Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers
Poetry Friday is hosted by Linda Baie @ Teacher Dance
For Poetry Thursday, my students wanted to unpack and discuss something of their own choice: the hip hop artist Macklemore’s “White Privilege II”. The general class consensus was that it was time to look at these lyrics “because,” as one said, ” it’s our poetry of today.” This student had brought in the cleaned up version of “White Privilege II” for World Read Aloud Day, and we had all listened to the powerful words, entranced. So, this was our choice for Poetry Thursday.
We began our discussion with this photograph shared widely on social media earlier on in the week:
Since we’ve been reading a lot about the Civil Rights movement in our non fiction unit, my kids were very familiar with the first photograph, and its juxtaposition with the second led to a moment of shocked horror, and then a rich and thoughtful discussion – the perfect lead in to “White Privilege II”.
The lyrics needed quite a bit of slicing and dicing to arrive at a clean version, but there were a few stanzas that we kept returning to, these in particular:
Pulled into the parking lot, parked it
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers
In my head like, “Is this awkward, should I even be here marching?”
Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe?
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?
I want to take a stance cause we are not free
And then I thought about it, we are not we
Am I in the outside looking in, or am I in the inside looking out?…a lot of opinions, a lot of confusion, a lot of resentment…
…Some of us scared, some of us defensive
And most of us aren’t even paying attention
It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist
Than we actually are with racism
I’ve heard that silences are action and God knows that I’ve been passive
What if I actually read a article, actually had a dialogue
Actually looked at myself, actually got involved?
If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all…
My students were full of ideas about what the words meant, and what they say about race relations in America today. They were fearless, really, in trying to examine where they (the very epitome of white privilege) stood in relation to white privilege and the issues of race today. They drew connections to the poems of Langston Hughes (particularly “Minstrel Man” which we had just read), and wondered aloud at the progress we’d made as a nation. They were thoughtful, respectful, concerned.
Later that evening, as I was listening to the dismal and depressing news of the 2016 election, I took comfort in those classroom conversations. Our kids, at least, seem to have their hearts in the right place.