Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins within
Publication Year: 2009
Addressing a broad range of equity issues, this interactive guide provides reflective questions and personal narratives to help leaders examine how underlying beliefs affect leadership practice.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- How this Book Came to be
- Is this Book for You?
- This Book is a Personal Journey of will and Skill
- Why is this Book Necessary?
- How to Use this Book
Part I: Leadership as an Informed Personal Perspective
- Chapter 1: The Leadership Journey Begins within
- Getting Centered
- Taking a Look at My School and what I See (and Don't See)
- Are there “Equity Issues” in Your School?
- Confronting the “Gaps” as a Leadership Issue
- NCLB as a Leadership Tool
- Definitions of Key Terms
- Chapter 2: The Cultural Proficiency Leadership Lens
- Getting Centered
- Cultural Proficiency is an inside-out Process
- Cultural Proficiency Represents a Leadership Paradigm
- Cultural Proficiency as an Educational Leadership Lens
- The Cultural Proficiency Toolkit
- The Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency
- The Cultural Proficiency Continuum
- The Five Essential Elements of Cultural Competence
- Overcoming Barriers to Cultural Proficiency
- Chapter 3: Constructing Your Cultural Autobiography
- Getting Centered
- Your Cultural Autobiography
- Your Race/Ethnicity and Gender Cultures
- Your Sexual Orientation and Social Class Cultures
- Your Ableness and Faith Cultures
- Other Cultural Groups
- Synthesizing the Cultural You
Part II: Knowing Ourselves
- Chapter 4: Responding to Issues Related to Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin
- Getting Centered
- Ray and Randy's Disclaimer: Our Emergent Awareness of “ISMS”
- Historical Context: Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin
- Our National History of Racism and Ethnocentrism
- Segregation, Desegregation, and Integration
- Social, Economic, and Political Forces Impinge on Schooling
- The Achievement Gap is a Test of our Moral Bearing
- The Cultural Proficiency Continuum: A Guide for Your Reflections
- Ray's Vignettes—One Person's Experiences
- Randy's Vignettes—another Person's Experiences
- Your Personal Experiences with Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin
- Your Cultural Interview
- Return to Your Cultural Autobiography
- Where are You on the Continuum?
- For Further Reading
- Chapter 5: Responding to Issues Related to Language, Gender, and Social Class
- Getting Centered
- Historical Context: Language, Gender, and Social Class
- Language Acquisition
- Gender Issues
- Social Class Issues
- Achievement Gaps Point to Leadership Vacuums
- The Cultural Proficiency Continuum: A Guide for Your Reflections
- Randy's Vignettes—One Person's Experiences
- Ray's Vignettes—another Person's Experiences
- Your Personal Experiences with Language, Gender, and Social Class
- Your Cultural Interview
- Return to Your Cultural Autobiography
- Where are You on the Continuum?
- For Further Reading
- Chapter 6: Responding to Issues Related to Sexual Orientation, Faith, and Ableness
- Getting Centered
- Historical Context: Sexual Orientation, Faith, and Ableness
- Sexual Orientation
- Issues of Faith
- Moral Leadership is Tested in New Ways
- The Cultural Proficiency Continuum: A Guide for Your Reflections
- Ray's Vignettes—One Person's Experiences
- Randy's Vignettes—another Person's Experiences
- Your Personal Experiences with Sexual Orientation, Faith, and Ableness
- Your Cultural Interview
- Return to Your Cultural Autobiography
- Where are You on the Continuum?
- For Further Reading
Part III: Leading from an Ethical Framework
- Chapter 7: Culturally Competent and Proficient Leadership Actions
- Getting Centered
- Linking Your Work to the Tools of Cultural Proficiency
- Analyzing Your Data to Build a Leadership Plan
- Step One: Your Placement on the Continuum
- Step Two: Synthesizing Your Personal Growth Experiences
- Step Three: Synthesizing Your Interview Results
- Your Autobiography and Data Inform the Leadership Plan
- Chapter 8: Educators and the Promise of Democracy
- Getting Centered
- Ray's Recent “So what” Experience
- Randy's Recent “So what” Experience
- Learning is Continuous and within
- The will and Skill of the Culturally Proficient Leader
- Final Reflection
Advanced Praise for Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins withinByand
“An excellent text for school leadership classes as well as for those preparing for teacher education. The ability to make change, starting from within, empowers the individual to educate without barriers.”—
“Terrell and Lindsey take a new and refreshing approach. They challenge readers to actively interrogate the effects of their own experience on the way they interact with the diversity of the school.”—
“Recognizing that our core values are central to our leadership style, this book takes you on a self-reflection journey of cultural competence. The authors' masterful developmental process leads you to a place of social responsibility, which is so critical for the mosaic that defines education today. Everyone connected to schools, from parents to superintendents, needs to take this journey”—
“Provides an opportunity for individual reflection as opposed to a more social network of exploration. The idea of a cultural autobiography is compelling and necessary for people to truly extend their journey of understanding themselves and others.”—
“Every school leader who desires to be a change agent should travel the journey described in this pioneering book. This is a powerful book that will change your life and profession.”—
“This book is like a self-help book that guides you through your own awareness of ‘self,’ but in this case it is specific to cultural perceptions and education.”—
“The authors have been brave enough to broach subjects that are usually difficult to confront, and they gently encourage everyone to join them on their journey of love and equity for all learners. Kudos are due!”—
I dedicate this book to my wife Eloise who has encouraged all of my writing efforts, and to Darren, my grandnephew, who I hope will live in a world that is culturally competent.—Ray
I dedicate this book to our grandchildren Dakota, Holly, Charley, Kiera, and Jordyn—they and children like them are why we do this work.—Randy
Copyright © 2009 by Corwin Press
All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, their use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and/or noncommercial or nonprofit entities that have purchased the book. Except for that usage, no part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Foreword[Page xi], EdD
Scholars who have particularly engaged in research in critical race theory, critical feminist theory and critical Latino(a) theory have explored and articulated the power of personal narratives or storytelling. Personal narratives are not restricted to the vernacular of the scholarly though they certainly are not immune to academic expression. But personal narratives are products of not only the mind but the heart and the soul of individuals. The stories that are written, spoken, or even sung are the inventions of experience, personal perspectives, and individual predispositions. Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry, in their chapter entitled Telling Stories Out of School: An Essay on Narratives in Richard Delgado's edited volume, Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, assert that for many, the art of storytelling is not often found in more formal types of literature, but storytelling can tell a counter-hegemonic narrative that questions and holds suspect the tenets of the metanarratives that have so often been celebrated as societal truths. The art of storytelling has a distinct way of blending fact and nuance, perception and reality, and in many ways serves a revisionist or even more significantly at times an unvarnished role in recounting events or life impacting episodes. Telling personal narratives is a vivid example of what Charles Lawrence, III, in quoting Vincent Harding, calls the paradigm of the Word. Lawrence offers several purposes of the Word. According to Lawrence, the Word is a unifying force. The Word is often a “statement of protest, it is an expression of courage, an organizing tool, the articulation of utopian dreams or a higher law …” (p. 337). The form and substance of the Word, especially through the art of storytelling, must articulate what we see, what we feel, and what we think. The Word is responsible for describing how we experience life and for disclosing the union of imagination and contextual detail.
In this book, Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Journey Begins Within, the authors, Raymond Terrell and Randall Lindsey, have taken the courageous steps to disclose their personal journeys that have led them to become two of the most prolific writers on cultural proficiency and educational leadership in the nation. It is intriguing to discover some of [Page xii]the intersections and similarities of experiences that mark these scholars' journeys. They have clearly had separate points of departure and innumerable differences in experiences. As one is an African American man and the other a white man, it is exceptionally plausible that in multiple ways their journeys would be divergent. But I invite you as you read this poignant text to notice carefully the points of convergence. Pay close attention to the ways in which Terrell's and Lindsey's paths crossed and how the differences in their experiences have helped them to coalesce and explore an area of leadership that can be explosive, aggravating, and powerfully life changing all at the same time.
