Today on the podcast we’re joined by Dr. Sonja Cherry Paul and Tricia Ebarvia.
Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul's research and work stem from an unyielding commitment to antibias and antiracist pedagogy and practices in K-12 schools. She is an educator, a curriculum developer and author of several books for teachers, and she has adapted Stamped For Kids.
A co-founder of #DisruptTexts, Tricia Ebarvia advocates for literacy instruction rooted in equity and liberation through critical literacy. An educator with 20 years of experience, she also has an upcoming book with Heinemann.
This summer, in collaboration with Heinemann PD Services, Sonja and Tricia are offering two virtual Institutes for Racial Equity in Literacy focused on racial equity, social justice, and anti-racist pedagogy.
Today, Sonja and Tricia discuss Sonja’s recent adaptation of Stamped for Kids, the myriad forces that continue to inhibit the work of antiracism, and why opportunities like IREL are so important.
Below is a full transcript of this episode.
Tricia: All right. Hi, everyone and welcome to this conversation that I'm so excited about today. My name is Tricia Ebarvia. I am a educator, 20 years, in the high school English classroom, and I am so excited to be here with my good friend. My dear friend, Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul. Today, we're going to talk about all sorts of things, but mostly we're going to talk about the wonderful. Or, talk and celebrate the publication of Stamped For Kids.
We'll also talk a little bit about ourselves and our friendship and who we are. Where we are in this moment. Sonja and I are both co-founders for the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy, which is happening this summer. So, I'm sure in the show notes or the website, you will find some more information. We might talk about that a little bit more here, but otherwise, I am so excited to bring Sonja here, Sonja, welcome.
Sonja: Thank you. I am thrilled to be in conversation with you always, my friend.
Tricia: Yeah. I'm so excited. How was your day today?
Sonja: It was long. It was productive, but it was long, I'm tired. I am looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, "Who is that woman? What's wrong with her eyes?"
Tricia: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:01:16] That's how I feel. I've been packing up my classroom and it has been a lot. It's been a lot. Yeah. All right, so let's just jump right in. Tell us the story of Stamped For Kids. I still remember when you told me and you were like, "I have some news." I was so excited, "What is it?" Obviously, things had been in the works for weeks or months before that. Share with us, tell us the story of Stamped Kids. How did you come to write this version?
Sonja: Yeah. Things were in the works way, way, way, way, way before I was able to actually say anything to you or anyone else. Sort of interesting. In, I guess it was 2019, a member of Little, Brown Books team mentioned to me that she had a project that she thought I'd be interested in. But, she couldn't talk about it just yet.
I told her, "Sure, keep me in mind." A few months went by and, all of a sudden, there was the announcement that Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You by Jason Reynolds was on the way. I started to put two and two together, right? I was like, "Okay, I think the math is mapping on this. Let me get back in touch with this contact." I just said to her, "Is this the thing you couldn't tell me about just yet? Because if it is, I'm 100% interested in whatever it is that you need."
Long story short, that's how I came to write an educator's guide for Stamped and Little, Brown. I'm not sure how many educators guides are 21/22 pages long, but this one, it really just had to be, right? The book, it's just so rich and so important in the world of children's books. Then, I had the pleasure of hosting a special members' NCTE evening and facilitating a conversation with Ibram Kendi and Jason Reynolds.
Then, I just kind of went on my way, with my life, doing the various things that I had been doing in the field of education. Until last summer, when I got a phone call that rocked my world. It was an amazing editor from Little, Brown who edited Stamped by Jason Reynolds. She said, "I have something to ask you and it will require your great discretion."
Tricia, we were in the thick of IREL 2020. So, it was killing me, not to be able to talk to you about this. But, essentially, she said that Ibram and Jason were in conversation about how powerful it would be if Stamped were adapted for younger readers. That they'd be honored if I would consider doing this.
