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1923 Chicago aldermanic elections

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1923 Chicago aldermanic elections

← 1921 February 27 and April 3, 1923 1925 →

All 50 seats in the Chicago City Council
26 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Party Democratic Republican
Seats won 37 13

Chicago Aldermanic Results by Ward, 1923.png
Results by ward. The map shows the winning candidate's party affiliations even though aldermen ran as nonpartisans. A white asterisk (*) means the results for that ward were decided in a runoff vote.

Elections to the Chicago City Council were held on February 27, 1923.[1] Candidates ran as nonpartisans, and in elections where no candidate received the majority of votes a runoff election was held between the top two finishers on April 3, the same day as the election for Mayor.[2]

This was the first election with the new City Council composed of fifty wards electing one alderman each. Previously there had been 35 wards each electing two aldermen, for a total of 70 seats in the Council. At the time of the election, however, only 61 of those seats were filled. Of those 61 incumbents, 47 ran and 29 were elected to form part of the new council.

All told, despite the nonpartisan nature of the election, candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party won 37 of the seats, while those affiliated with the Republican Party won 13 seats.[2] 20 runoff elections were held, of which Democrats won 17 and Republicans 3. Two aldermen—Democrat Johnny Powers of the new 25th ward and Republican Joseph B. McDonough of the new 13th—were returned without opposition.[1]

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[music - instrumental] >> Meg Moss: Hello. Can you hear me? Hi I'd like to welcome you to UNC Asheville and to this fabulous talk tonight. My name's Meg Moss. I'm the chair of the Education Department here at UNC Asheville. And I was, I'm just here to welcome you and to introduce to you Dr. Tiece Ruffin, who is the one largely in charge of organizing today's events. We, this is the third of three talks that Dr. Ladson-Billings has given here today. And I really, very much thank you for being here. And Dr. Tiece Ruffin, thank to her. >> Tiece Ruffin: Thank you Dr. Moss. Good evening everyone. My name is Tiece Ruffin. And I'm a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Education here at UNC Asheville. It is a great pleasure to welcome Dr. Ladson-Billings to UNCA, Asheville, as well as to introduce her to you. Dr. Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. And she is a national leader in the field of education, particularly in the area of culturally relevant teaching and an understanding and addressing the achievement gap in schools. Her work blends empirical work, seeking to understand what makes teachers effective in leading all students to learn, with a theoretical work on critical race theory and its application to the classroom. I wish to acknowledge the work and the support of others that have been involved with bringing Dr. Ladson-Billings here. Her time with us today is made possible by so many entities, including the Department of Education, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Africana Studies Program, Student Activities and Integrative Learning, the Intercultural Center, and the Office of Multicultural Student Programs, and the Belk Professor in the Humanities. At UNC Asheville we believe in the same spirit of collaboration and cooperation in creating educational opportunities like this that is necessary to address the achievement gap in education. Please welcome Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings to UNC Asheville. [applause] >> Dr. Ladson-Billings: Thank you very much Dr. Ruffin and good evening. Now I need to probably preface my remarks by telling you that this is not going to be a warm fuzzy talk. I think the other two were warmer and fuzzier. But we're going to be talking about hard stuff. And there's just no way to make some things in our society warm and fuzzy. Some things are hard. And we are better for having the conversation about hard things. So it probably somewhere on fliers or programs you, it said "Critical Race Theory and Education." That's kind of right. The real title of the talk is "From Colorblind to Post-Racial, De-coding Race Discourse in Democratic America." So I'm going to try to put the whole notion of Critical Race Theory in a larger socio-political context. What it means to be in this society as a raced person. So like many scholars whose work sits at the nexus of race, inequity, justice, and democracy I was profoundly interested in and active in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. Certainly the historic nature of the campaign coupled with the massive economic crisis, two wars, escalating health-care costs, and a failing education system, made this election important to people throughout the U.S. and beyond. So tonight I want to address the way that discourse on both the liberal and conservative ends of our political spectrum, have appropriated notions that suggest that race is no longer salient. And that it is no longer a salient construct in understanding inequality and injustice in the United States because that's part of what the discourse is saying. Now in the spirit of transparency, and I think you already know this, I need to point out that I use critical race theory as an analytic lens through which to understand racial inequality. So if I start with this first slide, this was actually something that I heard on a campus, that with Obama as President we are now post-racial. You know, and I remember having a really interesting conversation with someone on another campus who said "Oh I know you'll be happy if he wins." And I said "Why? How is my life going to be different? "I'm going to wake up on Wednesday after the election, "I'm still going to be a black woman in America. "That ain't going to change. I actually see this as an opportunity for you." So, I mean we've had this sort of notion that oh well everything is taken care of. And I want to kind of de-bunk that notion in tonight's talk. So critical race theory is a legal perspective that argues that racism is normal not aberrant in U.S. society. Now people hate that I say that. They hate it, hate it, hate it. But that's what critical race theorists believe. So that when racial incidents happen we go "duh" because they happen all the time. Now while it is true that we will rally around major incidents, like what is now happening in Sanford, Florida around Trayvon Martin. It's really not that that people deal with. What they deal with are what I call the thousand daily cuts. The everydayness of it, the going into a store looking at a purse in a display case, then being told "That's very expensive," as if to say "You can't afford this." I tell my students all the time, if you knew how much expensive crap black women have, they don't really want to buy it, but someone said "Oh that's expensive." And so in some ways you know we get goaded into buying it because it's like you know "Well I can afford this." It's those things, day in and day out, someone's inability to look you in the face, someone not trusting you over something, you know clutching their purse. I mean I have three sons who are three of the most lovely, young men you ever wanted to meet. But if they get into an elevator it's not unusual for somebody to clutch their purse and assume the worst. So that's really about the daily-ness and that is quote normal. It's not aberrant, it's not like "Oh we had a racial incident." We have them all the time. It further argues that narratives, or more specifically counter- narratives, are useful ways of understanding how racism operates and functions. So in other words people tell stories to tell what happened and to try to set a context for how racism impacts them. Critical race theory also employs critical social science as a knowledge base, rather than just case law. Because remember this is scholarship that comes out of legal scholarship. But these are legal scholars who are also using social sciences. They're using political science and sociology, and anthropology and psychology. And it contends that civil rights legislation only survives if it can advantage whites. And that for people of color to benefit from legislative and policy decisions they have to find an interest convergence, a way to make the interest of people of color intersect with those of whites. So you have a picture there of Derrick Bell who is the person who developed the notion of interest convergence. Actually professor Bell just died this past year, last fall, last October. Interesting, three people who I greatly admired died on like the same day, or within a day of each other. Fred Shuttlesworth, who was one of the major soldiers in the civil rights movement. Steve Jobs, and I am like everything Apple. They make it, I just go and get it. And Derrick Bell, all died on the same day. But he talked about his notion of interest convergence, of which I'm going to talk a little bit more about further in the talk. So what I want to explore this evening is an interesting phenomenon that I think is appearing on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum. And the phenomenon goes by different