To couch leadership in a culturally proficient space and to then reveal how these two authors have come to this place of holding school leaders accountable for examining their own dispositions that often minimize and silence others on the basis of difference is a daring project that catapults educational leadership to a totally different arena. It is impossible to think about leadership in a traditional fashion once you have been exposed to the notions of cultural proficiency and the personal narratives of Terrell and Lindsey It is vitally important for the reader to be open to the narratives and personal perspectives that fill this text while at the same time meeting the challenge of juxtaposing your own stories that tell of your journey in leadership as well. The exciting facet of the art of storytelling and in particular the work of Terrell and Lindsey in this text is that the reader is encouraged to listen to the authors' personal narratives while also being encouraged to create his or her own. The authors leave open the door to legitimate our own personal experiences and to use them all as fodder for creating the context and content of our leadership journeys.
Reading this text allows us to celebrate our imaginations, clarify our perspectives and locate ourselves through testimonies and narratives where the awesome work of culturally proficient leadership is concerned. Terrell and Lindsey motivate us to position leadership in an intimate space colored by our experiences and perceptions. We are challenged to interrogate those experiences and perceptions through the lens of cultural proficiency, openness to difference and celebration of the Other. This text is an intellectual as well as introspective journey designed to cause leaders to couch their personal and professional behaviors in a context of understanding, appreciation, and recognition of difference and diversity. The authors compel us to grapple with the fact that leadership really is a journey that begins within.
… I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together—unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and may not come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction: toward a better future for our children and our grandchildren.—Los Angeles Times, 2008), (
The epigraph above, in combination with the epigraph to Chapter 5 referencing President Bush's acknowledgment of historical discrimination in our country, provides the rationale for this book. We excerpted passages from our autobiographies that illustrate some of our earliest recollections of our own racial identity as well as those who are different from us. Please read the passage below as an introduction to us via excerpts from our “stories.”Excerpts from Ray and Randy's AutobiographiesRay's Excerpt
My mother worked as a domestic for one of the community's leading white families and my father was a laborer at a steel mill in a neighboring community. My parents' relationship was stable. Because both parents worked, it was my perception that we were fairly well off a black family not experiencing any of the usual indicators of poverty … disconnected utilities, a lack of food, and we had one of the first televisions in our neighborhood. My mom had a fifth grade education and I discovered that she had difficulty reading when I brought her a note from high school and she had me read it to her. My dad had a sixth grade education but he was an avid reader and followed current events in the newspaper and by listening to daily newscasts.[Page xiv]
The fact that they worked two very different jobs afforded them very different social perspectives and worldviews, and both of them freely shared their perspectives with me. As a domestic for a powerful family in the community, my mom viewed the world as a very dangerous place for African American males. She constantly admonished me to be sure to be polite and show deference to white people in order to avoid confrontations that could ultimately prove to be deadly. There was no one at my father's workplace that had any community connections. He felt that he had a social responsibility to challenge the status quo around issues of social justice and constantly challenged the segregated school setting and other forms of local discrimination. It was confusing, to say the least, to constantly get input from such divergent points of view, while at the same time experience exclusion from local eateries, athletic facilities, and other public venues.
My father taught me how to identify and question level one issues. He was considered to be a radical for those times around local issues. I failed to grasp the breadth or depth of the scope of racism. Living in a very narrowly defined space and place and being internally focused, masked how racism negatively impacted the lives of everybody. I clearly had no notion that whites, though impacted differently, were also negatively affected by acquiring an inflated sense of privilege and entitlement.Randy's Excerpt
My first recollection of race was as a small child. I lived with my parents in a shotgun-style house that was located on the “other side” of the railroad tracks, behind a factory, in a neighborhood that was racially mixed. We were white, and there were three groups we now call demographic groups-our labels were “colored people,” the Irish, and we who were from “mid-southern” states. The period was the late 1940s and early 1950s. The black men and the southern white men worked in one of the three factories in town …
We all lived in this largely unimproved neighborhood … I never regarded it as a hard life because it wasn't. That was our life. Our house was clean and neat and I assumed that was the case for all the other families in our neighborhood.
The odd thing was that we did very little visiting with those who were not like us. My father was always clear at the mistreatment of Negroes in the larger society. Neither of my parents went beyond eighth grade in their formal education. When he retired, my father had worked forty years in a foundry. My mom worked primarily in the home, except for a few years that she worked in a department store when my sister and I were in high school … My thinking about matters of race developed when I was quite young.
Our complete cultural autobiographies are in the Appendices. You may be tempted to read them before reading the body of this book. Please read this book in the manner and sequence that works best for you. We wish for you to use this book as your guide to viewing leadership as a continuous growth process.
Ray and Randy are deeply appreciative of the many people who have influenced and shaped our lives. We are deeply grateful for the support and patience of family friends, and colleagues who encouraged us at every stage in the development of this book. In constructing this book we were keenly aware that we are the sum total of our experiences, and it has been educators as mentors and as colleagues who started us on our continuous journey to cultural proficiency What began as an effort to “tell our story” has evolved into a deepening appreciation for our friendship.
A special thank you goes to Dan Alpert, our acquisitions editor, for being with us in this journey. It was Dan's abiding interest in the concept for this book that provided us the encouragement to stay with our dream. Appreciation also goes to Rachel Livsey, our acquisitions editor at the time of the book proposal, for her encouragement to write this book.
This book would not have the conceptual framework of cultural proficiency without the work of Terry Cross, Kikanza Nuri Robins, Delores Lindsey Laraine Roberts, Franklin CampbellJones, Richard Martinez, Stephanie Graham, R. Chris Westphal, Jr., and Cynthia Jew. This book was informed and shaped by their foregoing work on cultural competence and cultural proficiency.
Delores B. Lindsey is deeply appreciated for her contributions to this book. Delores provided many hours of feedback on each stage of the final manuscript. Her knowledge of the subject, skills with editorial feedback, passion for this work, and insights to each of us contributed mightily to this manuscript. We thank Kikanza Nuri Robins who continues to provide friendship and feedback to all stages of our work. We also thank Henri Mondschein from California Lutheran University who read our initial autobiographies and strongly encouraged our work.[Page xvi]
Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:
Lori L. Grossman
ECH and Mentoring Professional Development Services
Houston Independent School District
Seventh Grade Teacher
Gahanna Middle School East
Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals
Oklahoma City OK
Chief Academic Officer
Wichita Public Schools
Director of Assessment
Coppell Independent School District
About the Authors
Appendix A: Ray's Cultural Autobiography[Page 119]The Community
I was born in 1935 in Glendale, Ohio. It is interesting to reflect back as I have often done, and think about the fact that I grew up in a little village just north of Cincinnati, Ohio, which in fact was a plantation. In 1977, the United States Department of the Interior declared the community to be a National Historic Landmark District, and it has been designated as a local historic district since 1993. Many of the old homes have been renovated and restored and hold distinction as having historical relevance. Many of the current residents take great pride in living in a community with an impressive historical resumé, and they embrace this recognition as pleasant and quaint nostalgia. The “Negroes” who grew up and lived in my community experienced the legacy of the sometimes subtle, but more often blatant, racism that resulted in a different view of their life experiences in Glendale, and so began one saga of the great divide in black and white America that is rooted in periods of historic distrust, misunderstanding, and miscommunication. What is important about the saga is the extent that much of the reality of the fairly recent past that many want to dismiss as history—why don't they get over “it”—is still prevalent and raises barriers that prevent authentic black and white relationships from flourishing today. What is even more important is the impact that growing up in that community and in my family helped shape my racial identity and my sense of race and place as making significant, indelible impressions on me. It also inspires me to write in tandem with my friend and colleague about growing up separate and unequal in the eyes of many and still find ways of resistance, resilience, and finally reconciliation internally and externally.
