February 2009
Vol 6 No 2

Current Issue » Cover Page Cover Story Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns Articles Features
Back Issues
Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.6 No.2 February 2009

Cover Story by Alfie Kohn
Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within
To inquire into what underlies the idea of self-discipline is to uncover serious misconceptions about motivation and personality, controversial assumptions about human nature, and disturbing implications regarding how things are arranged in a classroom or a society.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
To Be an Effective Teacher
Simply Copy and Paste

»Do You Have a Student Teacher?Hal Portner
»Test-taking Skills Made EasySue Gruber
»Teaching Children Refusal SkillsLeah Davies
»How to Be ConsistentMarvin Marshall
»The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
»Dear Barbara - Advice for SubsBarbara Pressman
»What Side of the Box are YOU On?Kioni Carter
»Global Travel GuruJosette Bonafino

»Teacher Study Groups: Taking the “Risk” out of “At-Risk”Bill Page
»Can Anyone Learn to Draw?Tim Newlin
»The Heart of Mathematical ThinkingLaura Candler
»Finding Free Art Materials in Your CommunityMarilyn J. Brackney
»The Downside of Good Test ScoresAlan Haskvitz
»February 2009 Writing PromptsJames Wayne
»In The Middle School (poem)James Wayne
»Using Photographs To Inspire Writing IVHank Kellner
»Teacher Performance AssessmentPanamalai R. Guruprasad
»How To Help Victims Of Bullying: Advice For Parents & EducatorsKathy Noll
»Unwilling Student Meets Unwavering Teacher Lauren Romano
»Notes from The JungleJohn Price
»Lead the Class - Teachers as Leaders John Sweeting
»Opposing Views of a Post-Racial SocietyRoland Laird
»Who Really Needs Four Years of Math and Science? Steve A. Davidson

»Apple Seeds: Inspiring QuotesBarb Stutesman
»Today Is... Daily CommemorationRon Victoria
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Teacher Blogs Showcase
»Carol Goodrow’s “Healthy-Ever-After” Children’s Books
»Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
»Memo to the New Secretary of Education and
John Stossel: American students are NOT stupid
»Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: February 2009
»All of the Presidents in Under 2 Minutes!, Needle Sized Art, I Am a Teacher!, How It’s Made: Copy paper, and If My Nose Was Runnin’ Money
»Live on Teachers.Net: February 2009
»T-Netters Share Favorite Recipes
»Technology in the Art Classroom
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Editor in Chief: Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Layout Editor: Mary Miehl

Cover Story by Alfie Kohn

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Alfie Kohn, Sue Gruber, Kioni Carter, Marvin Marshall, , Marjan Glavac, , Hal Portner, Leah Davies, Barbara Pressman, Tim Newlin, Bill Page, James Wayne, Hank Kellner, Josette Bonafino, Marilyn J. Brackney, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, Panamalai R. Guruprasad, Alan Haskvitz, Kathy Noll, Lauren Romano, John Price, John Sweeting, Laura Candler, Roland Laird, Steve A. Davidson, and YENDOR.

Submissions: click for Submission Guidelines

Advertising: contact Bob Reap

Subscribe for free home delivery

Roland Laird

Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Opposing Views of a Post-Racial Society
by Roland Laird
Author of Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans
New contributor to the Gazette
February 1, 2009

After Barack Obama won the presidential election I found myself in conversations with White people who were beside themselves. In their minds the election of a Black president meant that we had truly entered Dr. King's dream and America had become a nation where people are not "judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Somehow on November 4th we had become a so-called "post-racial society.” But my Black friends and I are having none of it. We view the Obama Presidency as promising, but believe racism is alive and well and still a major factor in American life.

Now there's no denying that a great deal of people, Black and White, are optimistic about the Obama Presidency. But I believe that the source of the respective optimism comes from different places. For instance, here are two of the many text messages from Black friends that I received soon after Obama was projected as the winner of the election:

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we can fly."