names but I believe it has the same impact. On the left we are told we are post-racial. On the right there is an insistence that we are now a quote colorblind society. I think both perspectives are dangerously naive. And they can have a pernicious effect on that part of the democratic project that is aimed at insuring equity for racial, racially subordinated groups. News magazines and papers ran stories with headlines... Trying to pick up some of the stuff we saw. So here was you know, President Obama's being lifted up into history. They got him sitting between Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. It's like how much pressure [laughs] can be on one person? Here of course is this picture of President Bush telling him "Well now it's all yours." You know and President Obama looking quite bewildered. And of course we remember the excitement of that day. But there were all kinds of news magazines and papers that ran stories with headlines like quote "Does race still matter?" Or "Is Obama the end of black politics?" And another one entitled "The end of white America?" What we seem to forget is that more than 59 million people voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. And I don't know if I've got the right slide here for that one. I'll go back. That was about nine and a half million less than Barrack Obama and Joe Biden. Now think about what does nine million represent. There are 8.3 million people in New York City. If you take the New York Metro area there's 18.9 million people. So if you just took half of those people that's the margin of difference in that election. So it's not like we all decided for one candidate. There were instances you know and of course the Electoral College system, I don't want to go into that. But the fact that if you actually look at the raw numbers there's a $9 million, let's see nine million vote difference, this in a nation of 300 million people. Now of course all 300 million people are not eligible to vote, the kids can't vote. But we have a lot of people in the electorate, and nine million is really not an overwhelming majority. The Obama/Biden strategy of campaigning in every state, in every part of a state, that is rural, suburban, and urban, actually ended up putting more states in play than previous elections. But Southern states beyond North Carolina and mountain west states actually remained solidly in the Republican column. They didn't change. Urban densely populated areas continued to vote for the Democratic candidates. And rural less dense populated areas continued to vote for the Republican candidates. Let's see if I can get one. I'll skip that. The ethnic breakdown of the election I think was even more telling. 67% of Latinos voted for Obama. 62% of Asians voted for him. 66% of those designated as "other" voted for him. 95% of blacks voted for him. And 55% of whites voted for John McCain. The majority of whites voted for McCain. So rather than colorblind or post-racial, I think the election seemed to indicate just how racially specific politics in the U.S. are. Now on the day after the historic presidential victory, I went to school to teach my graduate course on multicultural perspectives in education. And the buzz among the students was palpable. After a grueling almost two year campaign we were finally emerging out of eight years of an administration that in some ways seemed antagonistic toward a lot of social programs that were designed to provide a window of opportunity for the poor and dispossessed. It was also an administration who's foreign policy stance had placed the U.S. at odds with most of its western allies, save the U.K. and Australia. We were mired in two wars that were draining the national treasury, and economic policies that were serving the wealthy were starting to put unreasonable strain on everyone else. Laissez-faire economic policies coupled with unbridled defense spending proved to be a recipe for disaster. And the global recession that we are experiencing is a result of this. It is no wonder that Barrack Obama simultaneously provoked spontaneous celebration and a worldwide sigh of relief. You know, I'm a movie buff, and when I could see all of these shots around the world after the election was called I felt like that moment in "The Wizard of Oz" where the Munchkins start singing "Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead." [laughter] So when I arrived at my class there were students who felt that I was somewhat subdued. They wondered had I celebrated too much the night before. [laughter] Was I in a state of disbelief? Where was my joy? Where was my excitement? And I'll have to confess that the moment that California's 55 electoral votes registered for Obama, I was shouting for joy. But shortly after, I began thinking about what this presidency would mean in the larger scheme of things. So when I met my students I reminded them that I was a critical race theorist before the election and I remain a critical race theorist after it. I could easily explain through using CRT, or critical race theory, what happened. The election of Barrack Obama was a classic instance of interest convergence. Now briefly, interest convergence asserts that decisions regarding equity and civil rights are more likely to occur when the subordinate group can align its interests with those of the dominant group. So let me give you an example. Many years ago when Evan Mecham was the governor of Arizona, he said that the state of Arizona was not going to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday. It would not be a state holiday. In other words, state workers would still be required to come to work because they could not afford another paid holiday. And immediately after he made that announcement, various civil rights groups and other groups began saying "Well we just won't go to Arizona for anything. We'll stop booking conventions." The NFL which was supposed to be considering them for a Super Bowl, said "No we're not coming." And once the NFL said "We're not coming," Governor Mecham had a change of heart. Now I don't believe for a minute that he thought differently about Dr. King. But his interests aligned with those who wanted the holiday. So that's an example of an interest convergence. He didn't have a change of heart. He's not, "Oh yeah Dr. King's a great American hero. Let's do this." It's "We can't afford to lose the money." You know in the larger scheme of things. And that interest then aligns with the interest of the various civil rights groups that say "We want the holiday." That's an interest convergence. Another example that is particularly related to education is the landmark and iconic Brown versus Board of Education. That decision marked the end of legal segregation in public accommodations, especially schools. And it's seen as a triumph of American democracy and an indication that America is indeed a really good altruistic nation. Critical race theorists see Brown differently. To us Brown was a foreign policy strategy, designed to help the U.S. win the Cold War. And for those of you who don't know much about Cold War history, soon after World War II the U.S. and the Soviet Union divided up the world. Most of Europe and the western nations were under the U.S. influence. And eastern Europe and other eastern nations and China were a part of the Soviet Block. However throughout the world there were non-aligned nations. They weren't with either group. But both of these super powers were attempting to entice them to join with them. The U.S. used the Voice of America that was established in 1942 to reach both allies and what might seem like enemies. The Soviet Union used the images of segregation and racial unrest to underscore the U.S.'s failure to live up to its promises. The Eisenhower administration saw the Brown decision as a vehicle for sending a clear signal to the international community that the U.S. and its democracy was all that it professed. In this case the foreign policy interests of the U.S. converged with the civil rights interests of the African American community. Brown is painted as a magnanimous, benevolent decision that is a quote natural outcome of a democratic nation dedicated to the principles of liberty and justice for all. Critical race theorists see Brown as an opportunity that African Americans were able to take advantage of. And so is you want to talk a little bit about the failure of Brown, you know, some years ago we had our 50th anniversary of Brown. And we looked at the data, most black and brown children are not in desegregated schools. So if it really was an education strategy then it's a failed strategy. But it worked as a foreign policy strategy, because there were a different set of images that got beamed to the rest of the world about who we were. And really to support this position you have to kind of look at some of the archival data. There's a letter written to President Eisenhower by a friend of his, named Swede Hazlett. He was a retired Navy admiral. And he was very upset about the decision. He was like "We don't need to be desegregating these schools. This is a mistake. This is wrong." In October of 1954 President Eisenhower wrote him back, and in that letter he says "Look, don't worry about the decision because next year, "or sometime next year in the spring, they're going to come out with a consent