Why I call the Glendale of the ′40s, ′50s, and ′60s a plantation is because in some of its official documents, the community leaders codified the practices that had always existed in Glendale by declaring that the village would always have a greenbelt, have no industry, and maintain a small community of Negroes who would serve as domestic help for the rest of the community. Now while there was no cotton to be picked in Glendale, there were clear markers established that clarified ones position as it was related to race and place.
The majority of the Negro population resided in the northwest section of the community. There was a small subdivision in the northeast side of the railroad tracks and a small settlement on the southeast side of the tracks. The majority of the people of “substance” lived in the southwest section of the village, west of the railroad tracks. There were large estates in this area that housed owners and executives of Proctor and Gamble, some Cincinnati banking interests, lawyers from major downtown firms, and owners of other corporations in surrounding communities. There were three primary institutions in the Negro community, Mt. Zion Baptist
[Page 122]Church, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Eckstein School, which was a four room, Grade 1–8 elementary school with two grade levels in each of the four rooms.
There was an early experience with ableness that had a profound effect on me. We had a cousin named Sonny. Sonny was physically deformed with both his hands and feet being webbed, his head being pointed and his eyes being enlarged. He operated mentally at the level of an eight-year-old. Sonny was institutionalized in a state hospital, but he was allowed home visits. When he came to stay with us for two or three two-week visits a year, we shared a bedroom because I was the only boy in the house. The visits occurred for me between the ages of five and fifteen before Sonny died.
At first all of my friends were afraid of Sonny because of the way that he looked and talked, and they would make fun of him. I knew Sonny as a warm, gentle, caring person who loved baseball, especially the Cincinnati Reds. He knew statistics, batting averages, players, and histories. We listened to every game on the radio when he visited. He also liked to do little favors for anyone in the house. I finally had to confront some of my friends and ended one friendship because she refused to accept Sonny. This living experience provided me with insights into how persons could be cruel to someone who was physically and mentally disabled. It was clear to me that this was a form of discrimination based on appearances and a basic ignorance of the person that Sonny was. It was also clear to me that this was a form of bias and discrimination that I always committed to confronting and changing.The School Experience
There was another school in the village. We called it the Congress Avenue School. It served as the first twelfth grade school for white residents. The Negroes who made it to high school also attended the high school portion of the Congress Avenue School. The above reference to “those who made it” to the high school refers to the fact that the Eckstein School, the school for Negroes in Glendale, served a highly sophisticated function of sorting and determining who would get passage to move on to Glendale High School. The clear indicators of this process were marked by the number of my sixth grade classmates who were fifteen, sixteen, and even seventeen years old, and a process of repeated retention until some simply dropped out. In fact, there was a practice implemented in my seventh/eighth-grade classroom where the principal, who lived in the house next-door to the school, would call roll in the morning and assign domestic work and yard work to half of my class and indicate that they would be pursuing careers as domestics and yard boys in the near future and needed to hone those skills. The rest of us would remain and engage in academic pursuits.
[Page 123]The total experience at Glendale High School is interesting to look back on as a current day educator. The school population was very small. There were eighteen students in my graduating class, four African Americans. The athletic activities were desegregated; however all social activity was segregated, at least until after I had graduated. There were separate dances and the Negro prom was always held in the gym back at Eckstein School. Because some of the children of the upper middle class attended high school there, we had features like tea dances on Thursday afternoons where we all went to the gym to learn how to pour tea, hold our cup and saucer properly while eating scones and crumpets, and how to dance the two step and the box step. This activity was abruptly terminated when one of my classmates, an African American male, asked one of the white girls to dance with him and she accepted—“whoa,” no more tea dances.
The issue of language became a major factor in helping to shape my racial identity. I entered high school with Ebonics as my primary language. The submersion into an environment where “standard English” was the coin of the realm was a real shock. The teachers at Eckstein had provided me with an excellent basis for understanding the context and written forms of “standard English.” However, my verbal communications were all routinely done in Ebonics, the language spoken by everyone at home and in my neighborhood. As I began to develop spoken “standard” fluency, I was ridiculed by friends and family as, “There go Raymond talkin' proper” and “There go Raymond talkin' like white folks.” I was in a real state of cultural confusion and experiencing high degrees of marginality—not fitting in or being totally accepted by either the white students nor my African American family or peers.
There was one factor when viewed through my current day eyes as an educator I find to be most interesting. Even though all of the high school teachers were white, contrary to much of the research around expectations, all of the teachers made demands and indicated that they expected high achievement from all students present including the Negro students. In many ways, those of us who were lucky enough to come out the back end of the sorting machine received an education akin to the opportunity that is now afforded to students in elite private schools. Class size was small and the range of course offerings was fairly broad, including a number of foreign languages, mathematics through trigonometry, and science through chemistry and physics. Charles Warman, a social studies teacher, said to me one day, “You are smart and capable of being anything that you want to be.” That was a message that the African American teachers had given me all through my Eckstein experience, and I had, in fact, been double promoted and spent only one year in the seventh/eighth grade room before moving on to high school. However, in the face of much of the racism that surrounded me in the high school and the larger community, I had begun to lose my compass and the struggle of identity was constantly being challenged.
[Page 124]One notable issue of segregation revolved around the swimming pool. Negroes were allowed to swim one day per week, on Mondays. There were three sessions, one from 10:00–12:00 in the morning, an afternoon session from 3:00–4:00 and an evening session from 7:00–8:00. It was important that you swim very fast in the evening session because the pool was being drained to be cleaned and refilled for the rest of the community to use for the next six days.
Each year, students who could afford it took a trip, year one to Washington, DC, year two to Chicago, year three to New York City, and year four a bus to Detroit where we boarded a boat and cruised up Lake Erie to Niagara Falls. Because I worked as a yard boy and cut grass and raked leaves at some of the local mansions, I was able to save enough to make the trip all four years. Yet, again, on our way to Washington, DC, our great nation's capital, we were forced to dine in separate facilities at our lunch stop in West Virginia.
Thankfully, high school graduation finally came and I decided that I needed to flee the local oppression. Six days later I enlisted in the U. S. Navy. Certainly, if I wore the uniform of one of the services of this great country, I would instantly receive the respect that I thought I was due as a citizen. Little did I know or anticipate the racism that I would encounter as I ventured into the military and the larger society.The Military Experience
In 1952, the Navy was making moves to open opportunities to Negro sailors beyond the service areas as steward mates and deckhands. I became a hospital corpsman. I was the only black in my training and the only black in my working unit. While stationed at the naval hospital at Bainbridge, Maryland, I experienced a traumatic identity crisis. All of my informal activities were with work colleagues who were white, most of them from New York and New Jersey with attitudes a bit more liberal than other whites that I had encountered. However, when we would attempt to go out to dinner or to a movie in the local area, including Baltimore and Washington, DC, we would be told that I either could not be admitted to eat at all or, if I chose to stay, that I would have to eat in a separate area. My white colleagues always refused service in these places and we started to take liberty by taking a train to Philadelphia or New York City where we could be served together. This process worked so well that I started to believe that I had the same status as my white colleagues.
It was at the hospital that I experienced my most shocking two experiences with racism and again one experience that gave me hope of redemption and kept me from painting all whites as my enemy. The first incident occurred when I was pulling duty in the emergency room. An African American male arrived in an ambulance and he was pronounced dead on arrival. I discovered that he had slipped under a railroad car at the local train station and his leg had been severed. He was initially taken to two local hospitals and been refused admission because he was black.
