What do black girls dream of?

Ms. has a short but thoughtful article on Oprah Winfrey’s school for African girls that might be useful for teachers.  Without denigrating what is being attempted, the author reminds us that goals and ambitions are being brought to the girls; in a real way, they end up absorbed into the corporate world, which is hardly sensitive to their perspective.  As a quote has it:

“When [people] approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

The article, by Nikki Ayanna Stewart, is a reminder of some important contributions black women’s studies have been made.   Among them is:

At the core of black women’s studies is an insistence on building knowledge from black female points of view. Historically, almost all knowledge within Western culture has been built from a white male point of view; “others” could only gain credibility by first mastering and then carefully innovating within what black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins calls “Eurocentric masculinist” traditions. When black women’s views become central, new concepts and ways of thinking emerge.

The article also contains an implicit invitation for the girls to speak of their own experience, since

Both Winfrey’s mainstream project and black-feminist alternatives seem influenced by a desire to work through issues faced by black girls in the past—perhaps even issues from the producers’ own remembered girlhoods.

There is a lot more thought in Stewart’s short piece.

Homophobia in schools

 The report is from the UK, but it could apply to many other places.  Action is needed, and a small one  should be easy:  Parents,  consider discussing these issues very seriously with your children, if you don’t already.

The figures in the article from today’s Independent are staggering:

Yet today, there is one corner of Britain where viciousness and violence against gay people are still endemic. It is a place where 41 per cent of gay people are beaten up, and 17 per cent receive death threats. You have been there, and so have I. It’s called school –

And the results?  Here’s one:

Jonathan Reynolds … was a 15-year-old boy from Bridgend, South Wales, who came out to some of his friends last year. He was bullied and harrassed and threatened as a “faggot” and a “poof” until he couldn’t take it any more.

So one day, after he sat a GCSE exam for which he earned an A*, he lay on the train tracks near his home

Last year the Daily Mail sneared in an article on a Home Office Report calling for action on homophobia in schools

homophobia – a word invented by gay lobby groups to apply to their critics – …

The Independent tells us

The bullying Jonathan endured is not unusual. It is the norm in Britain’s schools. The word “gay” is an all-purpose insult, the worst thing you can be called. Earlier this year, the gay equality organisation Stonewall published a detailed study of more than 1,000 gay pupils, conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit. It discovered that a majority of Britain’s gay kids feel so unsafe that they skive off school to avoid abuse.

And after a girl told her friend she is a lesbian, she was severely harassed. And:

“When I went into my form room everyone got up and moved to the back, including my best friends. The teacher didn’t do anything. I told [one of my teachers] and she said I shouldn’t have told anyone. I should make it less obvious. They [other pupils] won’t get changed [after PE] when I’m there.” She used to love school. Now she says that “I can’t stand to go in any more”.

Think of reading the Independent’s article. It says that children tend to hate difference, and too often teachers go along with it. Surely there are better ways to bring children up.
(And, in case you are wondering, I am the mother of a gay son. We had teachers complaining about him since he was three years old, when he cried rather than hit another little boy back. They, not we, put the problem in terms of being a real boy. And I know what it is like to have a sizable portion of the population think your beloved child would be better off dead.)