My entire equilibrium shifted. I had not written for children before. Not in that way. I've written books for educators, curriculum for educators to teach children. Academic articles, papers and a dissertation. But, I have to tell you, this frightened more than any of that, combined. Yeah.
Tricia: What was frightening about it?
Sonja: There were a couple of things. This is a work of two literary geniuses. This is a very high-stakes way to enter into writing for kids. I had to battle the intimidation of changing the work of a literary giant, that is Jason Reynolds, but also making sure that I could preserve his work in there. But, essentially, my job was to alter it, to change it.
I had to battle a lot of inner thinking, like, "Who am I to be doing this? Who am I to be doing this and who am I to mess with perfection?" So, that was really hard. He created this powerful vision for how a book like this could exist in the world for young adult readers. I definitely tried to preserve as much of that roadmap as I could.
Also hard was, Ibram Kendi, another genius, right? Making sure I wasn't watering down his content that he has gifted the world with, right? This is a huge part of his legacy and I didn't want to mess that up. I also have to try to find my own voice in this work and think about what I could contribute and how to locate myself in this. Those were some challenges.
Tricia: Yeah. I remember, I was talking to you, after. Well, first of all, you wrote that book in a matter of months, right? Where and when and how did you write this book, do all the professional development that you do, and be the Director of Diversity at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project? How did you do all of that?
Sonja: Yeah, yeah. I didn't sleep. [inaudible 00:06:16] honest answer. There's no magic. I did not sleep. Yeah. I wrote this book across three seasons, summer, fall and winter. In my sunroom and I was surrounded by nature. That was important, because I was writing during times of great unrest. We had a global pandemic that was disproportionately impacting the lives of black and brown people in the United States. Including my own family.
There was the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter uprisings. A contentious presidential election. There was a lot of noise in the background and it felt really heavy. So, I think being in that sunroom was a kind of balm for me. I wrote early in the mornings, 5:30, 6, until about 1 o'clock.
Interestingly, I did a lot of the work on the weekends. That's when I felt like I had the clarity, because as you said, I am the Director of Diversity and Equity at the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project. It was a new position for the project, a new position for me, trying to build this from the ground up.
Plus, the other things that I do. It was a lot to do in the week. I wrote on the weekends and then, during the week I kind of revived and looked for through lines and made plans for the extended writing that I would do over the weekend. So, those were some, when I wrote and where I wrote, to your question.
Tricia: I'm wondering, you spoke a little bit about some of the challenges of writing this book. I can only imagine what you said, the weight of adapting the work of these two geniuses, right? I don't even know. I mean, you were in conversation with Jason, I imagine, and really going through everything?
Sonja: No. It's interesting, they gave me a lot of space.
Sonja: I didn't hear from them. I heard Jason at the top and then, I think, maybe one more time and then towards the end.
Sonja: He really, really gave me a lot of room. He said that Ibram did the same for him. Ibram said, "Here's kind of the big outline that you must include, but how you go about doing it?" He was like, "I just gave him space." They did the same for me. Again, that was beautiful, but also terrifying. Just terrifying.
My early drafts were completely crap. My feedback from Jason was like, "Okay, you got to work this out." I was like, "Yep, yep. Got to work that out." Yeah, it was terrifying, but I kept telling myself, "You are Sonja Cherry-Paul and you do great things." [crosstalk 00:09:12]
Tricia: I'm wondering, you have this wonderful metaphor throughout the book, about the rope. I'm wondering where in the process that that took shape? Was that an early thing, and then you had to work it out? Or, did that come very late? Tell us about that, a little bit.
Sonja: Yeah, that came later. That's a good question. I had written, I think it was probably the first draft of this. I got towards the end and I could feel this was not landing in a way that I thought it needed to land for young children. Those of us who teach English, we know the power of figurative language, right? What that does.