[Page 125]The ambulance driver eventually brought him to the naval hospital, but too late; he had bled to death. I had never experienced anyone who had lost their life just because they were black. I was in a real state of turmoil, despair, and total confusion.
My situation became even more problematic a week later. My regular assignment was in the hospital laboratory. One night while standing watch I was called at 2:00 in the morning to go and draw blood and do a type and cross match to set up a transfusion for a white, female dependent who had just given birth and lost a lot of blood in the process. I completed my task and the next morning I was called into the office of the hospital administrator. He informed me that the woman whose blood I had drawn had accused me of raping her while I was in the room alone with her. I was devastated and totally petrified with fear. I knew of no circumstance where such a charge, when made by a white woman against an African American, had ever been disbelieved, especially when there were no witnesses present. The doctor, who served as the director of the laboratory and my immediate boss, spoke and said, “The charges are bullshit.” The administrator asked the doctor if an investigation had been completed? The doctor said, “No, and we aren't going to do one. I know this man well enough to know that he is not capable of such an act.”
I had never had a white male step up and defend me unconditionally before. I had now experienced an all-time low and a major spiritual pick-me-up in a very short period of time. However, I still was not about to be open and trusting around white people again. Life and death based on racism became a real possibility in my life space. It was no longer something that I read about or heard people discuss. What I failed to realize, even as an eighteen-year-old, was how permanent this reality would become as it continued to raise its ugly head again and again across my lifetime, up to and including this very day. What I also failed to realize was how my reality was to be so poorly understood, dismissed, and often distorted by many whites that I encountered. I began to realize that simply being white carried with it some fundamental privileges that I as an African American male would never experience, and how important my constant awareness of the color of my skin was to day-to-day emotional, psychological, and physical health and sanity.
The military was also a time when I first encountered a cultural reality that had never been discussed in my small hometown. I had no knowledge or experience with anyone who was homosexual. The lack of knowledge also meant that I had no feelings of bias for different sexual orientations. One of my shipmates “hit” on me one day. I didn't at first realize what he was asking me. He explained the attraction that he felt for me and how he wished to express his affection. I was curious, and he was willing to engage in an ongoing discussion explaining his feelings, when he was aware of them, and how natural they were for him. He introduced me to other gay men that he knew and a lesbian couple who shared an apartment in Long Beach. I became an adopted member in the community. While there were other shipmates who then began to believe [Page 126]that I might be homosexual, I was always comfortable enough with myself to not be threatened.
As an African American, I knew what it was like to be looked down on in this society. I also knew, that while I shared being shunned and oppressed by large segments of the society with my new friends in this community, they were all white and until they chose to come out, there were still privileges that they enjoyed that I did not. One of the real rewards for me in these relationships was that through dialogue and interaction, we developed awareness about their whiteness and the difference in forms of oppressions. Once we worked through those issues, the “oppression Olympics” came to an end. While both groups were oppressed, systemic, institutional racism was deeply rooted in the everyday way of life in America.The College Experience
Two weeks after being discharged from the navy I used the G. I. Bill and enrolled at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with hopes of pursuing psychology as my major. I was twenty-one-years-old with three and a half years of naval service. My classmates were eighteen-years-old, overwhelmingly white, and socioeconomically mostly upper middle-upper class. I stayed for a semester and a half at the university before dropping out. There were two major factors that influenced my decision. The first was the feeling of racial and socioeconomic isolation. I spent most of the time when I was in the navy in racial isolation because of my work station. However, most of the whites in that environment were at the same or even a lower socioeconomic background than mine. The university provided me my first experience with persons near my age who openly expressed and acted from positions of white, male, rich entitlement.
I was initially intimidated by the fact that my classmates were all freshly out of high school with great study habits and that they may have been smarter than me. After a few weeks of class, this notion was dismissed and replaced by my new attitude questioning how folks who were so shallow could be admitted to the university. I found that I could compete academically without breaking a sweat. There was a small but tight knit group of African Americans on campus and that provided some social outlets, but being the only person of color in class after class and being expected to be the Negro expert wore thin very quickly.
Finally, there was a defining incident that drove me from the university. While sitting in the lounge in my dorm one evening, the newspaper that I was reading suddenly went up in flames. There was then a group of six of my dorm mates who were beside themselves with laughter. I threw the paper on the floor and stomped it out and then pushed the person who was closest to me and he stumbled and fell. I then reported the incident to the resident assistant. They convened a hearing and the final conclusion was that I, as a more mature, navy veteran, should have been able to conduct myself in a more prudent manner, and because of my [Page 127]training, I could have seriously hurt one of the “kids,” all of whom were just having some fun. It became very clear to me that Miami University was not the place for me, so I dropped out, and moved to California where I thought that people would be more socially liberal.Between Colleges Experiences
I took a job as a clerk in the Santa Monica post office. I discovered that place didn't make a lot of difference when it came to race. Southern Californians were more sophisticated in their racist expressions and actions, however, slights and insults were an everyday reality. After a year and a half, I was told that my father had a serious illness and I applied for and received a transfer to the Cincinnati post office. The transfer was granted and I returned home to Glendale, Ohio. It proved to be one of the best moves that I ever made. I met and married Eloise Kemp and she has been a constant source of grounding aside from the constant tender, loving support that she has used to help me understand who I am. Ellie and I had a son, William Harvey, and she then began to encourage me to return to school. She had grown up as a Catholic and attended Our Lady of Mercy High School. Ellie had encountered a priest, Father McCarthy, who was a faculty member at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She brought the two of us together, and the two of them encouraged me to enroll at Xavier. I worked the midnight shift at the post office, and attended Xavier during the day. During my junior year, Ellie and I had our second child, a daughter, Dina Celeste.The Xavier College Experience
Father McCarthy served as a mentor for me through my entire Xavier experience. He was the most positive and consistent white male to have an impact on me. One of the requirements of all Xavier students was to have a minor in philosophy. It was through my ethics class and my reading of many of the great philosophers that I began to seriously confront issues of social justice and be able to develop a voice that allowed me to begin to address the issues strategically. I had learned how to identify and complain about the issues. I had not developed an understanding of how they evolved, festered, and were perpetuated, therefore, rendering many of my proposed solutions ineffective. Aside from the general classroom assignments and discussions, Father McCarthy held special informal discussion groups on a regular basis with me and a few of the other African American students at Xavier. He challenged us to think deeply about the issues of racism and poverty and constantly insisted that we always ask over and over again “Why?” if were ever to develop full understanding.The Princeton Experience
With a lot of encouragement, support, and insistence from Ellie—especially when I hit those low periods and wanted to drop out again—I finally earned [Page 128]my bachelor's degree with a major in English and a minor in education. Armed with all of my newfound knowledge and credentials, I was offered a job in the Princeton City School District. The Princeton district was a consolidated district that included the village of Glendale, my old district, and several other surrounding communities. Many of the teachers and administrators in the district were persons who had taught me as a youngster. It was interesting to try to return home again to my school community.
The district had a student population that was 10 percent African American and 90 percent European American. It was, at the secondary level, one of the most desegregated suburban districts in the area. The elementary schools were all local community schools. Five of the elementary schools were populated by white students and three contained desegregated populations. I taught English at the high school my first year and then was moved to the junior school my second year where I also taught English. The junior school (Grades 7 and 8) was the place where all of the students came together for the first time and issues of race and conflict emerged. My placement there, aside from teaching English, was to assist the administration with helping the students who came into this new totally desegregated setting make the transition more smoothly. I spent three years at the junior school where I also coached track, basketball, and flag football teams.
