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02/16/2016

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Claudio Carvalhaes

Always good to read your blog posts Nancy, I always learn with you! Thank you for sharing.

Peter Mantell

I may not be the most perceptive person when it comes to recognizing racism, but I do recognize human when I see it. In all my years in the corporate workforce, I always judged how good a boss was by how human they were. In other words, did they relate to people on a one-on-one basis, or did they just act as a corporate automaton spewing the company line. I would always be more motivated to work hard for someone if I knew about the person, if I had a relationship with them, knew about their mother, and heard stories about their children. That’s human. That’s where we’re all connected.

I remember one boss I had, a white woman, who never spoke to me about anything other than the company for which we worked. She never mentioned her family, her life outside of work (presuming there was one), or anything else personal. If I ever mentioned something about my kids, she quickly brought the subject back to work. She wasn’t human and there was no motivation within me to work hard for her. One day, the company laid her off. No one shed a tear for her.

To your point, it is the stories – about our moms, our families, our struggles, our joys and more that make us human. The fact that your stories help break down racism is, I think, a happy coincidence. It is understandable for people to withhold their stories, careful not to reveal too much. If we give too much information, or say too much, we become vulnerable. So, as I think about it, I guess there’s a great irony in the fact that in order for you to not become victimized by racism, you make yourself vulnerable. There’s great power in that.

Parker Loesch

Thank you Nancy Westfield for your words on pedagogical intimacy within the classroom. As a white male I have been transformed by the stories of womanist, feminist, and queer theorist within the classroom. And while remembering an article I read a while back I find the these words are relevant, dehumanization is the first step towards violence. This violence has typically materializes towards individuals, communities and systemic structures who tend to be people of color, women, LGBTQ and all the intersection of the societal groups. I find within my Quaker heritage, narrative can be used as a profound tool and way of resisting violence connecting and re-connecting diverse people groups within the classroom. This process, I believe, creates a more authentic engagement between educator and students.

This makes me wonder, in what ways might a pedagogical approach rooted in intimacy and narrative, further the collaborative and transformational work we call education? I am drawn to the same work Dr. Westfield offers in this blog that by offering "anew, narrative of Black women which re-inscribe our generative role in society” non-people of color (whites) might be able to adopt this suitable model for whites to begin/continue re-writing and re-imagining a narrative where white communities seek to be anti-racism, and anti-sexism within the larger society and the ecology in a classroom. What if we stopped teaching our children simply be “color bible” and taught our children to be voices of societal change. The product might be less violence in the world and more authentic love. Thank you N. L. Westfield for sharing your story.

Parker Loesch

Peter Mantle: I find your statement “it is understandable for people to withhold their stories,” true and very complex. This fear of telling our stories is a real thing! In the context of a work place there is this pseudo-narrative that suggest that work and personal should be separate. But what is at stack in doing this? In what ways might this pseudo-narrative perpetuates a body-mind split? Could a pedagogy of intimacy create an environment of healing the body-mind split? But the fear of telling our stories is still a real thing.

The fear of sharing our narratives is real and for a white woman boss, it is important to remember that women today are constantly resistance centuries of sexism in the work place. I can only imagine the stories she wished she could tell. For women in leadership, the moment they be vulnerable, is also creates a space for sexism to emerge. In that moment she may be unjustly stereotyped as “weak,” or “emotional” and in light of a work place could also get her fired because these stereotypes are not productive to a work place. Also if she was a man, it is important to note that “weak" would become vulnerable, and “emotional” would become Passionate. This is way sexism is a systemic problem. if she doesn’t tell her story she gets fired and if she tells her story she could also get fired.

Nicole Kaufmann

What is the risk of sharing personal stories in the classroom? Vulnerability! I like Peter's point, in order to not be victimized by racism you put on your armor of vulnerability. I believe that there is more at risk in not opening up to your class. Opening up reveals to your students your humanness. When we find a common ground, even across racial, sexual, economic, and religious boundaries, these walls of hate and mistrust/misunderstanding begin to deconstruct before our very eyes. And once those walls begin to crumble, we are finally able to rebuild a more accepting reality. I can only speak on my own behalf, but my very best teachers and professors were the ones who were willing to delve into uncomfortable territory, it was only then that I too was willing to go down that road. Relationships are kindled by sharing stories, so please continue to share yours!