decree, Brown 2," which was rendered in May 1955. We never talk about Brown 2. We always talk about Brown 1, because we're so excited. Oh you know, "Separate but equals," unequalled. Alright. But Brown 2 was the consent decree and Eisenhower says in his letter, and it's in his archives... It's one of the great things about democracy you know you can go back and read everybody's papers and see what they said and what they thought and you know. And he says in there "I think the court will be very, very slow to implement. So don't worry about this." And sure enough what that consent decree said is that schools' districts were required to desegregate quote with all deliberate speed. Which is, you know, the only thing missing from that statement is "wink wink." [laughter] Because what's all deliberate speed? So districts would say "Well it's going to take us 15 years, that's as fast we can go, you know it's going to take us 10 years..." I mean literally that line that did not require immediate school desegregation created a huge loop hole for the implementation of Brown. So more than 50 years later, I think the election of Barrack Obama signaled another form of interest convergence. This time the converging interests were the economic interests of the mainstream, with the civil rights hopes of those outside of that mainstream. With the near collapse of the financial markets and two costly wars, Obama was seen as the only logical alternative to a continuation of failed policies. For African Americans, Obama was the first viable African American presidential candidate that they'd ever seen. And despite comedian and social activist Dick Gregory's third party anti-war candidacy in 1968, and Representative Shirley Chisolm's pioneering run for the presidency in 1972, and Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 campaigns, no African American candidate had ever been seriously considered as a presidential contender. Obama's success in the Iowa Primary changed everything. And this viable candidate became the front runner. Now the economic crisis hit hard before the first scheduled presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi. Sort of interesting because I was in Oxford for that. And the Republican presidential candidate declared that he would not attend the debate because he was quote calling off his campaign to deal with the economic crisis. It was a bad tactical move. The electorate saw it as a political stunt. And eventually McCain would, would indeed make his way to the debate. And I kept telling people in Mississippi I said "He's going to be here." And they're like "How are you, how can you be sure?" I said "Ole Miss has spent over $1 million "in preparation for this debate. "The governor of Mississippi is Haley Barbour. "Haley Barbour used to be the chairman "of the Republican National Committee. "He's put $1 million on the line. The man will be here." And sure enough he was. Now that first debate was actually supposed to focus on foreign policy. And it was supposed to display McCain's knowledge and Obama's inexperience. However, according to political scientist Kenneth Goldstein, Obama won the electorate in that debate. He came across as presidential, while McCain seemed patronizing and out of step with the concerns of everyday Americans. By the end of the debate it was clear that the interests of the mainstream and those of African Americans were converging. Barrack Obama would be the choice of the majority. He would not only win those typical democratic states like New York and New Jersey, California and Washington, and Oregon, but he made inroads into traditional Republican areas like Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado. "Surely" said the disgruntled right, "We are now a colorblind society." "Certainly" asserted the jubilant left, "We are now a post-racial society." I contend that both are wrong and that race relations in the U.S. remain firmly in the same place, despite Barrack Obama's victory. The notion of colorblindness seems a laudable goal for a nation to aspire to. It presumes that individuals and institutions discount race when making decisions related to educational, employment, housing opportunities, as well as public policy decisions. People holding this view readily reference Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement about having his children one day be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. King's vision is indeed emblematic of an ideal state. But should not be taking, taken out of the context of his time. King was operating in the midst of state-sanctioned apartheid. There were schools, housing, and other public accommodations that were legally unavailable to African Americans. Recently a friend whose father was a prominent African American pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana shared a story about Dr. Ralph Bunch, in the 1960s when he made a visit to Fort Wayne. When he arrived at the hotel where he had a reservation, Dr. Bunch was told he could not stay in the hotel because he was a Negro. Ralph Bunch had a Ph.D., he was a special trustee to the United Nations, and he was a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And he was being told by a high school graduate hotel desk clerk from Fort Wayne, Indiana that he could not stay in that hotel. My friend's father had to get up in the middle of the night and pick up Dr. Bunch and have him stay at their home. Dr. King's declaration makes sense in the midst of this injustice. Had Dr. Bunch been judged on the content of his character the desk clerk would have been honored to have him stay at the hotel. So when white America embraces the notion of colorblindness, I think it is because it absolves them of the nation's deepest sin, racism in the context of white supremacy. Because to be white is to not think about race. Or to worry about other daily concerns, things like money or children or health or whatever challenges life brings. However, being white means not having to figure race into one's daily calculus. To be white is to reference the terms man, woman, child, and always be pre-figuring a white subject. Colorblindness is the way whites have already lived their lives, except when non-whites have advocated for similar opportunities or privileges. Proponents of colorblindness believe that blacks and Latinos and other people of color have not taken advantage of the opportunities the government so generously gave them. Thus their inability to progress represents their own individual failure. Colorblind advocates believe that African Americans and Latinos and American Indians and other non-white groups should quote get over the past and relinquish group identity and allow the meritocracy to function. But how does meritocracy actually work in the U.S.? According to sociologist David Wellman in the 1980s unemployment for all black men rose relative to white men. However it rose especially for black college educated men. In the late 1960s when the civil rights movement was ending the unemployment rate for black and white men was equal. This was a major improvement from the disparities that existed in the 1950s and early 60s. However, by the 1980s educated black men were three times more likely to be unemployed than their white peers. And I think that this is the slide. But as typical for academics, nobody can read it. Okay so you have to trust me about these rates. This employment disparity is greater than that of black high school dropouts and their white counterparts. So in other words, if you look at a bunch of white high school dropouts and black high school dropouts it's more likely that white high school dropouts will have jobs, but it's not a big gap between the black high school dropouts. The bigger gap is between black college educated men and white college educated men. That black college educated men are much more likely to be unemployed than their white college. So we tell the kids you need to go to school, you need to get an education, you need to do this. But they see people who have education, but they don't have jobs. So if the system is meritocratic how do we explain employment disparities. For the colorblind advocate race is no longer the sight of social inequality. In this discourse, people of color, like I said, are using race to get an advantage. By ticking off minority race on job, college, or housing applications, they reason that these folks are accorded more consideration for social benefits. This according to the colorblind is undemocratic. And thus it becomes necessary to rid all aspects of public policy from quote race based policies or remedies. California Proposition 209, and initiatives in the states of Washington and Michigan have passed. And they spell the end of race consideration in public policy. It's interesting that these same measures do not speak to our consideration of gender, when the data show that women actually have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action. Now while the colorblind advocates see Barrack Obama's presidential victory as proof positive that we are a colorblind society, the post-racial advocates assert that we have moved beyond race. We still see diversity in difference. It just doesn't mean the same thing, in a technologically sophisticated global flat world. Post-racial discourse attempts to complicate