After college graduation, I immediately pursued my master's degree and administrative credential at Xavier. The Woodlawn community was the most desegregated community in the district. The community had been targeted by realtors and banking institutions for block busting techniques that saw the racial make-up change from about 10 percent African American to more than 50 percent African American in a very short time period. I lived in the Woodlawn community and served on the community's village council and eventually became vice-mayor. The community's elementary school was located on two campuses about a half mile apart. One building housed students in grades K-3 and the other building served the Grade 4–6 population.
At the end of my third year at the junior school, the superintendent called me to a meeting to ask if I was willing to become a principal at the 4–6 building. I agreed to take the position, and then had a call two days later to meet again with the superintendent. He informed me that the white male who had tried to cover both buildings, but who now would only have the K-3 building, had come in and complained that the move would be seen as a demotion for him, and that I should be designated as an assistant principal. I responded that to retract the offer would diminish my status in the eyes of the school faculty and the community. We settled on a compromise that named us as coprincipals of Woodlawn Schools with the two of us having an understanding that we ran total autonomous operations in each of our buildings.
In the middle of my first year as principal, I was offered a fellowship from the C.S. Mott Foundation to pursue a doctorate at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I consulted with my superintendent and [Page 129]he indicated that he had great future plans for me in the district and he wholeheartedly supported the move. He, in fact, offered me a sabbatical, and paid me one half of my salary for the year that I was away to complete the coursework with a commitment that I would return to the district for at least two years. So, it was off to graduate school.The Wayne State Experience
The Mott Fellowship program had a mission of spreading the philosophy of community education to a national audience. The concept was to develop ways to maximize partnerships between schools, their students and families, and the other governmental entities. It brought together a cohort of forty graduate students—ten doctoral students at each Wayne State, Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Western Michigan and ten students seeking masters' degrees at Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. We did our classroom work at our respective universities from Monday-Thursday and then we met on Fridays as a total group for colloquia and dialogue sessions with notable educators from all across the country. During our second semester, we were all scheduled to do an internship, and I was paired with a principal, Dr. Kenneth Fish, at Flint, Michigan's Northwestern High School. That relationship proved to be extremely beneficial to me. The year was 1970 and schools all across the country were experiencing disruptions and sit ins led by African American students who were demanding that our culture be included in curriculum and that teachers be taught to be more sensitive to the racial and cultural differences that students brought to school.
Northwestern High School was a school that had a growing black student population and had experienced unrest in the previous school year. Ken Fish had received a grant and had studied the disruptions that were occurring across the country, and he had developed a reputation as a national expert on conflicts that arise in desegregating schools. His reputation was a major factor in his selection as the principal at Northwestern. During my third week on the job, the African American students staged a sit in and demonstration in the auditorium. I accompanied Ken to the auditorium and we listened as the student leaders made a series of speeches identifying a series of wrongs at the school. Ken then took the stage and indicated that he heard their complaints, but he wanted them to know that as far as their demands, power did not concede anything unless there were real challenging demands. He and I then held a seminar on power and how it worked. The students met two more times and constructed and won concessions on a list to ten demands. The school became peaceful, curricular changes were started, and an ongoing staff development process was put into place.
One day in early May of 1970, Ken and I were in his office discussing how well things were going at the school when he took a phone call. It was a professor at Southwest Missouri State College who had a federal grant to work with school personnel from a large number of schools in that [Page 130]area of the country that were experiencing difficulties resolving conflicts similar to those that we had at Northwestern. They wanted Ken to come and conduct an all day workshop in early June. Ken checked his calendar and indicated that he was booked at the time that they wanted him, and then he said, “I know that you want my expertise and I'm sorry that I can't come, but I have sitting in my office right now, the second most knowledgeable and skilled person in the country about these issues.” I had never conducted a workshop of any kind and never spoken to an audience larger than the ten teachers that I had at Woodlawn School. I felt like a bird that was being pushed out of a nest without ever having a flying lesson. As he helped me design the workshop, Ken continued to build my confidence and insisted that it would be “a piece of cake.”The Workshop
I was on my way to my first paid consultancy. Ken insisted that I be paid the same amount that they would have paid him, even though I had not published a book on the issues as he had done, nor did I have the status of being titled as “doctor.” The workshop proved to be quite a success. I had a four-hour wait before my plane was to depart and return me to Cincinnati. They assigned an African American principal from a local school to take me back to the airport. He indicated that he was really into the issues as I had presented during the workshop and wanted to know if we could talk about them over a beer in much greater depth. I was delighted at the prospect. He drove to a local grocery store and bought a six pack of beer and began to drive out of town. I asked where we were going, and he indicated that it was not safe to publicly discuss such issues, so we ended up in the woods, sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River talking school desegregation and racial conflicts in those settings. Scary!1970 and Beyond
It was 1970 when three additional white males would make significant impressions in my life space.The Lincoln Heights Merger
There were major events occurring in my old school district while I was away. In May, my superintendent called for me to attend another meeting. He informed me that our district was taking in Lincoln Heights School District, a neighboring district, through a state supervised merger process. The neighboring district was rated as the poorest district in the state while our district was rated as the second wealthiest district in the state. The district had a 100 percent African American student population. Our district's profile went from 10 percent African American to 30 percent African American overnight. The high school and the junior school both experienced the increase in black students. The elementary schools, [Page 131]because they were community schools, had no changes, including Lincoln Heights Elementary which remained 100 percent black.
The superintendent then offered me an assistant superintendent position to help facilitate the merger process with a special focus on work with community groups and providing staff development for the faculty. This position began an unbelievable roller coaster ride. There were incidents of racial conflict at the high school that were marked by the local police force wanting to enter the building and crack heads. We were able to resist that pressure. There was a bus strike caused by a group of drivers who didn't want to drive the rowdy black students from Lincoln Heights. On the second morning of the strike, one of my jobs as an administrator was to read a court order to the pickets, who were blocking the buses that were rolling, to move aside and allow the buses to proceed. I was assaulted by the pickets and beaten about the head and ears with their picket signs while being told that Martin Luther King Jr. would be ashamed of me for crossing a picket line, even one that was constructed to discriminate against black children.Issue of the Doctoral Dissertation
When I entered the doctoral program at Wayne State University, Dr. Duane Peterson had asked me if he could be my dissertation advisor and I consented. I had completed all of my coursework and had gathered all of my data for my dissertation while interning at Northwestern. The dissertation was to be titled, “The Anatomy of an Interracial High School.” Having been recently promoted to the Assistant Superintendent position and being immersed in all of the issues surrounding the new merger, I decided that I didn't need to write the dissertation. I was very comfortable with the thought of being a doctoral candidate, and completion of the dissertation and actual doctorate was not that significant for me. Duane would not hear of it. He called my house and my office on what seemed like a weekly basis. He finally quit talking to me and began to communicate with my wife because he determined that she might have more influence over me. He even suggested that she might move my sleeping quarters out of our bedroom to the sofa in the family room until I began to write the dissertation. Ultimately, it was a combination of Duane and Ellie's constant nagging that pressured me to finish my dissertation. I have since learned that many faculty members are too frequently unavailable to their dissertation advisees and certainly most do not provide long distance pressure for them to succeed for two years. Thanks to Duane and the completion of the doctorate, an entire world of other opportunities opened up for me about which I was totally unaware.The Ray and Randy Merger
While coordinating efforts to facilitate the school district's merger, we received a U. S. Department of Education Title IV grant that was designed to help school districts deal with issues, concerns, and problems related to school desegregation. One of the conditions for receiving the grant [Page 132]was that the district would have a representative participate in a one-week training that was to be conducted in Hartford, Connecticut. I arrived at the training site to discover that there were going to be forty persons trained across the country. We would each be designated with the title, “Advisory Specialist,” armed with knowledge and skills to address issues incident to desegregation. There was an underlying assumption that we would form a national network so that we could communicate with each other and provide support, insight, and wisdom based on our varied experiences.
