Looking Back and Looking Forward
At the 2018 NCTM Annual Meeting, Danny Bernard Martin gave the Iris M. Carl Equity Address, titled “Taking a Knee in Mathematics Education.” Toward the end of the talk, in response to an audience question, Martin spoke about the phenomenon of “solution on demand.” Solution on demand is when, once racism is surfaced, the response is to ask a person of color what to do and how to solve it. Martin wrote on this topic in a 2009 paper:
“Such a demand not only trivializes the complexities of race, racism, and racialization, but also the experiences of those affected. In essence, it is a way to retreat from race and resists the realities of racism by reducing the harms to simple problems with simple solutions. My hesitancy to provide a specific answer is not meant to suggest that no solutions exist. But top-down, externally generated solutions that are not responsive to the needs and conditions of the context in question are unlikely to have a meaningful effect” (304).
I am a white teacher, and I am sitting with both the urgency of action and the necessity of doing my own internal work to better understand racism in America. I am also trying to remember that people of color have been doing the work for a long time, and there are already lots of places to learn without burdening people of color who are doing the most right now. Martin’s session is absolutely worth revisiting. Looking outside the world of math education, I enjoyed rewatching this panel of Black YA authors talking about justice, resistance, and positive representation. The panel is also from 2018 and is another reminder that the work is not new, no matter how many people have shown up for the first time in the last two weeks.
(thanks to Marian Dingle for sharing the video)
In addition to doing my internal work, I am thinking about how to make change in my school, within my sphere of influence. I’m rereading Paul Gorski’s article “Avoiding Racial Equity Detours.” The detour I see most in my school is what Gorski calls “Pacing-for-Privilege.” He writes, “In too many schools, the pace of equity progress prioritizes the comfort and interests of people who have the least interest in that progress” (57). I want to practice speaking up to prioritize equity for students, rather than comfort for adults. What detours do you see in your school, and where can you exert your influence?
Finally, I want to share Jose Vilson’s most recent blog post, “Black Teachers Are Good For More Than Race Stuff.” As education communities decide to do more to center justice and equity, we are at risk of essentializing Black educators as equity workers. Jose reminds us: “Let me lay this to rest. Black teachers can be experts at their given content area and its pedagogies, not just as delegates for our entire race and their experiences.”
Written by Dylan Kane