difference and subjectivities to suggest that race is but one among many. Alright, so there's race, there's gender, sexuality and... And so the post-racialists suggest that talk about race as a category is essentializing and simplistic. So we have to look beyond our post-racial future towards a more hybrid existence. What Michael Lind refers to as the "beige-ing" of America, references the reality of demographics in the U.S. And what the post-racial proponents do not understand is the way that race is always being deployed in America, to mean what the more powerful group wants it to mean. Now I'm kind of, kind of off with these slides, so I got to, no, no no. Okay. In a 1923 case, United States versus Bhagat Singh Thind, that despite recent anthropological studies, expanded the definition of Caucasian to include those from the Indian subcontinent. The Supreme Court argued that despite the presence of quote Arian blood in the veins of this World War I veteran, and I think I'm missing a picture because I had a picture of him to show you. This World War I veteran Bhagat Singh Thind... Mr. Thind was not white. Now the anthropologists at that time, remember this is 1923, anthropologists at this time said if you are from India, you are Caucasian. So he said "I'm Caucasian" and they said "No you're not." So he went to court over this. And the court determined that Thind was not white quote in accordance with the understanding of the common man. Now I suspect that since race is such an arbitrary concept, powerful interests can rearrange and coalesce around shades and degrees of blackness. Tiger Woods, Barrack Obama, Halle Berry, would easily fit into this new category of acceptability. Others of darker hues will not be so easily accepted without some other form of exceptionality. The other thing that is likely to happen is the co-mingling of race and class, which already happens. And in this arrangement poor blacks will not be able to escape the pernicious impact of race because of their social status. But wealthy blacks despite their skin color can transcend or at least insulate themselves against the negative effects of race. So celebrities like Michael Jordan or LeBron James do not have to worry about how race functions. Indeed, in an interview with some black National Basketball Association players, many of them asserted that racism was no longer a problem in the U.S. And I guess if you make over $2 million a year it's not. (audience) [indistinct] You know you can live and function and operate in circles that race doesn't touch you. The claims of a post-racial society, makes sense if one looks from the top of the social-economic ladder. President Obama and celebrity actors and athletes who are black operate in different circles than the rest of us. But the view from the bottom is quite different. And clearly the view from the classroom is different. If the U.S. were a post-racial society then poor blacks would be having experiences and life chances similar to poor whites. However this is not the case. On most measures of health and well-being poor blacks fair worse than poor whites. So rather than look to colorblind or post-racial paradigms to explain our present moment, I would argue that we are in a space of racial flexibility, not unlike Aihwa Ong's notion of flexible citizen... her notion of flexible citizenship. So race can be deployed in a variety of ways and has shed its seemingly fixed position. In the extreme position we have the case of Michael Jackson who physically changed himself from black to white. In the more subtle and crass marketing venue we have the case of Mariah Carey. So I want you to look at that, those two magazine covers. Do you notice how much lighter she looks on the Seventeen magazine cover? Those covers came out within a month of each other. So on Seventeen she is becoming more acceptable to a broader audience, whereas Ebony is a magazine that caters directly to African Americans. Or in a move to impact public opinion, we had OJ Simpson. Alright. So they, Time magazine literally darkened their picture to make him look more sinister and less acceptable. Because remember OJ was everybody's hero before all this craziness went on. Right the ladies in the airport singing "Go OJ" for the Hertz commercial. Michael Olmy points out that despite the attestation of biologists and geneticists and physical anthropologists that race is not a scientific concept rooted in discernible biological differences. It is an extremely powerful and contested social construct. So in other words, if you took the DNA of anybody in this room and put it under a microscope the geneticists cannot tell you what the race of that person is. I think I said at a, one of our meals earlier today, it's like calico cats deciding they don't want to have anything to do with tabby cats. It doesn't make any sense, they're cats. And in the same way that we are quote people. But we have come to make race matter. It really isn't a scientific construct, but we've made it a powerful social construct. And it has implications for how people get to live their lives. So Olmy further argues that race has always been fluid and subject to multiple determinations. And more important the relationship between race and racism is about transformations in the nature of racialized power. So since we cannot remove power from the equation, I think the challenge of subordinated racial groups is to figure out how to equalize the power relations. Lani Guinier and Drell Torres began talking about something they call political race, as a way for marginalized communities to take on race as a diagnostic tool and as a motivational tool. Rather than attempting to dismantle race or become post-racial, Guinier and Torres speak of re-deploying race strategically to create coalitions and social movements that challenge injustice and challenge inequity. The work of a civil rights movement is an example of the strategic deployment of race. One did not have to be phenotypically black to be instrumental in the civil rights struggle. Indeed in many instances it helped to be white. For white lawyers could file motions and argue cases before white judges. White businessmen and philanthropists had enough money to finance aspects of the civil rights movement. White priests and white clergy had the moral bravitas to challenge the extent social order on behalf of the mull, of the movement. And white teachers could stand up on behalf of black children. And I'm, most of you probably know the story of Ruby Bridges, the little girl who was the first to desegregate in New Orleans public schools. And as a result of... And the federal marshals had to walk this first grader to school every day because of the crowds that were chanting racial epithets at her every single day. But there was one white teacher in the building who was willing to teach Ruby. So Ruby probably got the best private education public money could buy, [laughter] because nobody would go to school with her. But this teacher, taught her five hours a day. I'm sure by the time first grade was over Ruby was ready to go to middle school, [laughter] because she had a private tutor. But it took a white teacher, because there were no black teachers in this school. It took a white teacher who was willing to do this. So we want to be clear that there is a role for each of us to play in getting us to social justice. Everybody who has become associate, who becomes associated with the movement in some ways are rendered black as his or her political race. When Guinier and Lanier talk about political race it's not about phenotype. It's about where are your, where are your sympathies, where are your, where's your advocacy. This political race I think is useful in garnering both rights and social benefits. And rather than separate and individual atoms, political race allows for coalescence and community so that real change can happen. The Obama/Biden campaign recognized this. And rather than be colorblind or post-racial, they decided to be flexibly racial. His speeches included code switching, sermonic riffs, professorial analysis, and down home folksiness. He was being racially flexible in ways that allowed him to be the person each person in his growing constituency needed him to be. The fact that he was not post-racial was indeed part of his attraction. And I think President Obama represented the promise of democracy. Even with all of its flaws and shortcomings, he was the emblem of what America could be. He was both youth and wisdom, present and future, black and white. Obama is neither colorblind nor post-racial. He is the embodiment of race with both its fear and promise. His position as the President of the United States is simultaneously extraordinary and unremarkable. It is extraordinary because it took the nation from 1619 to 1863 to even acknowledge the humanity of African descent people. It took from 1863 to 1965 to grant African descent people full social and civic rights. To have a person of African descent occupy its highest office is indeed extraordinary. However even in the midst of the extraordinary, we have to recognize this presidency as kind of unremarkable in the 21st century. The nation itself is more diverse. And people of color have engaged in the political process at all levels. Even in the previous administration there were two African