year-old girl on a MAX train.

At Marshall Campus library last week, 70 Portland Public School teachers—all but 10 of them white—ranked themselves in order of their self-assessed “White Privilege,” then candidly shared their feelings and experiences with racism.

Why all the talk about race in the schools, if we live in a nation where children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?” to cite Martin Luther King Jr. on the anniversary of his birth this week?

{snip}

Now education and government leaders here and nationally have adopted the opposite thinking, that we must focus on race at all times—because not doing so is actually setting the cause of racial equality back even further.

“Without ‘unpacking’ race, White educators often attempt—whether intentionally or unintentionally—to make their colleagues of color as well as their students of color conform to the normalized conditions of White culture,” says Bay Area equity consultant Glenn Singleton in his “Courageous Conversations about Race,” a training book used by school districts across the country, including Portland Public Schools.

“For educators, students and families of color, challenging White educators’ mythical color blindness can lead to their further marginalization and often even stand in the way of their receiving critical resources, support and advancement.”

{snip}

Since 2007, PPS has spent $1.7 million to contract with Singleton and his organization, Pacific Educational Group, for equity training. That includes $257,600 for the current school year, although PPS has recently begun to reduce its costs by training its staff as facilitators.

In the past year, the district has also adopted a Racial Equity Educational Policy, hired a chief equity officer to lead a new Office of Equity, and pushed equity work forward at 10 “Beacon Schools,” which are the pilot schools in transforming the culture in their buildings.

Each has its own Equity Team of teachers and staff who meet regularly to talk about how to address their disparities. {snip}

So far, all district administrators and principals have completed the training, which will soon be mandatory for all employees. The plan is to train all teachers during the next three years; a series of two-day seminars is under way, even though there has been some resistance by teachers who don’t want to leave their classrooms to a substitute for that long.

The monumental effort is all part of the district’s goal to close the racial achievement gap, the disparity in performance between white and minority students.

According to PPS data for 2010-11, the largest achievement gaps are between black and white students: 29 percentage points in seventh-grade writing; 33 points in eighth-grade algebra; 28 points for 10th graders on track to graduate. In third-grade reading, the largest gap is between Hispanic and white students: 38 percentage points.

When it comes to discipline, black students saw the highest referral rates at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Overall, black students accounted for 15 percent of the discipline referrals in 2010-11, compared to 4 percent for white students. Black students accounted for 27 percent of the total discipline-related incidents, compared to 7 percent for white students.

The gap in graduation rates is just as dismal. For the class of 2009, white students had a graduation rate of 61 percent; black students lagged behind at 44 percent, Native Americans and Hispanics were even further behind at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

To anyone who insists that the achievement gap is socioeconomic, educators point out that poor white students still perform better than black students.

Lolenzo Poe, now in his fourth month as the district’s chief equity officer, cautions against demanding a timeline for change. A cultural transformation could take three to five years, maybe seven, he says.

{snip}

Poe bristles at any suggestion that the equity work could be solved by more investments in other strategies, like a longer school year, smaller class sizes, more summer and afterschool classes or parent education.

“We’ve done all that,” he says. “But at the end of the day, this issue of race will still be there.”

{snip}

Newcomers might find themselves extremely gratified, confused or enlightened by Courageous Conversations, a 270-page text that introduces a bevy of new lingo.

For instance, the lesson on “White Talk” versus “Color Commentary” describes the differences between typical communication styles, which sometimes result in frustration or misunderstanding.

White Talk is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual and task oriented,” Singleton describes, while Color Commentary is “nonverbal, personal, emotional and process oriented.”

{snip}

Critics have attacked such thinking as Orwellian propaganda, saying it’s those labels that feed harmful stereotypes and racism in the first place. There has been some resistance to the content in Portland, but leaders chalk it up to its sensitive nature.

“We still have people who are skeptical,” says Carla Randall, the district’s chief academic officer. “I think we’re raising some people’s stress level, holding them accountable for the outcome of kids of color.

“We’re not just sitting around having a conversation. We’re having difficult conversations about racism, whiteness and its impact on people of color. It’s also common for people of privilege to not want that to happen. … We’re very proud of how we’re moving the work, but we have so much farther to go.”

{snip}

Teachers are also being coached to find out more about their students’ lives outside the classroom, so they can use it in their teaching. There’s more time spent considering discipline issues; before, what used to be a “send-home” offense, possibly a suspension, is now solved by other means.

At Open Meadow Middle School last Thursday, a student who blew an air horn with his iPhone app during passing time was given a firm reminder to put the device away. Students who talk out of turn in class are gently diverted back to the task at hand.

The middle school has also added a black family coordinator, who helps maintain a tight relationship with parents and brought 95 percent of them out to a recent event. Teachers and parents have each other’s cell phone numbers and keep in regular contact, sharing stories about their kids’ successes and trouble spots.

