Friday, August 7, 2015

We Need to Talk About Week 68

#WeirdEd is a good chat. It's a strong chat. It's got the best crowd in the business.

And we failed this week.

We failed our guest. We failed as teachers.

Last week, led by Rusul Alrubail, we talked about prejudgement, racism, bias, and discrimination. I asked Rusul to come. I have a lot of respect for her and I knew she'd bring something powerful. I promised her a safe space. I told her this community has never failed, never faltered during the hard conversations we've had. We're here for each other. Hell, she brought me a first draft of questions that I thought were too easy, too soft, and I pushed her to push the chat harder.

She knew it would be a problem. She told me she was nervous about the chat. I said no no, you'll be fine.

She knew better than I did.

How? How did that happen in my chat? In our chat? How is it when someone in the chat suggested that she just take off her hijab so she didn't get hate directed at her only Rusul and two others  responded to it?

Rusul, Christina Torres, and Jaison Oliver were right on it. Our guest and two teachers who deal with this kind of behavior all the time because they talk about it all the time. Because they put their beliefs front and center and because they are ToC (Christina gets the added bonus of catching flack simply for being a woman). They were the only ones who stepped up. The rest of the chat, we were busy patting ourselves on the back for how progressive we were. I'm lumping myself in here too. I was trying to keep an eye on all the tweets. I was trying to look out for her and that whole thread totally passed by me somehow. No excuse. Then someone else chimed in to the same thread and told Rusul to have thicker skin. Someone came into our chat, a safe space where we celebrate differences above all else, and we let someone suggest thicker skin is the answer.

We are better than that. I tried to console myself with, "Well, there were almost 900 tweets in that chat. Ten crappy tweets out of 900 means we did pretty well overall." But I was wrong. I primp and celebrate #WeirdEd being safe and different and we let abuse happen right under our noses. And no one but Rusul, Jaison, and Christina said anything.

Where were we?

Then I saw this.

Some coward invoked terrorism to warn Rusul that she ought to think before she tweets. Some coward too weak to speak openly warned her that her words could end up hurting the people who hurt her. The writer suggested she might somehow lead people to violence. That it would be her fault. And framed it as a reasonable plea. Framed it as, "I'm being reasonable here. You were awfully mean to those people who said you should pretend you aren't who you are to avoid getting hurt." And tagged the chat into it.

Rusul (and Christina and Jaison) handled all of this calmer and more reasonably than I ever could have. I already respected the three of them, and that respect has only deepened. As has my realization about how safe I am to have a chat about the confederate flag and get zero hate. Imagine if she'd run it. Even when I recognize my privilege I still don't see how far it stretches.

I invited Rusul to #WeirdEd.

I promised her it would be a safe space.

I was wrong in this case and it is deeply troubling.

Why did we let this happen? Is #WeirdEd all talk and no action? Sure, we have these conversations, but that's where it ends? Even inside the chat.

We owe Rusul, Christina, and Jaison thanks.

We owe Rusul an apology.

Then we need to start putting our money where our mouth is. This is a place where we can talk about candy and narwhals and Monty Python, but if it's not a place we can also talk about racism and other relevant, difficult topics then we're just playing at learning. I love having fun and being goofy and making #WeirdEd the chat you come to when you want to cut lose and be silly. But that's never been the only point. This topic and topics like it will come back around. Maybe sooner than later.

We're in this together. That's what #WeirdEd is. That's what makes us special.

We will do better.


  1. Let me know if I can help. -@kjellstrom

  2. Hi, there.

    I thank you for having the courage to take on the difficult conversations. As you witnessed, conversations re: race et. al, are complex and complicated, and, even in 2015, many are coming to such conversations woefully ignorant. Even educators.

    I have the wonderful privilege and pleasure to know and have been taught by Dr. Sonia Nieto. If you aren't familiar with Dr. Nieto, or her work, I strongly encourage you to read her books. Anyway, many years ago, when I was a first-year grad student in one of Dr. Nieto's courses, we had just finished viewing the film, "Columbus Didn't Discover Us", another highly-recommended work. Anyway, at the conclusion of the film, Dr. Nieto remarked that people of color cannot continue to do all of "the work." And yet, this is exactly what was happening during Wednesday's chat: teachers of color doing most, if not all, of the work to call out racism, and educate.

    I strongly encourage my white colleagues to READ. As in BOOKS. On RACE. A good place to start is here:

    I also strongly encourage my white colleagues to follow Dr. Fleming's Twitter feed. It's not for the faint of heart, mind you. Dr. Fleming tweets at @alwaystheself.

    Let me know if I can be of further assistance.