American Secretaries of State, an African American National Security Advisor, a Latino Attorney General, and a Secretary of Commerce. There was an African American Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Secretary of Education, and an Asian American Secretary of Labor. That was all pre-Obama. The Bush administration had all of those folks. So the conventional narrative of America, would someway see Barrack Obama's presidency as a natural progression. And ultimately I think I leave you with the question, of whether or not race still matters in the U.S. I would argue that it does. It matters in new ways that reorganize and re-conceptualize who and how people are raced. And this reorganization makes it difficult to fix race in the same ways it was fixed a generation ago. It makes it difficult in schools when we look at our data and realize that academic performance is so predictable. Some years ago I took a group of my colleagues on a campus of the University of Wisconsin who are not in education, on a field trip. I took them to a high school, a local high school. Because they thought, "Oh we don't have these problems. Those problems are in Milwaukee. Those problems are in Chicago." And I said "I'm inviting you guys to a local high school." So colleagues from medicine and law and the college of agriculture, and departments like English and Classics, they all came on the field trip. And it was almost like a back to school night, you know if you've ever been to back to school night they give you, at the high school they give you a schedule so you can follow your child's schedule. And every ten minutes the bell rings and you go to the next teacher and you get to hear what the course is about and what the expectations are. So we got schedules. And as we walked down the hall before we went into any room, I would say something like, I'd look at the schedule, look at what the course was and I'd say "There are no black students in this class." Alright so we'd look at something and it'd be calculus. Go in, no black students. We'd go to another room and it would be AP biology, and I would say "There are no black students in this class." And we'd go in and there'd be no black students. Then we'd go to a class called basic science, [ohs] and I said "There'll be black students in this class." And when the, my colleagues, these people have Ph.D.s, they are experts in their field, they went in there and they're like "How are you able to do this?" [laughter] It's not hard. It's not hard at all, because we have continued to vulcanize and segregate by race. And our achievement scores look exactly like this disparity. Our challenge is to try to forge a democracy [clears throat] in the midst of what I call a bankrupt concept, the concept of race. Thank you. [applause] [footsteps] (Tiece Ruffin) Thank you very much Dr. Ladson-Billings for your lecture on critical race theory and education and application to broader areas as well. We now have time for question and answer. And because this event is being recorded we ask that when you ask your question you please go to the microphone in the aisle. And please feel free to ask your questions for the next :15. We have a national scholar in education. I believe, please take advantage of this valuable opportunity to hear her perspective on pressing issues facing our schools. (audience) [indistinct] (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Okay I can't vouch for you this time. I can't do the question for you this time because they are recording. So you do have to go to the microphone. (audience - male) Well I was at your earlier session, and I'm very happy to see many of my colleagues in Asheville City schools here. One of the questions that I want to ask is that African American men, I was kind of trying to find... Yeah there you go... [laughter] Some of my colleagues and brothers. But how can we discuss with our peers, one of the things that I'm finding out as I'm going through this doctorial program and obtaining higher education, higher knowledge, it seems to get harder for me. It seems I get less respect. And I was just telling Miss Hughes you know whenever I go to work I have to put on my face. And a lot of times my white colleagues don't understand why we have to put on a face. Because if we're assertive we're confident, we speak intelligently, why is that so intimidating? And can you help me with any strategies that I can equip myself as a man trying to obtain higher education and be a trend setter and a change agent for the kids that I love and serve. Do you have any advice for me? (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Well it is harder because we live in a more complex and complicated society. And it's harder because people really don't want to have these conversations. Indeed I hear things like we need to just stop talking about this, as if that's going to make it go away. You know I almost always say "So if you don't talk about sex, your kids are not going to have it right?" [laughter] You know, this is one of America's sticking points. And we don't want to have the conversation at all. It's interesting when I engage in my colleagues in the U.K., they talk about this a lot. In fact they don't even use the term multicultural. They say "No, no no no, that's, that's the government's term." We are doing anti-racist education. And so they're very up front about the way in which race has divided their society. And it has to do with imperialism. And now you've got all these nations, people from these various nations, repatriating and coming back to the U.K. So I, I don't know exactly why we struggle so to talk about it in this society. But talk about it we must. Your question about putting on the face... The space you are entering is a space that is a dominant cultural space. There's certain ways that, in what, in many ways what you are doing is displaying your bi-cultural competence, that you can move from one place to another. My dream for our children is that all of our children leave our schools at least bi-culturally competent. I would love for them to leave multi-culturally competent. In other words, that they are confident and comfortable in the culture that is theirs. But they have acquired at least one more. So for most children of color, the one more is quote mainstream culture. But this also means that white students need to be bi-cultural. They need to be able to take on at least one more culture, so that they can converse and, and move in and out of different circumstances. I am a mother of four kids. My youngest son is so good relating to people across cultural lines that he actually gets paid to do it. He works in Silicon Valley. He spends a good part of his time in Asia and in Europe. And when he's not there they get mad. They call back to California and say "Where is Kevin? Because Kevin can fix this." He has that skill. And that's a skill that we, you know we're a global village in some ways. And you know my daughter's one of these video gamers. She's gaming with people in China. So we all have to begin to talk across racial and cultural lines if we're going to be really global citizens and not just local citizens. So in some ways you have something to teach your colleagues about what it means to move in and out of different cultural spaces. Whether they'll be receptive to it I have no idea. (audience - male) Thank you. Asheville City people please ask questions. [laughter] (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Thanks. [laughter] (audience - female) Do you ever think it's going to change? That's my reason for being an elementary teacher, because I wanted to change how African American students were getting treated inside of the classroom as far as learning. So do you ever think it's going to change? We work so, we work so hard to, to do it, but is it ever going to change? (Dr. Ladson-Billings) So her question is "Is it ever going to change?" Darling it has changed. It has changed. We are not in the same place we were in 1960. (audience - female) We, we not, but we not... (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Now is it going to change fast? That's a different question. (audience - female) Maybe that's what I should have said. Is it going to change fast? (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Because there has been a tremendous amount of change in the society. The society has figured out it's not going to be economically productive to lock people out of the society. And so there has been change. The question is "Is it going to be rapid enough so that we don't lose generations of kids on the way?" And that part I can't, I don't have an answer for you for. You know, and I've said this probably so many times today that if you've been with me you're tired of hearing it, but we are not in this particular fight to win, we're in it to struggle. We don't have to worry about the outcome. We just have to keep struggling. So I gave the example of Sisyphus, you know Greek myth and the gods rolling this rock up a hill. And no sooner than he gets it all the way up the hill it's going to roll back down. And he has to go back and roll it up again. But if you've ever seen an artist's rendering of Sisyphus, either a painting or a sculpture, he has these incredible biceps, this, these amazing quads and calf muscles. Why? Because he's gotten