In Mary Hess’s book Engaging Technology in Theological Education, I was struck in chapter six, “Embodied Pedagogies,” about the issue of multicultural education versus anti-racist education. As a trained educator with more than one “multi-cultural education” class under my belt, this topic resonated with me. In the early 1990’s when I was in my undergrad, multi-cultural education looked like telling me how the US is now a salad bowl with a little bit of everything thrown in a tossed together and we had the task of figuring out how to teach students (young children in my case) of different races and cultures.(I should insert here that I went to the Univ. of NE-Lincoln for my b.s. in ed.) Assignments ranged from reading a book about a certain culture to preparing a lesson and going to a school that had a “high ethnic population.” We taught the lesson and then had to reflect on what role race and culture may have played in the teaching/learning environment. This was in contrast to my special education (for children with a myriad of cognitive and physical disabilities) classes that taught me. In SP ED classes the curriculum focused on the individuality, issue of “least restrictive environment,” and the social issues of these children and their families. It also dealt with the issues of these children on institutional levels. It seemed to me that this was appropriate for the “multi-cultural” classes as well, and all that the “multi-cultural” classes were perpetuating were the prejudices. This was not the explicit point, but certainly was the “null” curriculum!
The SP ED classes were closer to the “anti-racism” education in Hess’s book. I think that this “anti-racism” principle is key. There is an “organizing principle of the social and political structure…that deny human rights” (101). I wonder if technology can be a part of the solution for dissolving these structures? As we are more connected and can communicate across neighborhoods, cities, states, countries and cultures, we can use this connectivity to name the structures that deny human rights and dignity on many levels.
I was watching Tavis Smiley yesterday on PBS, and he was interviewing Tim Wise the author of a book call Color Blind. He was speaking on how the sub-prime mortgage melt-down and the following economic crisis is really because of racism. He contends that 15 years ago banks gave out sub-prime loans in primarily African American and Latino neighborhoods knowing that the risk was high for these populations. But the banks saw it as a way to profit from these populations who historically were not home owners. When the mortgages reset, the banks refused to negotiate and help out these now deeply in trouble homeowners. This implicit racism trickled down into the larger housing market and economy. This is an interesting theory (not one that I completely buy into) but I what I do buy into is that racism is alive and well in major institutions as well as individual communities.
Being embodied means that we bring all of us to every activity, even cyberspace. How we engage and think about other embodied children of God in this space does matter. We cannot simply homogenize everyone but acknowledge our uniqueness and that we are all imago Dei. Race is not something to be erased but “is not only visible but necessary for human liberation” ( pg. 102, Hess quoting L. Nakamura). Amen