I was like, "I need something here. That's going to be this through line. This hook that's going to help us move through this." So, I wanted to think about something ordinary, something that young kids would be familiar with, that's just a part of their lives. I had tried a couple of things, I think I had a bicycle sort of thing in my head, on a separate draft that I was working through and it was not working.
I landed upon rope and that was kind of scary. Because when you think about rope and you think about racism, I'm thinking about lynching. I'm like, "This is evoking a kind of violence that is truthful. Yet, I'm working with young children. How do I navigate that?" I just literally started to think, to myself, like, "What are all the ways that I can think about rope in very childlike ways? What do kids think about when they think about rope?"
At first, I was like, "No, I don't know if I can do this." Then, I was like, "No, I think it does work, because yeah, part of rope is that it can be a weapon." So, I leaned into the discomfort of it and that's when I was able to sort of work on that second draft and work it in.
Then, subsequent drafts were just trying to tighten, make the chapter shorter so that, with young children, to be sitting there, reading pages and pages and pages of work that's so heavy, that's not going to work. Well, those are some of the things that I was thinking about. But, yeah, it was exciting to think through the rope analogy. To realize that it could be a powerful metaphor that goes across this book.
Tricia: Yeah, and so tangible, kids understand that. Yeah, and then of course, the wonderful illustrations throughout. Where in the process did the illustrations come into play?
Sonja: Yeah, those came in pretty quickly. Pretty quickly I was charged with thinking about what illustrations could be and in what chapters. Even as the chapters were evolving, they kept changing and merging and shifting, but I needed to get a list of some of the ideas that would be something for Rochelle to start working on, so I was working and she could be working. It wasn't like, "Let me finish working and now she could work." No, we had to be working at the same time. So that was really stressful making decisions around that, but we did and it worked out. I'm so grateful and excited about what she's done in this book. I think it should be on t-shirts. I feel like I want it on pencil cases. I want to [inaudible 00:13:12] words. I just loved the work.
Yeah, it was beautiful. We've been talking about the process of the book and I think so much... there's the final product, the beautiful final product, but it's so interesting to always hear about the love and care and process that went into the final pages. So thank you for sharing some of that magic and work that went on behind the scenes. When we think about Stamped (For Kids), I'm thinking about two audiences in particular. I'm thinking about the audience of... well there's three audiences, actually. There's the primary audience of kids, but there's also the parents who might read it with their kids and then there's also teachers who might use it in classrooms. Could you talk about those two different reading experiences, one parent and child, and one teacher and student, and maybe provide some either a guidance or thinking behind how you might use Stamped (For Kids) in either one of those situations?
Yeah, well it's interesting when we think about identities and our overlapping and multiple identities. I wrote this adaptation as a black woman, as a black woman who's a mother, and a black woman who's a mother and a teacher. And so I very much carried all of that with me into this process. So as a mother, I kept thinking what do I need to do in order to do this work well? As a mother, I was centering, and as a teacher, I was imagining black children as the audience and I know that the audience is all children and we want all children reading this book, but I really needed to think particularly of black children. So I was thinking there's several things I'm going to need to do in order to do this work well.
I was thinking about, I needed to tell the truth as I was raising awareness about the history of race and racism to young readers for whom this might be the first time that they're learning about this, so there's that thinking. This child and who they are and how they would experience this as they're reading Stamped (For Kids). And I also wanted to affirm blackness. Even as young readers are going to be reading and learning really hard truths that there was never a plan for black people to be fully free in the United States. That's really the truth.
And as they're learning that, how do I also affirm blackness? So will kids see, as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop says, will they see mirrors? Will they see themselves reflected in powerful humane ways. And I wanted to make sure that readers felt hope that children would feel that people and circumstances could change and to make visible the people in the work of anti-racists who can be guideposts in our lives today. So I thought a little bit, a lot about that from my mother hat, from my black mother hat. And in terms of as a black teacher, I think it's important to know for educators no matter where I go, when I speak with children about race, and I've been doing that before Stamped (For Kids), they always want to talk about this.