stronger pushing that rock. So that's what our job is, to push the rock. I've a wonderful friend at Georgia State, Joyce King, who often says "Your job is to push the elephant, and the elephant has no inclination to move." So you just push on it. And some days you get it to move a little bit. And you go home and you feel really, really good. And you're excited, and you say "Oh I got it to move." But trust me, when you come back the next day, it's going to be right back there again. [laughter] And you got to push some more. What we learn and how we grow in the midst of that struggle is a part of our building of character. And so I would not worry so much about the outcome. That's a kind of very American kind of thing, can we do it, get it done and be done with it? But I would be much more concerned about how do we engage more people in the struggle to push that rock? (audience - female) Thank you. (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Yes. (audience - female) So earlier in your talk you mentioned some specific white privileges. And I was just wondering as a future educator, if you had strategies for me to combat those in the classroom. I'm going to be a math educator hopefully, fingers crossed. And you know, what we hear is you know is use problems that speak to diverse backgrounds. But that seems like a baby step. So I was just wondering if you had strategies to get to that second step. (Dr. Ladson-Billings) So you want kids to understand mathematics as a useful tool, for them to participate in the struggle. How do you, how do you analyze the world mathematically? Some years ago I was engaged with the Urban Math Collaborative. And one of the things we were doing is we were testing out mathematics problems. Because if you, you know, you probably got NCTM guides, right? And you know how it is to push that particular rock about. Let's change the way we think about mathematics. So one of things we were trying to do is see if can we engage kids in inquiry based thinking about mathematics. Not just getting the right answer. I mean you know getting the right answer is easy. You could pick up your phone and calculate and get the right answer. But do you understand and, and how have you thought about a problem? So we had this problem, it was a word problem. And the problem went something like this... a city bus pass... city bus fare is $1 each way. A fast pass is $50 a month. Which is cheaper for going to work, paying the dollar or getting the fast pass? So we took the problem to a suburban upper middle class white community, showed the kids the problem, we said now before you think about solving the problem, what questions does the problem provoke for you? Absolutely no questions. They said there's about 20 workdays in a week, in a month, $1 each way is $2, 2 times 20 is 40, 40 is cheaper than 50 which is the fast pass, it's cheaper to pay as you go. We couldn't get them to find anything problematic about that problem. On the second day we went into the city, to an urban middle school. Same problem. And we said look at the problem carefully and tell us what problems does this, you know what questions does this problem provoke for you? Hands all over. First hand, how many jobs are we talking about? [laughter] Because if you have two jobs it's not $2 a day, it's $3. Second question, is there a car in the family at all? Our suburban kids presumed a car. Alright, you just going to work back and forth and you're going to a 9-to-5. Our urban kids said because if there's no car, you can use that fast pass on the weekend. You're not just using it to go to work. And you can use it to go to beauty parlor, barber shop, church, grocery shopping, you know. The third question they asked was "How many people in this family?" Because the fast pass is transferable. When I finish using it I can give it to you, and then you can go somewhere. And the final question, which I loved, was a kid said "If the fast pass is not cheaper why is the bus company spending so much money advertising to us all the time?" [laughter] So here is exactly the kind of thing you want kids to be able to do, to and in some ways what Ralph Putnam calls "Mathematize their world." And I find the use of statistics and helping kids actually see the statistical inequalities, and then not just solving a problem, but asking "Well why is this, this way? How can we come to understand it?" One of the most beautiful uses of mathematics that I saw was in Dallas, TX where a teacher was in an urban middle school and her kids were very, very upset about the fact that their school was surrounded by these liquor stores. And I don't know if you know Dallas, but it has wet and dry zones. So their school was in a wet zone. And they were being harassed every day. They'd come to school and these drunks would always be asking them for change. And they just didn't feel safe. Rather than dismiss the students' concerns, they got launched off into this incredible project. They, she, they got on a bus, they went to the suburban middle school and saw there were quote no liquor stores around them. They counted how many liquor stores there were. They ended up with a draft of a petition to take to city council about closing down some of these liquor stores, I mean it was just, it was such an exciting use of their mathematics. So I think that that's going to be your big challenge. How do you get the kids to engage on a deep level and see how mathematics really can help them understand their world? (audience - female) Thank you. (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Okay. Got one? Miss Shannon? (audience - male) I have a question on behalf of one of my colleagues, Livy will you raise your hand? [laughs] Fifth grade teacher. She asked, wanted me to ask... So given what we know about where our African Americans are in terms of their achievement and where we want them to be, what do we do? And I think, I don't know, maybe just if you can nutshell three strategies for us elementary school teachers. And you have done a little bit of that as well. (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Okay. So one of the things that I find that people have like this unsettled feeling about what's happening. But we don't have a discussion about the data, not along racial terms. We'll say well our third graders are not doing well, or eighth grade in math, you know. But we don't really unpack the data and look at well what is it that our kids aren't doing well at, and which kids aren't, and which kids are? So what's been my experience is that if you start with the data. And that data can be suspension and expulsion data, it can be attendance data, it can be achievement data. But with a laser like focus on the data, I think there's a whole bunch of questions we can and should be asking. You know what can we do to improve these data? Do we really have to have these many suspensions? You know can we find alternative ways to ensure that kids stay in school, because we know when kids are not here they certainly can't benefit from what we have to offer here. How do we reach our parents? And I don't really care what grade level you are, then you might be in high school and they may be big, they still got adults attached to them. And so how do we get our parents engaged? You know, what's the outreach going to take? Who is having more success than some other people? That's the other thing that I think we, we just minimize the expertise that exists in our own buildings. We're as bad as the kids. You know somebody doing a good job we like [snarling tone] "Who she thinks she is?" [laughter] We should be running over there saying "What are you doing? And how are you doing it? And you want to do a little workshop?" One of my favorite, favorite, favorite civil rights icons is a white guy named Miles Horton. I love Miles Horton. I actually have a quote from him on my email, one of my emails' signature lines. And the quote is something like this "The people with the problem are the same people with the solution." You are not going to get an answer outside of your building, because those people don't know your building. They don't know your kids. They don't know your teachers. They don't know your parents. Now you can get somebody from outside the building to help you facilitate the knowledge that's in the building. But what happens is you know administrators get their budgets, "Oh well let's have this person come, and let's have this person do this." They don't know your building. You need someone that, that... First of all the people in the building know what the problem is. So you've got to be in a process in which you, someone will, is willing to say "Hey, this is the problem. What are we going to do about it?" You know so let's say, for example the problem is parent involvement, can't get the parents to do quote anything. The first question that I have when schools tell me that parent involvement is the problem, is, well what I take them through an exercise and I say "Well imagine tomorrow every last one of your parents showed up here." And usually it's the black and Latino parents we're talking about. "Let's say every black and Latino parent showed up tomorrow. What would you have them do?" And they all look at me like you all are looking at me. [laughter] That's why they don't come. Because the one thing that working