Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I can speak English Sir!

How often is it that people of color negotiate with racist frames directed at them and couched in the form of evaluations? These racisms that one experiences are furher nuanced when one is a foreigner, with the foreignness marked on the skin/name/last name!

One of these instances happened very recently with the Tippecanoe County School System. Speaking to one of the school staff, I was appalled when she told me that our child grew up in an "English as a Second Language" (ESL) home. Her assumption was that we were Indian, so English was our second language.

I went on to use this opportunity then to tell her that what she said was racist because her biases were based on assumptions she made about what happened inside our home by looking at my child's last name and by perhaps assuming that we came from someplace else where people didn't speak English.

I then told her how I made my living teaching White kids from Americana how to read and write in English "properly," with their sentences full of grammatical errors, usage problems, spelling errors etc. I discussed with her how my wife and I often code switched between Bengali and English when we spoke with each other, and that we spoke in English often at home (not that I am proud of it, but that's a different subject!). She was both surprised and amazed at learning this because she had the impression that people from India spoke in "Indian."

What appals me about all of this is that we let our teachers, instructors, and administrators within academic systems carry out these ignorant racist stereotypes under the garb of evaluation. I shudder to think that some day my child would be subject to these racist evaluations by his teachers under the name of "evaluation" simply because of his skin color and because of his foreign last name.

Interesting how the very structures that spout off so much nonsense about "equal opportunity" hide behind the games of evaluation to silence, marginalize, and strip those that look/sound different of their dignity.

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