Emmanuel Philor

Thank you Dr. Westfield for sharing your story! It is often hard to be fully human (and conscious of it) when dealing with people who don’t treat you as such. In my own personal life, when faced with this issue, I am the student or the employee but never have I been the one in charge. This is extremely difficult! Having the words of someone you love and respect to hold onto during those times makes it a little easier to make it through without devaluing the humanity of others, and even more yourself. It makes you feel vulnerable to even share this information because you don't know how it may be used against you in the next time you are in a setting like that. I commend you for having the courage to share your truth!

Emmanuel Philor

Peter: The way you began your post speak the truth that many people cannot profess. "I may not be the most perceptive person when it comes to recognizing racism, but I do recognize human when I see it." Although I can't make the same declaration with your first half of the sentence, it resonates with me. Having experienced racism on so many different levels, it’s important to remember that people of other races are still Human. They still have similar values and morals as everyone else. Thank you for being bold enough to say it!

Melaine Rochford

Thank you Dr. Westfield for this insightful and inspirational post. I am still very broken over the loss of my mother. A part of me is still struggling with accepting it. I find it hard to talk about it sometimes even when I want to. To hear how helpful it is for you to share stories of your mother and the power she possessed is encouraging to me. We are all someone's daughter or son and that makes us human. Talking about my mother keeps her alive in my memory and keeps me aware of my responsibility to her legacy. I will certainly employ this as a tool of re-humanization and resistance from now on.

Melaine Rochford

Hey Nicole Kaufmann! I agree with you. Vulnerability can be a scary word but it is necessary if we are going to make progress in the area of social justice. Vulnerability in the classroom may be alarming to some people but it is a stepping stone to true healing and change. Show me your battle scars and I'll show you mine. Opening up helps us to know we are not alone in this world and we are all in need of healing on some level. Thanks for sharing!

Michael Callahan

Silence grants its own power to the one who wields it. I have often refused to share any part of my being that I feel was unearned by those in the shared space. It's a funny feeling when you believe that you have no obligation to expose or explain yourself and yet you feel as if you must do so. It is expected of you because, you are the different one. Over time, I learned how to use the power of personal story to connect with others. In a moment of peace, I can share a story from my life with others and they'll understand the complexity that is my humanity.

I can appreciate it when people don't have an especially strong desire to share the personal. I can also appreciate your invocation of your mother as I do this as well. Mine is mostly silent, but I do often think "How would mom fight this fight?" or "Would mom fight this fight?" She stands out as a figure who stood proudly and did not feel a need to be validated (as far as I could tell growing up). I'm not especially familiar with what strength lies in the men of my family, but I know well the strength of the women who have strengthened me.

Michael Callahan

Melaine there is something significant about what you said about honoring your mother. That you have a responsibility to she who empowere(s)d you and how opening up connects and heals us. I remember sharing a moment with my brothers working at camp where we allowed a level of vulnerability unheard of before. One brother shared a struggle that was painful for him, but his vulnerability allowed us to share that he was not alone in that struggle. In that time I remember feeling more loved than I had in a long time because I no longer felt I was the only one in the struggle. I got to experience the healing you spoke of and it was transformative.

Angel Abakah

Thank you very much Prof. Westfield about your thought on racism. This is an important topic and worthy of discussion. It is very obvious that the original intent of racism is to dehumanize the human race, more specifically the non-white populace. We are living in a society where injustice is the order of the day. And that’s an abuse to the human race and a grave sin in the sight of God. I personally think that the fight against racism must encompass all. It should not be left just in the hands of few people but all. By saying all, I mean religious groups, institutions and families alike. It’s a fight for freedom, freedom for all non-white people who are often seen and treated as second class humans.

Angel Abakah

Thank you Melaine for sharing; you really awakened me to myself about the mention of your late mother in response to Dr. Westfield’s story of her mother. Memories of our past heroines/heroes are not dead stories but a living power that rekindle our quest for resisting structural evil. I think that re-humanizing begins with us (people who feel dehumanized). Like Dr. Westfield rightly said, “if I am not successful in humanizing myself in the eyes of my students then my classroom becomes a battlefield where they think they are in charge of me, and where I disagree.” But I thank Dr. Westfield for throwing light and action plan on these pressing issues in the society.


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