class people have, the most valuable commodity that working class people have is time. And they can't have it wasted. Now middle class people don't need you to tell them what to do, because they already have an agenda. And we're like stupid enough to think they're coming up there to help us, they're not. Those people are on reconnaissance. [laughter] You know they are coming in that building, you think they're running off stuff. Yeah they're running it off, but they're also looking to see what you doing, so that they can go back in the community and say "You know what you don't want your kid in that class, oh well she terrible." Right? You know we're so desperate for their help you know, the first little warm day they come up there with their little cooler full of popsicles. We're so happy to get the popsicles, we don't understand that those popsicles are a Trojan horse. [laughter] They're in there to figure out who needs to go, you know and where they want... So, when people tell me that the parents don't come, that first issue is "Well what do you want them to do?" Now that's, so that's the first thing you got to decide. But the second question I always say "Is there anybody in the building who has been successful at getting their parents involved?" And low and behold there'd be somebody over here "Well you know most of my parents have been." "Really? What do you do?" So those kinds of conversations where we begin to trust each other's expertise is what's going to move us further along. We have to stop thinking that that solution is out there in some package curriculum. I think I talked about at the earlier talk how you know twenty years ago everybody was buying these assertive discipline things, $10,000 a pop. Now what did assertive discipline say? "If the kids misbehave don't stop teaching, "just write their name on the board. "If they don't stop, [laughter] don't stop teaching, "put a check beside them. [laughter] If they keep on misbehaving put another check." I went to a school one time a little boy told me, he said "I got 17 checks. I got the most checks of anybody in this school." It was like a badge of honor for him. [laughter] Those kinds of external things rarely work. Every place that I have seen big improvement in schools has involved hard work internally where faculty, staff, and administrators get together and say "Let's work on this thing." You know. So I hope that helps a little bit. Okay? Another question? (audience - female) Hi. See I have a question, a comment slash question. So there's some schools that are clearly getting it done right, 90/90/90 schools with 90% free and reduced lunch 90% students of color and 90% proficiency rate. So, often those are charter schools or inner city schools or people who can change the curriculum, those type of things. I would be really interested in hearing your comments on Asheville City school administrators planning with that 90/90 in mind first. And establishing a strategic plan for students and planning for the entire community with the 90/90 coming first. Because I would say that the reason you have 90/90/90 schools is because those schools plan with those students in mind as opposed to, you know, the other students. So I'd be interested in what your advice to administration would be in terms of how to advocate for that. And what steps they would need to take in order to make that happen. (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Right. Okay. So there was a major study done of Chicago school reform. And Chicago is a big unwieldy system. There are 500 schools in that system. And they were all undergoing school reform. Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider did a major study, trying to figure out why school reform, if everybody's doing it, why is it working here but not working here? You know what, what was the difference in the schools in which it worked. And to their surprise, the major difference between places where school reform actually works, and this may speak to the point you made about the charters, or what have you, was not actually the size of the school but something that they called relational trust. That is, do the people in the school trust each other? Do the administrators trust the teachers? Do the kids trust the administrators? Do the parents trust the teachers? Do the, you know, teachers trust the parents? In schools where there was high levels of relational trust reform took hold, and you began to see change and turn around. In those schools that had low levels of relational trust, same reform, you know same exact thing because it was district-wide, it didn't happen. So that's one of the first things that has to start to happen, as I see the whole school reform movement, is that you have to be in a building where people begin to trust each other. And you have to build that trust in communities. Years ago when I was looking for teachers to participate in the, what became the Dream Keeper Study, I went all around the country looking at examples of exemplary schools. And I went to a school in Newark, New Jersey. It was 99/99 [laughs] /99. It wasn't 99, I mean it was an all black, a few Latino kids, no white kids, all free and reduced lunch. And every single youngster was on grade level or better. Some things that were, that struck me about the school is number one it had incredible stability of staff. The average tenure of a teacher at Harriet Tubman Elementary school in Newark, New Jersey is 14 years. People been there. Tell the parents all the time "I ain't going nowhere. "Ain't no sense in getting mad at me. I'm going to be right here." You know. The other thing was that they had a principal who made it his mission to go out and meet these families. And he said "It's taken me three years for some of these, "you know, I'll knock on the door...knock. "And I just told them, Listen, I ain't going to stop knocking, "I'm not, you can't make me not come. I'm going to keep coming." So finally people said alright he's serious. These were schools, now it's an extraordinary school because it's a school that opens at about 5:30 or 6:00 each morning and it doesn't close until 10:30, 11:00 at night. The school has what it calls a very vibrant co-curricular program. And what's the co-curricular program? So you know you got to have reading and math and science and language arts and PE, social studies. But at Harriet Tubman every adult, not every teacher, every adult teaches something. So the custodian teaches cooking, because he used to be a Navy cook. The secretary teaches drumming, because she plays the drums. The crossing guard teaches bowling, that's her passion. So what you do in an environment like that is you make it more difficult for kids to slip through the cracks because you're constantly making the relationship with the ratio of adults to kids much smaller. You know people talk about the fact that oh well the problem is we got all these single parents households. Trust me, go to the suburbs they got a bunch of single parent households. Divorce is rampant in the nation. It's not localized among black people. But what middle classed kids often have that poor kids don't is they have a lot more adults around them. So some of you who are African American and are older may remember when you had a lot of adults around you. Grandmama right upstairs, she wasn't you know, she lived right in the house. Miss Annie May lived across the street, would watch you. So that you had a bunch of adults around you. Middle class kids have a lot of adults because they had soccer, they had dance, they had art class, they got piano lessons. They constantly have adults around them. What's happening in many of our urban communities is our kids are lucky to fend for themselves. And when you are 13 you can only make 13 year old decisions. You know, I happen to be a grandmother now. And I'm telling you it's the best fun of anything. I tell my kids all the time "I put up with you to get them." [laughter] I love my grandchildren. My grandchildren are perfect, you hear me? Perfect. [laughter] There's nothing at all wrong with any of them. [laughter] And they will tell me like the craziest stuff in the world, as their grandmother, not their mother. I can listen to the craziness and get them in a place where they don't make a bad decision. Whereas if you go tell your parents you thinking about that, you about to get a licking, right? You can't do that. Well many of our kids don't have that, or the grandmother that's in their life really is not functioning as a grandmother, she's functioning as a mother. And that's totally different. So here is Harriet Tubman, a regular old elementary school, it's not a charter, it's not a small school, it's a neighborhood school. And the expectations are here, you must be at grade level. But you also have a school community that's worked really hard to bring so many resources. So all of the first graders are playing Suzuki violin. You know they have a vibrant preschool program. And you usually leave preschool reading. The school is open until late at night because some parents work night shift. So there's a midnight basketball and there's a place for kids to go to sleep. So the school has become the hub of the community. And I think one of things that we've often done with school reform, is make, put the school opposite the community. And