“There are times in the classroom when we’re saying, ‘I’m gonna call your mama,’ and the students have the fear of God,” says Executive Director Andrew Mason.

He points to data showing that equity work has started to make the needle move. In 2009-10, the school’s discipline rate stood at 420 referrals for the year; after the equity work began, it fell to 144. Retention in school jumped five points and attendance edged up three points during the same two years. And the number of classes students passed jumped from 57 percent to 70 percent in the two years.

{snip}

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  • B

    I’m not sure how long it is going to take but eventually the egalitarians will have to face their
    delusions about race.

  • Anonymous

    Now education and government leaders here and nationally have adopted the opposite thinking, that we must focus on race at all times—because not doing so is actually setting the cause of racial equality back even further.

    All we ever do, all we’ve ever done is talk about race.

    As I always say, when it comes to blacks, you can’t win. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Other than going our separate ways, there is no solution.

    • They’ll never allow that.  They cannot survive in the manner to which they’re accustomed without us. Boy, does that make me feel like a white slave.

  • “conform to the normalized conditions of White culture”- Does that mean no raping, no skipin school, no thugery & magicly swaping out 20,ooo+ years of evolution to outbreed diseases, and outrun others when predators are around and instead swap for evolution favoring intellect?

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely the LAST thing blacks want is to be judged by the content of their character. They are much better off being judged by their color – it’s a free pass to all that is available in Freebie World.

  • Anonymous

    Let these silly liberal “educators” twist themselves in knots trying to understand black chaos.

    If there ever was an exercise in futility “closing the education gap” would rank up there with standing in a straight line while forming a circle.  

    What this is really about is bringing whites down to the level of blacks.  Trust me, these insane leftists would be over the moon if every racial group was equally dumb.  

  • Jay1

    “White Talk is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual and task oriented,” Singleton describes, while Color Commentary is “nonverbal, personal, emotional and process oriented.”

    How’s that for stereotyping by race?  Of course, I do believe there are vast and insurmountable cultural differences between white and black culture.  The sad thing is that those liberals and race hustlers think that throwing money at the problem will make people who are ’emotional’ and such on the same level as people who are ‘intellectual’.  Liberalism, as Rush said, is for sure a form of mental illness.

  • Anonymous

    > Bay Area equity consultant Glenn Singleton in his “Courageous Conversations about Race,”

    I have not read his book, but I have watched him in video on the internet.  What exactly is so “courageous” about regurgitating the same old politically correct nostrums about race? Singleton will not suffer one iota for his views. In fact, he is rewarded with plum contracts from public schools.

    Singleton’s co-author is Curtis Linton.  The blurb for the book on Amazon states that Linton ” has written or produced dozens of award-winning video-based staff
    development programs” and that “his areas of expertise include closing the
    achievement gap.”  Oh really? And how’s that working out?

    >Lolenzo Poe, now in his fourth month as the district’s chief equity
    officer, cautions against demanding a timeline for change. A cultural
    transformation could take three to five years, maybe seven, he says.

    Mr. Poe, you are seriously delusional.  The achievement gap is rooted in biology and 70,000 years of evolutionary differences.  And you think that you can close it in a few years?

    You want to know what would really be courageous?  Invite Jared Taylor to speak to your next gathering of “educators.”

  • Anonymous

     Ice people, sun people.  
    Vive la différence

  • Anonymous

    ” Why all the talk about race in the schools, if we live in a nation where
    children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the
    content of their character?” to cite Martin Luther King Jr. on the
    anniversary of his birth this week?”

    That IS what we’ve been doing for more than 40 years and guess what?  THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN DOES OFTEN CONNOTE THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER.

  • Anonymous

     Brilliant comments, both of you.

  • Anonymous

    “the normalized conditions of White culture” – otherwise known as western civilization.

  • Anonymous

    Yes I agree. One common statement made by some racially aware Southern Whites is “MLK would be rolling in his grave if he saw what became of things”.  I think he would be laughing hysterically if he saw what his movement spawned!

    • Anonymous

      And no doubt patting himself on the back.

  • Anonymous

    No, the writer just phrased it wrong.  See the original chart referencing race and number of incidents below. The 15% appears to mean that 15% of the black kids ended up with a disciplinary problem, compared to 7% of the white kids. The rates on Hispanics are actually about the same or lower than whites.  There is no missing 75%.

    I looked up the original stats because I knew there was NO WAY the Hispanics were getting written up 10 times more often than the black kids.

    http://www.pps.k12.or.us/files/research-evaluation/pps_discipline_referrals_by_ethnicity_and_school_2010-11.pdf

  • Anonymous

    I know exactly what you mean.  I am who I am, and feel the way I do, not from others “opinion” but from actual life experiences. That’s why it angers me so when people call my views “ignorant” , or try to tell me non whites can’t be racists. I know what I have witnessed and experienced first hand, and it’s from THEIR actions towards me as a White individual that helped form my views on race and diversity.