They want to talk about this. Their questions are insightful. They want to learn about it. They want the truth. And they know that adults are holding back on the truths about race and racism in this country. They know it. And as author Carole Boston Weatherford has said "They can handle it." So for teachers, I wanted them to understand that an anti-racist future is possible when we lean into those unsettling truths of the past rather than away from it and it's the only way we're going to heal. And we've all been harmed by racism and the way to heal is to tell the truth. So I think these are important reasons for both audiences to read Stamped For Kids with children.
Tricia: Yeah, I can imagine as a teacher myself and as a parent, I think about what you said there, tell the truth. And I think we talk about racism obviously as this blueprint for oppression and all oppressive systems. And I also think about how it intersects with things like adultism and feeling like children are less capable than they are. And they're so much wiser and we don't give them the credit that they really deserve and have earned even in their short lives. And given that and I'm thinking about that and giving kids credit, it seems like right now we're in this moments where there's all this resistance, primarily on the part of adults, to any discussions of race and racism. Like right now, the conversations are really around anti anti-racism, which is a double negative, another word for anti anti-racism and all this anti CRT.
And I was just listening to a podcast from New York Times, talking about this is all a proxy for really just a catch-all term that anyone can use to just basically halt and stop discussions. And I'm thinking about Dr. Carole Anderson and her book, White Rage and how the trigger for white rage is black advancements and what white rage looks like is using the systems and structures and laws and institutions in order to have power and stay in power. And if we think about curriculum and conversational space, and now you're going to bring a book like Stamped (For Kids) into the classroom and take up curricular space. That's black advancement, that's a threat and therefore we must pass laws in many different states to prevent and write the laws in such a way that it will inspire and really invoke fear among school districts and teachers from even touching the subject.
So given this context and given what we know that kids can handle, how would you respond to this pushback? There are teachers who are listening to us right now, and parents. How would you respond to this? And let's say I'm a parent who wants to advocate for this in my school district, what's my argument? Or if I'm a teacher who wants to make this argument, what would you offer? What advice would you offer in light of everything going on?
Sonja: I think the first thing is, is folks need to really educate themselves. I think we, Trisha, you and I have talked about this move toward anti-intellectualism and by intellectualism, I don't mean elitism. One can be well-schooled. That doesn't mean that they're well-educated. So I'm talking about educate yourself by actually reading and finding out the truth instead of just listening to sound bites and running with it. I think it's important for parents and educators also to know that there's really never been a time in this nation when truth telling hasn't been met with pushback. There's a legacy in the United States of masking the truth to serve the interests of the dominant majority. There's this country master truth about, for example, smoking. To serve the interests of those who profit greatly from it. The filming industry, politicians.
It's outrageous to think that people would push back against the claim that smoking is bad for our health, but this is a country that did that. This is a country that masks the truths about the dangers of football. So author, Malcolm Gladwell has spoken about both of these examples. The great lengths that powerful forces of this country take to continue doing things that harm citizens of the nation. So I think in a central question that it's important for parents to ask of teachers or administrators, if they are pushing back against teaching and talking about race and racism in the classroom, is the one that we ask in the Institute for Racial Equity and Literacy who benefits and for what purpose?
And when we asked that question and really do the work, the reading, the listening to learn, folks will discover, if they didn't know before, that it's intentional to misrepresent critical race theory and what teachers are and are not teaching. Because first of all, what K through 12 teacher is teaching critical race theory? That's just not what's happening. So, critical race theory is being intentionally misrepresented by those who have not read the works of black legal scholars who developed this theory, such as Derek Bell and Kimberly Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins, and those who continue to push this theory forward today, such as Tara Yosso and others. They haven't read any of these folks. They don't know what are in the articles and books, and just the decades of scholarship around this if people really want to read it.