One of my colleagues who attended the training session was a white male, Randall Lindsey, who was working with the desegregation process in Kankakee, Illinois. I didn't realize at the time that this meeting was destined to turn into a thirty-five year partnership and ultimately a deep and abiding friendship. After the first day of training, Randy and I, while debriefing, had come to the same conclusion. The first day's training had been boring and not very informative. During our discussion, we decided that if we had to stay away from home for four more days in this setting, rather than simply complaining, we would take shared responsibility of pushing issues, raising questions, and posing different approaches to what the Hartford training team had proposed. We, in a word, took over the agenda for the next four days and turned what had started out to be a disaster into a successful and productive week for all of the participants. During our discussion, I was impressed with the commitment that Randy had related to the issue of obtaining equity for black youngsters in school. He also could say the word “racism” and not turn his head or divert his eyes from me. We both later came to understand that while we were ahead of the curve of many of our contemporaries, we had still just barely scratched the surface of the complexities related to racism and other “isms” that impact the lives of all of us.
In order to support the training needs of other district personnel, the superintendent had also contracted with a group of psychologists from the University of Cincinnati to provide sensitivity training for the district's administrative team. We scheduled a weekend retreat with this training team and all twenty district administrators including the new administrators from Lincoln Heights. The superintendent, for some reason, did not attend. After the first day's activities were completed, and we were taking a break before dinner, one of the training team's facilitators broke out a bottle of scotch whiskey and indicated that anyone who chose to was more than welcome to have a drink. One of the administrators indicated that he had a preference for beer and a group of three of them went to a local liquor store and purchased a case of beer. During the course of the evening, we engaged in debate and discussion about how best to address the needs of the new students from Lincoln Heights and how the roles of the Lincoln Heights administrators would be defined. As a part of the merger agreement, the superintendent of Lincoln Heights was provided an assistant superintendent position. Bob Lucas did not want two superintendents in his district.
[Page 133]The next morning, the training team had us participate in an activity that explored the issues of race and power. That was then followed by an activity that divided us into two caucus groups, one with all of the black administrators and one with all of the white administrators. One outcome of the black caucus dealt with the fact that there was an inordinate power differential between the black and white administrators, and that it would be my responsibility because of my history and close relationship with Lucas to take the lead as the primary advocate and broker for positions and points of view on behalf of black faculty, staff, students, and community. Some of the white administrators became secretly hostile to this idea and in a staff meeting told Lucas, “Terrell took us off to the woods on the retreat, plied us with liquor, made us confess that we were all racist, and established an imperial superintendency.” Lucas and I had an in-depth discussion about the retreat and in the end, he fired the black and white males on the team and hired the white female to a permanent position. He assigned her to work with me on developing an in-house staff development unit to work on sensitivity and cultural awareness activities that would meet the commitment that we had made under our Title IV grant.
The team that I hired included one black male who had been in the Lincoln Heights system, a white male who had been a colleague in my doctoral program, a black male who was a new graduate from Kentucky State College, and a black male who had been a counselor in the district. I still had one position to fill when I got a phone call from Randy Lindsey explaining that he had been summarily fired from his position in Kankakee for pushing too hard to create some equity for students in his district. I got approval from Lucas and hired him immediately to complete my team. Each member of the team had primary responsibility for facilitating information and training school personnel and community members in two buildings. We met as a total group to also discuss what training was needed on a district-wide basis and designed a number of workshops and hired national consultants who offered insights on how to create curriculum and use pedagogical approaches to serve Princeton's new population.
There were two major and many lesser factors that we all missed. We were not fully prepared for the level of resistance from school staff and community members. We also were very naive about how power operated in a racialized environment. We thought that by providing enough information, people would simply change their attitudes and all would be right with the world. The high school was experiencing conflicts between black and white students and there were a growing number of suspensions, particularly among black males. I then took a position with Lucas that these issues would continue and be exacerbated by the fact that the district insisted on maintaining neighborhood elementary schools that were de facto segregated, and that once together at the junior high school the prior conditions set up conditions for cultural misunderstanding, hostility, and conflict. I proposed that we should consider busing students between two white elementary schools and Lincoln Heights Elementary in [Page 134]order to establish earlier cross-cultural contact, and also implement intensive training to improve faculty effectiveness in working in desegregated settings. Lucas agreed that the idea had some merit, but he contended that the white communities were not ready for such a move. It was my position that they would never be ready for such a move if left to their own devices. (Parenthetically, the same issue was raised in 2003 and the local board again opted to build eight new elementary buildings in local communities maintaining a continued form of racial and socioeconomic apartheid within the Princeton City School District.)
I felt very strongly about my position and continued to argue it with Lucas. At the end of the 1972 school year, he “promoted” me to a newly created position of Assistant Superintendent for Community Affairs, offered me a substantive pay raise, but took away all of my staff and responsibility for overseeing equity issues. I was essentially provided a new title while being stripped of all line of authority. It was clear to me that I was no longer going to be able to shape much of the Princeton equity agenda. At this time, I decided that I needed a change of scenery. I was saddened by this reality because the long hours and weekends that the team and I spent working, planning, dialoguing, and bonding were to be lost.
Along the way, I had developed an especially close relationship with Randy. He and I had built on the relationship that we had established at the Hartford training activity. We were both passionate and strident advocates for desegregating schools using processes that ensured that the burden of movement did not fall disproportionately on any one group, and that the teachers who worked in desegregated schools were provided with curricular materials and cultural sensitivity that would allow them to interact effectively with black students. At that time and place, the only equity issue that we perceived revolved around issues of race. That was the primary source of conflict and miseducation in our environment. It was an encounter with Dr. Barbara Sizemore in 1972 that raised gender equity issues on my radar scope.
Based on a good deal of reading, research, and personal experiences, our team formed an independent consultant company, Interracial Interactions Incorporated (III). We began to offer services to other school districts involved in desegregation activities. While working together in our planning processes, it became clear to Randy that as a white male, he was a recipient of status and other privileges that can be accrued in our society simply because of the intersection of his race and gender. While his background was basically Appalachian, as long as he did not reflect those early beginnings by using Appalachian speech, he could “pass” for any upwardly mobile white male. Not only was he a white male, he was also tall, handsome, exceptionally articulate, and appeared visually to be the “all American boy.” Neither of us had experienced an extended time period when two individuals, one black and one white, spent as much time together both inside the workplace and outside of the workplace in social settings (restaurants, bars, theaters, etc.) and working as a black/white consulting team addressing issues of race and desegregation.
[Page 135]As we traveled about, we became aware of how strange our relationship and personal interactions were seen and responded to by many others. We carefully scripted the various roles that each of us would play, depending on the audience to be served, when we consulted and when we did staff development within the district. It came through with a great deal of clarity that would turn an audience completely off if uttered by me and vice versa. If the audience was predominately white and I said anything about racism, eyes glazed over, ears slammed shut, and the audience became a sea of deep sighs and rolling eyes. Randy's definitions and explanation of racism and how he participated in the process were, at least, listened to. On the other hand, any time he tried to explain any productive interactions that he had experienced working with black students was summarily dismissed as impossible. There could be no way that he could possibly understand any of the realities that black students faced in their school settings. The respect and insights that Randy and I began to develop and the level of trust and openness that we obtained, led us to countless hours of discussion, debate, and examination of motives and perspectives that each of us brought to the table.
