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Authenticity and Co-Opting Voices of Color without Permission

Yesterday, I along with a few of my Educolor/POCEdtech colleagues received an email from MJ of  Edsurge asking for our opinion about their plans to publish a libguide, basically story with resources, about the most recent shootings and wait for it…black oppression.

I can see this as a topic of great need since they cross published a brilliant medium post by Mandela Schumacher-Hodge describing how her white boss talked about race at work and to her/their credit, perhaps they took it to heart.

We were asked, “Should we really be putting out another libguide? What should we be doing? What needs to be pushed/published/collected?”

My response…

Thank you for reaching out. Considering that Edsurge has been largely absent on conversations centered on race/social justice/oppression, I think that creating another libguide is not only a terrible idea but honestly smells as something created just to pop into a topic than being truly authentic.
Here is what you can do instead. Do the work. Have conversations within your organizations and observe where you may have had some biases in your work…directly or inadvertently contributing to to such oppression.
Reflect as an organization and decide who you want to be moving forward. Be that. 
Publish your reflections and hold those that you amplify accountable for their actions or inactions as well.
This is where authenticity promotes healthy dialogue and growth.
Not an empty libguide that does absolutely nothing for this edtech community.

First of all, if you had to ask these questions, knowing that your organization is not about this work, then maybe you needed to take some time to figure a few things out before trying to get out a piece on this issue.

Instead, Edsurge decided to have what can only be the most record breaking quick discussion on race/oppression possible because you know….deadlines and such.

While doing so, they forgot to go back to the very people that they emailed to check if we were okay with being aligned with their severely deaf work and also taking the advice that I gave them and turning it into a list that they claimed to have created on their journey to having these discussions.

Let me be clear in saying that I applaud any organization willing to put themselves out there because it is necessary, especially in edtech. However, when you do it, you need to make sure that the words that you publish are your own and that when you quote people, especially when it is an issue of race/oppression…especially when every person that you quoted is a member of educolor…you better be sure that you have our permission. (They had none of ours)

A simple email….no different than the one seeking advice to begin with…A simple email

I have never felt more used than I do right now and it saddens me because in a climate where unity and discussion to change these systems that created our current national crisis are needed, there has never been a more tone deaf response than this one.

And what is worse that in light of the conversation that MJ had with a fellow co-opted colleague, it’s all done in the name of “what you said resonated”

So that makes this ok, right? Nope

Just as I told her previously, if you are really about that life…about creating change in your organization, then change it. Do the work. Do it with complete and total commitment which means truly facing your truths through time, discussion and effort.

You need to find your own voices…not ours.

And oh by way…privilege is this…co-opting the voices of people of color without consideration of their choice in your doing so.

I pray that on your journey, you will one day figure this out. And as MJ, so elegantly stated in a DM to Shana White…her other two colleagues (two men of color) thought that this was great so they went with it…which was code for, “We had POC approval so deal”

Nope, not today.

You have no idea how sick I feel right now to even have to write this but I will not allow my name and ideas to be used just so that an organization can appear more “woke” than they clearly are.

Comments 2

  1. Dear Rafranz, Thank you for this post, for your honesty and insistence on not staying silent. I am thinking about this piece on so many levels but I’ll only focus on a couple right now. The first thing that strikes me is the degree to which authenticity -cultivating and maintaining it – presents a struggle. When we we choose to publicly engage, that tension between staying real and becoming popular is put on stage for all to see, interpret and also misinterpret. Your authenticity here is irrefutable. I see and recognize you and your values in every line of this post – particularly in your willingness to acknowledge plenty of positive intent along with the mistakes made.
    You model what it means to retain your full sense of self in the midst of very real edu-fame. That is a huge lesson for all of us out here who dare to make our thoughts and idea public.
    The second thing that is so striking to me is the remarkable persistence of tone-deafness in the Edsurge attempt. This should not surprise either of us, I suppose, but it does. Again and again and again. This example happens to be Edsurge but it could be and has been and likely will be so many others to come – this is precisely ‘the work’ to which you refer which is simply not being done on an organizational level, largely because it is getting stuck and not done in the individual realm. Because – hmmmm – privilege, discomfort, lack of critical imperative… Yeah. *sigh*
    At any rate, all the more applause to you for speaking out and representing so many of us so well without ever aiming to speak for us. That is integrity in practice and I hope people can recognize that because such positive examples are not nearly as frequent or visible as one would hope in the edu-fame landscape. #gratitude

  2. Pingback: Public Education Is Not Responsible for Tech’s Diversity Problem | boundary 2

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