Those who are speaking the loudest are weaponizing misinformation and using their power to do what you said, Tricia, to drive policies and practices and education against teaching about race and racism. And ironically, this is exactly what critical race theory invites us to do, right? To take a look at why in a country that has had a civil rights movement focused on addressing the nation's grave racial inequalities, there still continues to be such gaping inequalities, right? To examine the laws that uphold these inequalities. So it's ironic that we're passing policies to do this. And that's exactly what critical race theory is about. Let's look at this stuff.
Tricia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sonja: So, to deny critical race theory is to deny racism in housing, policing, education, healthcare, all of our institutions, is to deny facts, which is pretty convenient for those who don't want to confront this in the first place. So it's a way to just bolster the false belief that these inequalities exist because either A, as Dr. [inaudible 00:25:26] says, that there's something inherently wrong with black and brown people, that white people have more because they are more, and black people have less because they are less. Or there's some invisible force that we just can't seem to name or put our finger on. We just don't know why black and brown people in society are having a vastly different experience from white people. It's to deny that this is all happening, it's willful ignorance. I'll just get off my train a little bit and try to answer [crosstalk 00:26:05], which is what can educators do to teach the truth? And what can parents and caregivers do to advocate for this, to teach kids and to just advocate for teaching and talking about race and racism?
Well, first of all, we all need to care and challenge this pushback because it's wrong, it's immoral, and we need to ask ourselves, "What's next?" We see the way critics, for example, have operated from a global warming isn't real stance. And then who benefits from that. What's next? Are we going to teach lies such as the Holocaust wasn't real? We've certainly seen people try to do that. That the Japanese internment wasn't real? Who benefits from these lies and how? This needs to be the question that we insist leaders or educators who we feel are sort of buying into this critique. We need them to sit with that question and insist that that be the moral compass from which they operate. We need to ask educational leaders to make it clear what they stand for. This certainly will not stop resistance, but transparency matters.
And we can insist that educators, hey, they can follow in the footsteps of black women. Black women leaders who did what they needed to do under the most oppressive circumstances. Black women educators have demonstrated time and time again that they're willing to put something on the line to do what is right. So I want families to ask educators and we know predominantly educators in the country are white. That's the overwhelming group of educators. Those who see what's happening and they know this is wrong, what are you willing to put on the line to do what's right? Because we know black women are willing to, we've seen it.
Tricia: Yeah. I think that part there about what are you willing to put on the line is the question for many white educators and, honestly, white parents. I think about how this movement of anti anti-racism folks is very organized and they have conviction for sure. And we have to ask ourselves, where is the conviction on the other side? Because I do believe that there are more people than not who want to be on the right side of history, who wants kids to be affirmed, who want to tell the truth, even if it makes them uncomfortable. And they just don't know how. But are you showing up to school board meetings? Are you taking a look at your child's reading list and asking questions about which books they're being taught and how history is being told?
I just saw, in fact, on social media, someone posted the opening pages from a Louisiana history textbook. I don't know if you saw that or not.
Tricia: Oh. A Louisiana history textbook and the opening pages of how the Civil War in succession is described. And wouldn't you know, that the anecdote, the narrative to introduce children into the story of succession centers on the effects of it on a white girl in the south and the effects of it on her family and how her brothers were... It was just very clear the agenda, right? So when people talk about take politics out of the classroom as if they've never already been in the classroom, and this idea that there's an agenda now, there's always been an agenda. Schooling has never been neutral. And so I love what you said, follow in the footsteps of black women. What are you willing to put on the line? Because it's apathy. Apathy and ignorance in not knowing what's going on. How many people were surprised in the last year that racism exists in the way that it does?
Tricia: And that is a function of not paying attention.