I was chided by many of my colleagues to be careful and not allow myself to be misused by a white boy. What evolved, however, was not just a discussion about issues of equity; our relationship developed into one where we also began to share our most intimate personal issues. It was at this level that the relationship began to move from one of colleagues who mutually respected one another to one of deep affection, love, and friendship. It became apparent over time that Randy and I would do anything legal and perhaps illegal to assist one another. I was clear that if I needed anything at all, material or spiritual, Randy would willingly provide it and I would do the same for him. My needing to leave the district for what I saw as an ethical position was lamented but understood and supported by Randy. So, it was off to Texas A & M University to assume a position in the department of educational administration. This move was made possible because my dissertation advisor and my wife had pushed me to complete the doctorate degree. Randy helped me make the physical move to College Station, Texas.
I was the first black faculty member hired in my department at A & M. I might have been the first black faculty member hired at the university. If there were others there, they were kept a well-hidden secret. Ellie and our children were warmly greeted by the university community and our neighbors in the apartment complex where we lived. In fact, we were greeted and embraced by the total community and afforded almost a celebrity status not afforded any other new hire that year. There were newspaper articles and television interviews done about our arrival. Ellie was invited to join a social club that had never been integrated, and offered an opportunity by a major clothing store to do modeling.
[Page 136]There was a real push to make us feel very “special.” However, there were a few incidents, inside the university and some significant others in the broader Texas community, that caused me to make a move after spending just one year at A & M. It should be noted first, that as a product of the midwest, primarily Ohio and Michigan, I had never personally encountered any one who was Hispanic, and I was totally unaware that across Texas, Hispanics were afforded second class status in much the same way that blacks were where I came from. I became aware of negative judgments that were based on skin color and Ebonics, so my Texas experience taught me that the issues of national origin and any language other than “standard English” were also relegated to the margin. It was common to hear demands that Hispanics be forbidden to speak Spanish because whites and even some blacks were concerned that they might be talking about them or making fun of them.
The two incidents inside the academy came about when one of my new colleagues said to me after I had been there about six weeks, “You know, if we could find another one just like you, we would hire him tomorrow.” He had no sense that such a statement was offensive and when I confronted him he indicated that he meant to be complimentary. I explained to him that I would always be “just another one of them,” and that I was “just another one of them” until he thought that he knew me fairly well. In terms of racial identity, there are things that you know instinctively, but until they are driven home by experience, you tend to maintain a certain level of denial. This incident had me fully realize that I would always have two very distinct but intertwined identities. I would always be an individual with all of my knowledge, abilities, values, beliefs, and behaviors, but to most people I would also always be “just another one of them,” until I somehow proved to be “different from the rest of them.”
The second incident occurred about six months into my stay. The dean of the college called me to a meeting and indicated that it was time for me to consider purchasing a residence and moving out of the apartment complex where my family and I were living. He indicated that he was on the board of directors of the local bank. He said that I should just look around the community, pick out a house, and I would be assured of funding by the bank. I thanked him and got up to leave the room when he said, “Oh, by the way, you can look in any part of the community for a house; you won't be restricted to the colored section.” The combination of struggling with being “just another one of them,” and being offered special treatment that would separate me from the “rest of them” created such a real internal conflict. This was compounded by the fact that my family had developed a close relationship with one other African American family in the community. They had shared with us the level of resentment that many other blacks felt because the new comers arrived in town and were receiving better treatment than old line residents had ever received. It also let me decipher the nebulous invitations that we would get from black families when we attended church in the community in the form of, “you all [Page 137]come on by for dinner some time,” never followed up with any specificity as to where or when that would be possible. We were being isolated and insulated from the local black community. I had a long discussion with my wife about the various forms of special treatment that she, our kids, and I were receiving in this place and we decided that it could become seductive in that we could begin to believe that we were different from “the rest of them.” We saw it particularly dangerous for our two children.
At the same time, I had three incidents on Texas highways that kept me aware of being “just another one of them.” We drove to Cincinnati over the Christmas holidays, and while driving back, three white men in a pick-up truck deliberately tried to run our car off the road. I was driving at about 60 mph when they passed me, and cut in very sharply causing me to have to apply my brakes very hard. Just a coincidence? They waited up the road until we had passed them and repeated this maneuver twice more, all the while very visibly laughing at our collective distress.
The second time occurred when I was driving to teach my off-campus class in San Angelo, a six-hour drive that I was to make every week. A car made a left hand turn in front of me causing a collision. The driver of the car and I were exchanging information when a pickup truck with a gun rack arrived with three young men in it. They got out of the truck and asked, “Mr. Waters, can we do anything to help you with your problem?” I spoke up and simply said, “It would be helpful if someone could summon a Ranger.” The spokesman for the group then said to me, “You are the problem that we are talking about.” Thankfully, Mr. Waters said “No, just see if you can get a Ranger.” Very, very scary.
After the wreck, the university decided that I should drive an official station wagon to my teaching station. The first day out, I stopped in Brady, Texas, for gas and a group of men who were hanging around the gas station all came out, walked around the station wagon, noting the logo on the door, and then began to question me about who I was and where I was going. I explained the situation, they filled my gas tank, and sent me on my way. I decided that, since I was going to have to make this trip on a weekly basis, I did not want to have to make explanation at gas stations all across Texas, so I decided to purchase gas at this same station on each trip. On my last trip out, I pulled into the station and the attendant came out and said, “Filler up as usual?” I responded, in the affirmative. He then said to me, “You know, you ain't gonna ever graduate over there at A & M if you keep on driving back and forth to San Angelo.” It just would not register that I could be a faculty member at Texas A & M. When I got home, it was clear that rural Texas was not going to be a place for me and my family.
I then took a position at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). It was our belief that we had escaped blatant racism when we arrived in liberal southern California. There were many experiences of [Page 138]negative racial incidents that I and my family encountered in the area, but the saving grace was that we were able to develop support systems in the greater Los Angeles black community. It was also a time when Randy Lindsey and I were reunited and what had begun as an important personal and professional relationship really sprouted. Seeing the “what” in terms of behaviors of whites and having a white male who serves as a cultural informant is helpful to be able to put many things in proper perspective. To have someone who was in touch with his social, emotional, psychological, and financial experiences as a privileged white male unpack that reality was unique.
Randy and I first worked together here in a private consulting firm that we established and that was dedicated to working to eradicate discrimination in all of its forms. One of the things that we determined was that the social consequences of discrimination could be very different from the personal consequences. Every individual who is discriminated against, for whatever reason, feels deeply aggrieved. However, the effects of systemic and institutional forms of oppression ranged all the way from forms of exclusion to genocide at its most negative end. One of the difficulties that people had in discussing these issues was that the conversation tended to lead to the “My pain is greater than your pain,” and these proved to be fruitless debates, and too often, a lack of understanding the terms. While all negative attitudes, and more important behaviors, were directed toward others, there are different degrees to which the negative actions are taken.
We began our work with a few smaller school districts mostly in Los Angeles County. We focused on educational institutions because our professional training and experiences were in this arena. We also believed that people were not born with negative views about the various “isms,” but rather they were learned phenomena. If they were learned, then the public school house could be the place where antiracist, antisexist, and other antis could also be taught. We also realized that in order for us to be successful in such a venture, the adults who populate public schools would have to have their belief and value systems challenged and find new ways to develop a view of cultural differences from a more reflective, deeper, and more positive position.
We encountered large numbers of educators who wanted to understand the diverse populations that they met at school each day, but most lacked knowledge and skills to make changes. We also soon discovered that there are deep-rooted structures embedded in all educational systems that make change difficult at best, and at some levels it seems impossible. Our work and the frustrations that we encountered served to pull us personally and professionally closer. We were able to share the pain that we experienced as we watched what was happening to children in classrooms, and what happened to us as we tried to challenge old theories, policies, practices, and procedures.