tell the kids "Don't bring that in here, leave..." You know. But the kids have to work in both spaces. So I think you know you begin to see some schools where people have really engaged the community in serious ways, and are willing to put in the work. And someone over here asked me this question about how long. See when you go into this kind of reform work you don't worry about how long. You just start doing the work. And over time you begin to see the fruits of that work. (Tiece Ruffin) Last question please. (audience - female) Hey so this doesn't really have to do with racism in schools, but I was just wondering, to help end racism when my generation grow up and get married and have kids, what should we tell our kids, that there is a difference between the races or that we aren't different and we're all equally smart and athletic and all that, or that there is a difference but it doesn't have to be that way, or it's not a big deal kind of thing? (Dr. Ladson-Billings) Wonderful question. What do we tell our kids? Well there's really two storylines. The first storyline is that we're all human beings. And our DNA is pretty much the same. You know what makes somebody human really doesn't have to do with the color of their skin. However, everybody doesn't believe that. And as a consequence, some people don't get the chance they really want because of it. Your kids will respond the way you do. So let me give you an example. My daughter, when she was a little girl, her best friend was a little Chinese immigrant girl. Zeon, never forget her. And my daughter's a big tall girl, my daughter's now 6' tall, my granddaughter's 6'3", I mean I'm the shrimp in the family. But Zeon was a little petite little girl. And I remember Zeon came to my house one day. And she said "Where's the white Barbie?" I said "What?!" I said "Zeon I don't have any white Barbie!" She said "Why?" I said "Well Zeon a white Barbie wouldn't feel comfortable living here." [laughter] She said "Why?" I said "Well you know there really aren't "any people like her here. "And so she would just be so uncomfortable in this setting. "And she probably wouldn't like what we eat. And she certainly wouldn't want to go to church with us." And while I'm going through this list of rationalize, Zeon said "Oh there she is. There's the white Barbie." Now my head is on a swivel like that woman on "The Exorcist", who brought this white doll in this house right? [laughter] It was a black Barbie doll in a wedding dress. For Zeon that's the white Barbie. Because she was new to the country, she didn't, you know, she knew that Jessica was her best friend, I don't really care, you know, her skin color was irrelevant. Now fast forward a couple years, we moved to Wisconsin. And a year after we moved to Wisconsin, Zeon's family moves to the Chicago area. Her father takes a job in Illinois. And so they want to get the girls together. They haven't seen each other in a couple years. I guess they were in kindergarten together. This is, they're probably in second, maybe second grade, maybe third grade by now. And so the Choo family comes, they get Jessica, they take her skiing with them. Then we decide we're going to keep Zeon over, over Christmas at our house. And I overhear these kids having a conversation. And Zeon says something about being yellow. And my daughter says "Well Zeon when we were in California you said you were white." And you hear this, just the tone of her voice she says "Yeah, I didn't know." And all I could think of is what has happened to this child, in the intervening years, that someone has said "You don't get to be white." I mean she was saying I'm white from the standpoint of, my skin complexion is quote a lighter skin complexion. But someone corrected her. So I don't know that you can insolate your kids from the way in which racism is operating outside. What's been valuable for my kids is that they have had the luxury of international travel. And we've been every color imaginable. I was in Brazil, somebody said "Well why you saying you're black?" I'm like "I am." They're like "No you ain't." They had a whole list, "No you right here." I'm like "What?" And it, what it does is make you see how silly it is. I had an experience in Africa. I was in a very, very small village. And I went to a preschool and I was reading a story to a little girl. She had to be about four years old. She was sitting on my lap. I'm, I'm all happy, I'm in Africa y'all, I'm back home. I'm in the motherland. And at the end of the story the little girl looked at me and said "You're a nice white lady." [laughter] Now, you know after they peeled me up off the floor, because I had come all those miles to bond with my people, right. What I realized is that the little girl was thinking of white western-ness as whiteness, because that's pretty much how we advertize it. And that it didn't have the same connotation that it has in the U.S. So I mean I think you have to tell kids that things are complex. I mean my granddaughter was told she couldn't, she asked her teacher why she never got picked for any of the class jobs. And the teacher told her she wasn't blonde. Now when she told me that I'm like okay, I know my hearing is gone right. [laughter] And I didn't want to press it so I asked my daughter-in-law because I was stunned. And my daughter-in-law said "We didn't want to tell you but we been dealing with this all year." Well my strategy in dealing with stuff like this is to use my bi-cultural dominant cultural skills. And I understand that the dominant culture understands paper. See I just like to go up there and handle it. That's my cultural style. [laughter] But that doesn't work. Because that makes me just a crazy black mother, in this case the grandmother. But paper, oh my gosh, and I can write a letter. [laughter] And as my kids will say "My momma will cc God." I'm like "He needs to know. He's going to be on the list." So I wrote a letter on University of Wisconsin stationery, [laughter] explaining my disappointment in what I had heard and just knowing this can't be true, because no teacher in 2010 would make these kinds of statements to a child. And of course the letter went to her, it went to her principal, it went to the superintendent, it went to the school board members. Somehow my granddaughter started having a much better experience. [laughter] So you know, no matter what I told her about how beautiful she was and how special she was she got zapped and I couldn't protect her from it. So I think we have to arm our kids with the knowledge that everybody doesn't think this way. And that we always have to struggle against this. This is, it's a noble struggle. And it's worth struggling for. And some of the most magnificent people of our society have been a part of this fight. I grew up in a house so I know a lot of times, the mantra at school is "no fighting." Well I didn't grow up with that. My father told me "If you see a good fight, get in it." [laughter] The question is what's the good fight? So a fight around race, that's a good fight, get in it. You know just because somebody calls you a name, that ain't no good fight, don't get in that one. So we have to teach our kids how to, how to be good fighters, because some things are indeed worth fighting for. Thank you. (Tiece Ruffin) Thank you. [applause] Thank you so much Dr. Ladson-Billings. You leave us today with some terms that we can grapple with and some action, Aluta the struggle continues. We have to not think that to be colorblind is to be okay, that we are in a post-racial society. Race does matter. And we take hold of the term flexibly racial, racial flexibility. To say that race doesn't matter is not acceptable, to think that there are not inequalities because of race we know is not acceptable. So we thank you very much for your lecture tonight, and actually for the whole day. So that we can re-conceptualize achievement gap to education debt, as well as knowing that colorblindness is an issue that has no premise. It should be de-bunked. We should no longer hear teachers say "Oh but it doesn't matter, it's okay, I just see the person." Well we see that it matters in the achievement gap. That we're not going to look forward to programs that we can purchase for change. But we're looking for change, where everyone? (audience) [indistinct] (Tiece Ruffin) Internal, with self. And not always looking to a program to purchase to commercialize. But you have shown us tonight that we do have the answers with ourselves, that there are models that we can look forward to, but the answer lies here. And let's learn from one another. Thank you all for attending tonight's lecture. Dr. Ladson-Billings will do a book signing now for a few minutes. We have about 20 books or so that are first come first serve. There is a line outside. Please line up at the table if you would like her to sign a free book, courtesy of Teaching Fellows and the Department of Education. Thank you. [applause] [music - instrumental] [closed captions by Lynn Fitzpatrick -]


  1. ^ a b "Aldermanic vote by Wards". Chicago Daily Tribune. February 28, 1923. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Final results on aldermen". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 4, 1923. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
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