Sonja: And, Trisha, what you're saying about the narrative, it's so important that... You're right. That the people that you and I both believe really want this work to be ushered in, that they are speaking louder. They're not speaking as loud as these critics. And these critics will continue to work to have educators teaching like that opening scene in that textbook. They'll have educators teaching that slavery wasn't a cruel and horrific system, that enslavers were kind and loving. They'll have educators teaching that black people who were enslaved were happy and cared for, that Native Americans wanted to give up their land. Look at [inaudible 00:31:13] treaties they signed. This was all just an agreement, part of a deal.
Tricia: Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving.
Sonja: Thanksgiving, right? They will have it so that this is what educators are teaching. And so what we need is for people who see this to speak louder and think about what they're willing to risk. And I'm not necessarily saying you need to sacrifice your job. Although black women have been willing to do that and have [crosstalk 00:31:44] again. But I do want people to sacrifice your comfort in the name of niceness and kindness and get alongness. There's way too much quietness. And we need to be loud and we need to be operating not just from our sphere of influence, but from what's right beyond it.
Tricia: I kind of think about silence as consent to the dominant narrative right now, right? And so when you're silent, you're consenting to those who would not be silent, and who are powerful, and who are well-resourced and organized. So, yeah. Yeah. Again, the work has to happen, like you said, in all the different spheres of influence that you're in. If I'm on a Facebook group with parents and I see these things. And if I'm in a Facebook group with a parent group and I see something that a parent says, in that moment I'm like, "Well, I don't want to cause trouble. Or I don't want to do X, Y, or Z. This kid plays on my son's soccer team." There's all this. Those are the social connections that allow white supremacy to continue, because you're not willing to give up the discomfort you might have on the soccer field with that mom who is going to go to the school board meeting, who's going to cry about critical race theory. Until it costs them something, right? Until it costs them, let's say their social connections or their sense of... They're going to continue in the way that they are. And the rest of us, we'll be watching, unfortunately. So...
Sonja: Yeah. And I spend so much of my time sacrificing my comfort. It would just be nice for me to show up once someplace and not have to think about all the walls I need to break through. I would like to just hang out at the water cooler and just have chit-chat, right? But no, it's like this really, really, really deeply matters. And if it really, really deeply matters, if people are claiming that, then I need your actions to live up to that.
Tricia: Yeah. Yeah. I've been thinking very deeply as a parent. I mean, a lot of my work has been in the classroom and my relationships with kids, but as my own children have been moving through school, I've been thinking what are the ways that I am not pushing back in my own community? And why is that? So I know a lot of teachers and educators here, you're here and you're listening and you're thinking about your teacher hat, but racism exists outside your classroom. It's in your neighborhood. Because most likely you're living in a segregated neighborhood, because that's all of the United States right now. So, all right.
So, thinking about the reception to this book, I don't want to spoil anything, but I know it's got at least one starred review.
Tricia: Two. Okay. Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was official and I could say that yet. Okay.
Sonja: Today. It was announced today.
Tricia: Okay, good. So two starred reviews, which is amazing. Congratulations. Since the publication of the book and as you've been sharing this book with kids and parents and teachers, can you tell us about maybe a memorable comment or feedback or just a conversation you've had with anyone who's read this book or experienced it that just sticks into your mind? Something that they've said.
Sonja: Yeah. So I'll start off with kids. As I said before, they ask such insightful questions and I'm going to try my best to remember some. They're all insightful. Kids, young, young kids asking, "Was there racism when you were born?" Just trying to put it together. I'm like, "Yep, since this beginning of this country."
Tricia: That's such a sweet question.
Sonja: Such a sweet question, and part of me was like, "Do they think I'm 400, 500 years old?"
Tricia: Is your birthday 1619?
Sonja: Right. Right. Such a sweet question. A middle schooler asked, "How can a book like Stamped," and he was talking about Jason Reynolds Stamped, "be one of the top banned books in the country and also one of the New York Times bestselling books? How can these things both be true?" You can just see kids grappling with this.