Our private consultant business slowly fell off and Randy was able to get a position as an assistant professor at CSULA. We drew on our [Page 139]prior experience in developing and delivering staff development in desegregating schools and applied for a training grant to train teachers and parents in Los Angeles Unified School District. We received $899,999 to be used over three years. We became aware that there was a similar effort taking place on a wider scale through the Region IX Desegregation Assistance Center. That Center was a federally funded project that was responsible for providing technical assistance and training for school districts in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Hawaii that were dealing with any problems incident to desegregation. We collaborated with the Center on some work in Los Angeles and provided some additional consulting for the Center to other districts in California.
We determined that the Center did not seem to have the commitment nor the skills that we had in addressing these issues, so in the next funding cycle we competed with the Far West Laboratory and were awarded the contract for the next three years, except we dropped Hawaii as a service area. Our experiences over this time period ranged all the way to having death threats made by some teachers in the central valley for proposing strategies to raise the achievement level of Latino students in their district. We were first told that the students were simply going to work as pickers in the fields so there was no need to worry about their educational attainment. When we pressed ahead, we were then told that if we were not careful, we would be “snuffed” before we could drive back to Los Angeles. Though the threats were not that overt, the level of resistance and the structural barriers that we encountered in the district were numerous and rigidly in place.
The central valley incident gave Randy and me cause to then discuss what it means to receive death threats as a person of color who is advocating for the basic rights of other people of color, and what it means to be a white male who receives the same death threat. Was it possible for either Randy or me to simply walk away from the situation? What did it mean when a group of white male teachers indicated that they would rather do violence to two people, one black and the other white, rather than even address making changes in attitudes and behaviors that would benefit Latino students? We were very clear that the threats were not idle. We had to take them seriously because there was a history of some Klan activity in the area and violent things had happened to people of color in the area. These were difficult discussions that challenged us to define not only what our commitment was to those students, but what our commitment was to each other. What would we do to protect or save one another in a life and death situation? How much trust did we really have? These are all nice theoretical conversations to have, but then we have to make a decision about how we are going to continue to serve the schools in that particular district. What did it mean to be called a “nigger lover” and have the ability to back out or even deny that you even knew any black people when your back is against the wall? What kind of commitment can a black male make to a white male who [Page 140]has made a commitment to push for social and educational change for students of color, knowing that the white male could, at any time, turn and walk away and fold his whiteness and privilege around him and be physically safe?
The story doesn't end here. The autobiography continues …
Appendix B: Randy's Cultural Autobiography[Page 141]
References and Further Readings[Page 162]1987). Occupied America (. (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.2007). Nelson Mandela. Great quotes from great leaders. Naperville, IL: Simple Truths, 69.. (1993). A history of God: The 4000-year quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Random House.. (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2007). Title IX turns 35. Education Update, 49 (12).1991). Language minority students with disabilities. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children., & . (1999). An introduction to multicultural education (. (3rd ed.). Needham, MA: Allyn & Bacon.2001). Genres of research in multicultural education. Review of Educational Research, 71 (2), 171–217. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543071002171. (2005). Our impoverished view of educational reform. Teachers College Record. August 02, 2005. Retrieved August 26, 2005, from http://www.tcrecord.org. (2001). Hatred in the hallways: Violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in U.S. schools. New York: Human Rights Watch., & . (1971). Bury my heart at wounded knee. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.. (Bush vows New Orleans will rise again. (2005, September 16). North County Times. A7.2002). Against the stream: White men who act in ways to eradicate racism and white privilege/entitlement in the United States of America. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University.(1970). Mexican Americans in school: A history of educational neglect. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.(1950). Emotional factors in racial identification and preference in Negro children. Journal of Negro Education, 19, 341–350. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2966491& (1966). Equality of educational opportunity study. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education/National Center for Education Statistics.(2001). 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Retrieved December 10, 2007, from http://www.elaws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm1999). Affirmative action and American racism in historical perspective. The Journal of Negro History, 84 (3), 260–274. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2649005. (1972). Inequality: A reassessment of family and schooling in AmericaNew York: Basic Books., , , & . (1984). Suffrage. In Greene, J. P. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of American political history: Studies of the principal movements and ideas. (Vol. 1–3) (pp. 1236–1258). New York: Scribner.. (1991). Savage inequalities. New York: Crown Publishers.. (2005). The shame of a nation. New York: Crown Publishers.. ([Page 164]2007). Letters to a young teacher. New York: Crown Publishers.. (1987). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Prentice-Hall International.(2005). Beyond the big house: African American educators on teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press.. (2007). Schools chief seeks end to learning gap: Jack O'Connell earns praise for his candor on sensitive subject: Persistent lagging achievement among blacks and Latinos. Los Angeles Times, August 19, 2007. Retrieved September 16, 2007, from http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/1322022581.html& . (2008). Special education law. Boston: Pearson., , & (2007). Culturally proficient coaching: Supporting educators to create equitable schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press., , & (2005). The culturally proficient school: An implementation guide for school leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press., & . (2003). Cultural proficiency: A manual for school leaders (, , & (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.2008). Culturally proficient inquiry: A lens for identifying and examining educational gaps. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press., , , & (1995). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York: New Press., (2005). Struggles of hope: How white adult educators challenge racism. Teachers College Record, 107 (6), 1245–1274. Retrieved October 26, 2007 from http://www.tcrecord.orghttp://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9620.2005.00512.x, , & (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development., , & (1968). North from Mexico: The Spanish speaking people of the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.. (2006). Out of the past: Gay and lesbian history from 1869 to the present. New York: Alyson Books.. (2007). Race, culture, and research positionality: Working through dangers seen, unseen, and unforeseen. Educational Researcher, 36 (7), 388–400. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X07309471. (National Center for Educational Statistics. (2005). Digest of education statistics, 2005. Washington, D. C: Institute of Education Sciences.NCLB, No Child Left Behind Act. (2001). Retrieved September 5, 2007, from http://www.ed.gov/nclb2007). Collateral damage: How high stakes testing corrupts America's schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.& ([Page 165]Obama urges moving past ‘old racial wounds.’ (2008, March 19) The Los Angeles Times. A10.1997). The company of strangers, Christians and the renewal of America's public life. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.. (2005). NAEP 2004 trends in academic progress: Three decades of student performance in reading and mathematics (NCES 2005–464). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office., , & (2006). The learning leader: How to focus school improvement for better results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.. (1989). Sexual orientation, sexual identity, and the question of choice. Clinical Social Work Journal, 17, 138–150.(1980). Variation in date of enactment of compulsory school attendance laws: An empirical inquiry. Sociology of Education, 53 (3), 153–163. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2112410(2007). Personal communication, October 6, 2007.. (1994). Failing at fairness: How America's schools cheat girls. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons., & . (1989). Organizational culture and leadership: A dynamic view. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.. (2008). School law: What every educator should know. New York: Pearson., , & (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.(2006). Personal communication, October 3, 2006.. (2000). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education. New York: Doubleday, , , , , & , (2005). Ethical leadership and decision making (, & (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.2006). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press., & . (2007). Making choices for multicultural education: Five approaches to race, class, and gender (, & (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.1989). Strangers from a different shore: A history of Asian Americans, Boston: Little Brown & Co.. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America, Boston: Little Brown & Co.. (2007). School law: A California perspective (, & (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.2001). Bridging cultures between home and school: A guide for teachers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates., , , & . (2005). Language and assessment. In EliseTrumbull & BeverlyFarr, Language and learning: What teachers need to know. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.. ([Page 166]2001). Compulsory education. Encyclopedia of American Education (2nd ed.), 275–276.(1994). Leadership and the new science. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.(2002). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.(2003). A people's history of the United States: 1492 to present. New York: Harper Collins.. (
Corwin Press[Page 173]
The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin Press is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin Press continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”[Page 174]