"They didn't want to give us our 40 acres and a mule, so we took 50 states and a White House."

I doubt White people were sending those types of text messages to one another on November 4th, and all joking aside both messages speak volumes about the way Black people perceive the "post-racial society."

Meanwhile, I believe the reaction of fair-minded White people to the Obama election falls into one of two categories. Either they think, "Obama represents a new day, and it shows that racism is not a major factor in the everyday lives of Black people." Or they believe that, "Obama's election doesn't mean the end of racism, but it does mean that Blacks and Whites can work more closely together to completely end racial injustice in American Society."

Though the first thought is a noble one, it's wildly naive. On the other hand, I believe the second reaction to be an accurate assessment of things -- as long as you take a 500 foot view. Things get messier, however, as you get to ground level.

Historically, from the Abolitionist movement of the 1800's through the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, there have been significant examples of Blacks and Whites working together to make America a fairer place, but those efforts dealt primarily within the legislative realm. The notion being that once Black people were given the same opportunities as White people, all would be peaches and cream. The Obama Presidency is actually the zenith of this line of thinking. Yet if you go to numerous low-income Black communities today there remain a myriad of problems.

The post-racial mindset that the Obama team seems to be projecting is that the problems befalling low-income Black communities needn't be addressed as "race" problems. In his now famous "A More Perfect Union" speech, Obama said, "It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper."

I believe Obama's speech was designed to be uplifting for the post-racial era and for the purposes of the campaign it was. The problem is it didn't address the fact that Black people and White people have different narratives in America. If as Obama says, we want to invest in the education of black and brown and white children we have to acknowledge that culturally these children may have different needs.

Our book, Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African-Americans is a good primer on the struggles and victories of Black people in America and does so, I believe, without being divisive. In our book we make mention of a gentleman named Carter G. Woodson author of The Mis-Education of The Negro. In this classic book published in 1933, Woodson maintains that Black children in America aren't taught African American (then Negro) history and as such are educated solely in White culture and to be dependent on White people. Now this is arguably an overgeneralization but Woodson's book does resonate with many Black people and his book raises interesting questions. However, in the post-racial era, as posited by some, books like Woodson's or Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery by Na'im Akbar may be pushed further to the margins because they could be deemed divisive or outdated. After all, "Obama is now President, you can do anything you want" is the post-racial mindset.

For me such a mindset is harmful.

A story: my wife Taneshia is the Executive Director of the Trenton Downtown Association and each year TDA celebrates Trenton, New Jersey's storied history as the turning point of the Revolution War with an event called "Patriot's Week." This year, in acknowledgement of the pending Obama presidency, Taneshia commissioned four Black men, all dressed in colonial garb, to read the Declaration of Independence. It was a powerful image especially since at the time of the Revolution just like the rebel colonialists people of African descent also sought independence from their oppressors. It was well received by those in attendance but Taneshia was asked by a covering media reporter, "Why did you choose to emphasize that all the readers were Black?" The reporter followed up by saying that we're in a post-racial society and the Obama election was about our commonalities not our racial differences.

To me that demonstrates the paradox of the "post-racial era" thinking. Despite the sincere optimism many White people think it means that when we work together to solve some of societies daunting problems we no longer need to speak explicitly about race. Whereas to many Black people it means we can speak more openly about race and how we can use our experiences and narratives to turnaround many of the problems in our communities.

The next four years should tell us which perspective prevails.

Copyright © 2009 Roland Laird co-author of Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans

» More Gazette articles...

About Roland Laird...

Noted African-American entrepreneur Roland Laird, co-author of Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans, is co-founder of Posro Media, a Trenton, New Jersey-based company that produced the comic book series MC Squared: A Man With a Serious Game Plan and the syndicated comic strip The Griots. The company has worked and continues to develop a number of animated and documentary projects for film and television.

Roland Laird Articles on Teachers.Net...
Related Resources & Discussions on Teachers.Net...