The question that effected me deeply recently was a young girl, I think she was third grade or fourth grade, and she said to me, "Dr. Cherry-Paul will you please, please, please, please, please, please, please write a book about what's happening to Asian American and Pacific Islanders, a book like Stamped, but about what's happening to Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Would you please, please, please do that?" I just said to her, "That book needs to exist in the world. There needs to be more than one book that addresses that that exists in the world." I just talked to her about how I'm not the person to write that book, how we want that person to be someone who identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander because they'll be able to write that with a level of nuance that I don't have and a lived experience that will come through, and that we could brainstorm together some authors who we thought could do that work. Then I just said, "But you could write that book and I would buy that book and I would tell everyone to buy that book."
It just moved me because I keep thinking about all of the children who have racial and cultural identities that are silenced in education and how they're basically just asking, "Will you witness me?" Right? Just witness me, and they should be. I want them to be. So that stays with me.
In terms of teachers, I get a lot of, "How can I do this work when I don't have the knowledge I need to do the work. I get that question a lot. I don't know if it's because I have a doctorate. I don't know if it's something else, but I recognize it as a kind of resistance.
Tricia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sonja: It's not a overt, direct, critical race theory, anti racist, pushback resistance, but it's a kind of resistance because I've shared with you, my friend, my shiplap paradox.
Tricia: I know.
Sonja: I've shared with you how shiplap took the world by storm when Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper on HGTV first started talking about this, five, six years ago and nobody was talking about shiplap. Then they started talking about it and people went nuts and they watched the show. They've made Chip and Joanna Gaines so successful. They've got their own network. People went to their hardware stores and it was just like everybody had to have shiplap. They're buying books. They're looking at YouTube videos. When white people want to learn something they know how to learn that thing.
Tricia: Yeah, they're highly motivated.
Sonja: And I keep saying, "Same. Same." Right? "Same. Same." You feel you have a lack of knowledge? Well, there are books podcasts, webinars, videos, institutes, there's a lot you can do to learn that thing.
Tricia: I'm imagining a tweet or a tee shirt that's wishing white people would learn racism the way they learn about shiplap.
Tricia: The same energy.
Sonja: That's right.
Sonja: I would say for parents, I would say the thing that stood out for me the most recently in conversations with parents is ... I was having a conversation with white parents and a white mother said to me, "In every story there are good guys and bad guys, and I don't want to teach my children about the truth about race and racism because I don't want them to think that all white people are bad." I was like, "Okay, we're creating a brave space. Thank you for speaking your truth." It was like, "I respect you for saying it, now let's look at this. There's so much to unpack there. You are okay with your kids thinking that there's something inherently wrong with black and brown people. You're okay with that part just as long as they're not thinking there's anything wrong with white people. First of all, this work is not about saying that all white people are bad guys, and importantly, all stories don't have to be that way. There can be good guys, there can be bad guys, and there can be the truth. Why don't we all just get on the side of the truth?"
I would say those are some of the most memorable things that have come out of conversations that I've had recently.
Tricia: Well and also what's interesting about that question that the mother posed, that she doesn't want her children to think that they're the bad guys. There are many stories of white people being white in many different ways in the world. There's the funny anecdote in Chimamanda Adichie's Danger of A Single Story where she talks about people saying, "Oh, it's such a shame that all African men are violent." She said that she had watched American Psycho and it was such a shame that all American men were psychopaths. You would never draw that conclusion because there's what [inaudible 00:42:30] is a plenitude. There's narrative plenitude when it comes to stories about white people being white many different ways. We need more stories of people of color being who they are in all the different ways they can be instead of single narratives that can be damaging.
Sonja: That goes back to the quote in his book about the lions.
Sonja: The African proverb. I don't know the country. I keep trying to search the country of origins of that proverb, but until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
Sonja: And she wants white people to be glorified in this country. We look at this country, this country is looking to glorify the actions of white people who then [crosstalk 00:43:23] tell about the history of race and racism. Lincoln freed the slaves. Just think how we talk about these things.
