On November 13th, 1898, a Presbyterian minister in Wilmington, North Carolina addressed his congregation on what was no typical Sunday morning. Three days prior, a group of white supremacists 400 strong overthrew the local government in a successful, calculated coup. They replaced the mayor, the chief of police, and other leaders with fellow white supremacists. They would not be governed by elected African Americans or whites acting in solidarity. They burned the office of the local Black newspaper and posed in front of its ruins. Detailed by David Zucchino in Wilmington’s Lie, the coup was violent, killing over 60 Black residents and driving many out of town with the consequence of lynching if they ever returned. Which they did not.
Reverend Peyton H. Hodge was one of the architects of this coup. He carried a winchester riffle through the streets only hours before the church service. To his congregation that Sunday morning, Hodge feigned sympathy toward Black residents of Wilmington, who he saw as unfit to govern themselves, let alone white residents.
Who can quietly and dispassionately consider their history and conditions and not pity them, not sympathize with them, not lend them a helping hand?
For Reverend Hodge and other ministers, the coup was a necessary, benevolent act toward Black citizens, who they considered powerless and inept. Pulling them from office, beating them in the streets, and killing them was lending a helping hand.
Two weeks ago, a school board in Rochester Hills, MI decided to dissolve a small alternative school and transform it into a virtual academy where all learning would take place through a computer program instead of teachers. One-hundred-and-fifty community members attended the school board meeting where the decision was made. Students, teachers, volunteers, and staff from the school were there. Youth organizers, education scholars, and activists were there. School board members and administrators from other districts were there. I was there. All who spoke were against the decision, warning the board that forcing vulnerable students to learn entirely through a computer would harm them. Attendees emphasized that making this decision during a global pandemic was unusually cruel, wildly irresponsible.
Shutting down a school is not the same as a white supremacist coup. But on the school board, here is how the most forceful advocate justified the decision against the wisdom of parents, scholars, and students themselves:
It’s a solution that better serves our population that has a hard time getting to school, has a lot to overcome in their day, and probably need a flexible schedule.
Do you see it? The assumption of powerless. The assumption of ineptitude. The feigning of sympathy. These lies are the scaffold of actions that hurt people for their own good.
Reading: Something I’ve been putting off for a long time: Guidance Notes on Co-operative Principles. It’s a document published by the International Co-operative Alliance. As a member of an anti-racist cooperative, I’m finally launching into a stack of cooperative-related books and documents I’ve been cataloging.
Writing: A short, blog post with fellow Journal of Teacher Education editors on research directions during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have not been excited to make any kind of projections in this moment. Others seem eager to, and I’ve been deeply suspicious – perhaps unfairly so – of anyone offering solid answers right now. I find my role in these conversations is to make a case for pause. I’m calling on what Eve Tuck phrased “a pedagogy of pausing” in the foreward to Leigh Patel’s Decolonizing Education Research.
[A pedagogy of pausing] involves intentionally engaging in suspension of one’s own premises and projects, but always with a sense of futurity. Pausing is an insertion of space in time....Pausing unsettles the relentless march of educational research toward production – of data, publications, problems, gaps, communities, schools, and futures.
“Pause in order to reach beyond” is what Patel writes later in the book. This language didn’t make it into our blog post. But it’s my only sturdy starting point for even entering such a conversation with colleagues and co-authors.
Listening: A lovely trip through all the music made by Clear Soul Forces. I keep telling people: hip-hop is still fun.