The Reflection Pool

Listen and Be Honest

I attended ICSEI, the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement last week. I listened to powerful keynotes by Russell Bishop, Charlene Bearhead, and Warren Simmons. These passionate and articulate educators from New Zealand, Canada and the United States shared themes of equity, caring and action for indigenous, black and latino students which resonated strongly with me.

Photo Credit: cfdtfep Flickr via Compfight cc

This was on the heels of reading I’m Not Your Racial Confessor in Slate magazine, a conversation between Jamelle Bouie, Aisha Harris, Gene Demby and Tressie McMillan Cottom.  (Thanks to Sherri Spelic, blogger and educator, for sharing). Everyone needs to read this. It reminded me not to be “wilfully ignorant” about the reality of systemic racism in our society.

Then yesterday, I read about an interview with Joseph Boyden where he attempted to explain the questions about his ancestry. When asked what Boyden’s role should be within the indigenous community, Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie said, “… behind First Nations, being a supporter, not white-splaining and being a spokesperson.”

So, here I am, a middle class white woman with a life of privilege. I do not know life as part of a minoritized or marginalized group, but I want to understand. I want to be a supporter. I can only do that by listening to learn without imagining that I have any answers. And I need to be prepared for difficult and honest conversations.

Just…listen and be honest.

6 thoughts on “Listen and Be Honest

  1. Sue, thank you for sharing this critical insight. Both listening and being honest turn out to be harder than they seem at first glance. However, from our few encounters my sense is that these capacities are your strengths. Also, who among us is without some form of privilege? Your charge to listen & be honest is also ours.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Sherri. It’s so easy to say, “Why don’t you just…” without any understanding. Listening to really understand is serious work and takes effort.

  2. I’ve often struggled with how to support minority groups or marginalized peoples. I’m also white and middle-class, and although I want to verbalize this support, I’m unsure of how to do it respectfully and ethically. I cannot speak according to experience, and the fact is, I probably belong to a group that has enabled this marginalization.

    Your advice makes sense. Maybe instead of verbalizing anything, I need to listen. And I need to be vulnerable and honestly reflect on my own biases and feelings. If we all listened respectfully more often, who knows what can happen.

  3. Sue, I’ve read and contemplated commenting on this post many times, and it was because of Doug Peterson’s weekly blog post that I end up back at it again. I think Adele sums up many of my thoughts well. As I continue to think about this post though, I can’t help but wonder if this leads to another topic we should consider as we look at First Nations as part of social studies. I can’t help but wonder if your post sums up one of the reasons that our document was updated and the topics are explored differently now. Your advice to “listen” makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you!


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