Tricia: Right. Well, I think the interesting thing is that when she's talking about she doesn't want her children to... and that is a lot of the resistance this. I think white people, white parents and white teachers, feeling like, "I don't want white children to feel shame." They can learn the truth without feeling ashamed. That is actually possible to do.
I think what's deeper than that, I actually don't think it's about that, I think it's when they find out what race and racism is, "Will my children look at me and see the ways in which I have participated and will they judge me?" Because you start to realize, "Wow, I am complicit." And when you have this knowledge you have a responsibility to do things and there's nothing, and I think as every parent, or I don't want to make generalizations, but I know as a parent for myself, being judged by your children ... and I don't think you want your five year old looking at you and asking you tough questions about the choices you've made.
Sonja: Right, and then as you said, feeling like, "Now I have to do something, and probably, I don't want to do that thing. I don't want to give up some stuff. I don't want to do the things that are necessary to try to bring about true racial justice."
Tricia: Right. It's interesting because I think with kids. This is not the same at all, so I don't want to say it is, but along the same lines, I was thinking about how when I told my children about Chick-fil-A and how the company donates to all these anti-LGBTQ causes. My children loved Chick-fil-A. They loved it, but then they were like, "Well, then why do we go there? We should stop going there." It was a switch.
Tricia: "We should not support them anymore." It was easy for them. It was like, "We don't need the chicken that bad." I'm like, "Oh." I'm like, "Okay." There are many other ways that we're participating. You could go down a list of corporations that have problems, but-
Tricia: They knew and they were like, "That's something we can do." It's not everything, but yeah.
Sonja: What if we approached it that way for racism. Think about how many corporations are taking part in supporting racist policies and providing funds to politicians, to create racist laws. Imagine if we all were like, "Oh, we shouldn't support that. We should stop shopping there." Where is that same kind of conviction?
Sonja: Where is that?
Sonja: Why are we okay with that where it's just like, "Oh, well that's just the way it is."
Tricia: And I think people make choices and we live in a system that it's hard to untangle, but you can untangle, like going back to the rope analogy. Ropes get tangled up and there can be knots in them. You have to work to pull them apart and untangle. That's a lot of the work that we can do together.
Sonja: Yeah. It's important to just start.
Tricia: Yes, begin.
Sonja: Just begin.
Tricia: Just begin, yeah. So on that note, I always love talking to you, friend and thank you everyone who happens to be listening. Please go out and get Stamped for kids. Read it with your children, and I think for teachers out there, reading it with your children can be a great first step. It can be practice for what you might do in the classroom. I think it's such important work and I was high school teacher, and I think that some of the things ... We always talk about learning and unlearning and relearning, but what if we just learned from the beginning, the truth? Thank you, Sonja. Thank you so much.
Sonja: Thank you.
Tricia: All right, thanks everyone.
Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul's research and work stem from an unyielding commitment to anti-bias and antiracist pedagogy and practices in K-12 schools. She is an educator, a curriculum developer and author of several books for teachers, and she has adapted Stamped For Kids. Sonja is the Director of Diversity and Equity at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) at Columbia University, the host of The Black Creators Series, and the Senior Advisor of the Heinemann Fellows. Connect with her @SonjaCherryPaul and sonjacherrypaul.com
Tricia Ebarvia is a co-founder of #DisruptTexts and an advocate for literacy instruction rooted in equity and liberation through critical literacy. An educator with 20 years of experience, she teaches and serves as department chairperson at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA. Tricia serves on the advisory board for the West Chester Writing Project (NWP) as well as the Center for Antiracist Education (CARE). Tricia recently accepted a position as the Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Green Street Friends community in Philadelphia, PA. A 2016-2018 Heinemann Fellow, Tricia is the author of a forthcoming professional book with Heinemann on anti-bias literacy instruction. Follow her @triciaebarvia and at triciaebarvia.org