  • Anonymous

    For instance, the lesson on “White Talk” versus “Color Commentary” describes the differences between typical communication styles, which sometimes result in frustration or misunderstanding.

    If one leaves the “White Privilege” angle out the article does make some good points about communication differences. Whether teachers should have to deal with non-white students at all is a separate issue, fact is they DO have to deal with them and using different forms of communication to enable cooperation is a wise idea.

    To use the frequent analogy of different dog breeds, different breeds have different drives and skill sets and one often has to tailor the training methods in a way that works best for that specific dog/breed. The methods of discipline that work well on a Greyhound may have very little or no effect on a Mastiff.  If one keeps using ineffective methods of communication or discipline the whole effort can become counterproductive, if the dog only gets negative feedback and never feels like a success they will often just stop trying entirely.

    Having black intermediaries that reach out to black parents does seem ridiculous as black parents should WANT their children to behave in class, but if that works to get the black parents support and results in a better behaved black child in the classroom it is a good thing. Segregated schools would of course be better but the current solution is preferable to nothing at all.

  • Anonymous

    It is interesting to see so many people struggle with the fact of racial differences.  Mainstream conservatives like to point out government interference through welfare and “liberal racism” as the driving forces behind black disfunction, and liberals like to blame “hidden racism” of a majority-white society as the raison d’etre of white/black difference.  Neither seem to believe, and certainly wouldn’t say, genetic differences exist between ethnic or racial groups.

    Exercises like the above will result in confused statements, qualified language by whites who think they sound reasonable, emotionally-charged nonsense by black spokesmouths, and no closer to the truth unless someone wants to point out the obvious. 

    • Seems to me that stating you just don’t like non-whites is a heck of alot safer than pointing out genetic differences.

      To point out genetic differences is to state that they will never be able to reach the level of White People and while I certainly agree that this a very old Proven Fact that’s been around since the dawn of time, I still find it to be something that will never be accepted in any form, to be a part of the “reason” and all because it points to them being “forever unable’.

  • Anonymous

    Schools can do this kind of stuff because they function as little gulags, controlled by ideologues expert at wielding velvet fists at the expense of their wards, inmates, detainees and serfs, otherwise laughingly known in the trade as “students.”  The community at large in Portland owes its school age population, and many of its teachers, one hell of an apology. 

  • My goodness, with this and the recent anti-white hatred campaign coming out of Duluth – it’s like the leftists want to do Jared Taylor’s job for him!

    They’re going to to put American Ren. out of work if they keep this up.

  • Why don’t the libs who run the Portland School District want color-blindess?  Because they know deep down that racial difference in intelligence exist:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2011/07/feds_only_7_oregon_high_school.html

  • Anonymous

    Because once the powers that be acknowledge the truth in racial differences and admit blacks just aren’t as smart as whites, we’ll have a whole host of other problems.
    The only real solution is total separation. 

  • Anonymous

    DC Resident: I work in DC. Would you be willing to meet up sometime soon and maybe see if we can get something organized in the area?? Im totally serious. I’m quite frankly getting tired of only communicating with like-minded WNs/RRs anonymously on this site. In order to achieve success with the movement, we should be meeting with each other in person (at least regionally). You can contact me at [email protected]. By the way, this invitation is also open to anyone who reads this and lives in the DC metro are. I sure hope I receive some replies!!

  • Anonymous

    So we want to put “color blindness” behind us and have a frank discussion about race, huh?

    Okay, then while we’re babbling about Orwellian nonsense like “whiteness” and “White Talk”, let’s also talk about the real phenomenon of “acting white” – a well documented phenomenon of black anti-intellectualism where black kids consciously reject learning for no other reason than the racist reason that learning is “white” and therefore Bad.

    It’s a well known black (and brown) form of anti-intellectual anti-white racism that they use to police their own, to terrorize whites, to self-destruct in school, and to give themselves an excuse for not working in school.

    The biggest obstacle blacks face in school achievement is their own racist hostility to school. Blacks need to change their cultural attitudes towards education.

    Whites don’t need to change a thing – other than to stop this never ending attempt to institute  communist-style re-education mind games on ourselves.

    • I have a dark notion that the seemingly absurd rejection of “acting white” serves a purpose for the people of color by resisting any possibility of them improving their lot, thus adding to the burden Whites mush shoulder in maintaining and “raising up” those groups. Since such a “raising up” is doomed to fail, the only way to remove the disparity between the races (and thus defeat “racism”) will be the amalgamation of the races.