Overcoming Educational Racism in Community Colleges

Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, Ta’Sunka Wicahipi Win (Star Horse Woman), president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, is a contributing author to Overcoming Educational Racism in the Community College: Creating Pathways to Success for Minority and Impoverished Student Populations, edited by Angela Long. Written by several contributing educators, the book answers why students of color end their time at community colleges twice as often as middle to upper income white students, and whether non-white students are at a disadvantage because of educational racism.

*Learn more here: https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/education/native-education/overcoming-educational-racism-community-colleges/

Moya-Smith: CNN’s ‘United Shades of America’ Passes the Mic to Natives, Which is Always the Right Thing to Do!

Tune in Sunday, May 14 (9 p.m. CST) to view Comedian W. Kamau Bell, the host of the “United Shades of America” on CNN discuss racism in the U.S. with a  focus on Native Americans in this episode.  Bell said it’s imperative that ‘we don’t forget to center Native Americans’ in discussions on racism in the U.S. 

I was sitting to coffee on May 10, in the middle of reading a nasty story, when I got a call from W. Kamau Bell, comedian and host of the piercing and poignant “United Shades of America” on CNN. Kamau and I have run into each other several times, once at the Democratic National Convention in Philly, and he towers over me like a sweet, chuckling oak tree. This time, though, I wanted to chat with him about his Native-focused episode, slated to air May 14 (10 p.m. ET/PT), and also just to shoot the shit because Kamau shoots shit, and he shoots shit well.

In this episode, Kamau visits Standing Rock, the now-gone Oceti Sakowin camp, with water protectors like Ojibwe attorney Tara Houska, actor Adam Beach, families on nearby Pine Ridge reservation, including one whose son had recently been a victim of gang violence.

I told Kamau that I’d been given a preview of the episode:

“I think it’s fuckin’ fantastic,” I said.

“Thank you, man,” he responded gleefully. “You don’t know how much that means to me.”

“The first question I wanted to ask is – Natives are typically overlooked in the mainstream and mainstream programs, especially when it comes to race – so, how did this episode come to be? Was somebody sitting around the table saying, ‘we should really talk about Natives’?”

“To me,” Kamau said, “when we started with the first season of ‘United Shades of America,’ you start to go, ‘well, this is a show where we talk to groups who aren’t being talked to enough or covered enough. And so from the first moments of the show, we were like, ‘we should do something with Native people,’ but even the fact that we approached it that way shows how little we knew. We were like, ‘something!’ So it revealed our ignorance … It’s the thing where it’s like if you talk about Muslims, it’s like, oh, yeah, Islamophobia (or) the Muslim ban. All those things are so covered you sort of know where the tension points are, and that’s where the show comes out of – the tension points. You can’t really pitch to CNN ‘something with Native people.’ They want a specific thing. So the second season comes around, and again we said, ‘we should do something.’ Then suddenly Standing Rock happens, and you’re just like ‘holy shit.’ And it sucks that it takes that, but nobody (at CNN) could deny that there was something to talk about.”

By this point in our chat I was seriously high on caffeine, vibrating like a cheap bed in a seedy middle America motel. I wasted no time in blurting the next question:

“What do you hope people will take away from this episode?” I asked.

“I know that for probably most people watching, an overwhelming majority – probably more than any other episode we’ll ever do – this is all new information,” he said. The Native episode isn’t meant to galvanize the closed-minded, stuck-in-their-way folks into action, prompting them to finally come to terms with what REALLY happened to Natives in this country, on this continent, Kamau added. Instead, he said, “I’m sort of going to the people who are already having these conversations. We need to make sure when we have conversations about America, America’s racism and white supremacy, that we don’t forget to center Native Americans in that conversation.”

We went on to talk about faux feather headdresses, playing Indian, people playing Indian in faux feather headdresses, and about the time musician Pharrell wore that mawkish headdress for the cover of Elle Magazine. (Pharrell quickly – and publicly – apologized after Natives took to Twitter and Facebook and hounded him with facts regarding the reality of cultural theft and misappropriation; he claimed he didn’t know he was participating in something so rotten and wrong.) So I asked Kamau:

“Was there anything (during filming) where you went, ‘holy shit, I did not know that?’”

“I really give Tara (Houska) a lot of credit for this. The conversation we had was probably one that I think about the most.” Kamau said Tara told him about police brutality in Indian country. That Natives are the demographic most likely to be killed by police. “That’s when I was like, ‘wait, wait, wait, what!? I believe you, but can you show me the statistics’? The fact that Natives, per capita, are affected by (police brutality) more and are not even in the conversation …” Kamau paused for a brief second. When he spoke again he admitted that this episode is the one he’s most nervous about in the second season. “It’s not like people can go, ‘OK, I’ll just watch the next hour-long program on Native Americans on mainstream cable television.” He said he wanted to do right by Natives, give them the mic as it were, “because it’s not my story,” he said. Kamau, in his booming, baritone voice, told me he knows full well that after this show airs, there won’t be another like it anytime soon … at least until the third season of ‘United Shades of America’ he hinted, adding that he knows there’s more to cover, more to film, more to learn.

“I know that the 43 minutes plus commercials is not the whole story,” he said, “that there was a lot of stuff that we got that we had to cut out because there’s only 43 minutes. We got great interviews on the Standing Rock reservation we had to cut out, and I also know that these are not the only two tribes in the country. I was trying to make sure that this (isn’t perceived) as thee Native American story. I just want to let people know that if the series continues past this season we will certainly go to other places and find more stories.”

I got off the phone with Kamau buzzing and rattling all over from the joe, feeling a little better about the state of Natives and the mainstream media, but still pretty damned depressed that Trump is president and that the Dakota Access Pipeline has already leaked oil into the soil in South Dakota. Hold on, I thought. Don’t stray into bad news. Not just yet. Ask Tara what she thought of the episode:

“Natives in mainstream media are a rarity. It’s refreshing and empowering to see indigenous voices featured, tearing down stereotypes and speaking from the heart on where we are today,” she said. “Kamau does not exploit, he provides space to speak for ourselves. In a single episode, his show breaks apart myths, educates, and inspires.”

Hear hear. I agree. Because although there is, today, a dearth of Natives represented in mainstream media, which is a sad state of affairs, for now, we must laud those who pass the mic and utter to a room full of non-Native producers and editors and writers, “we should do something with Native people.” Indeed. We should. A seat at the table. It’s coming.

Now, back to the shit show circus. The clowns. Watch yourselves. They bite.

Tomorrow! Dr. Bowman with Dr. Beverly Anderson Parsons (InSites) “Addressing Structural Racism through Systems-Oriented Evaluation”

Dr. Parsons

Dr. Parsons

CREA 2016 Symposium Session, Addressing Structural Racism through Systems-Oriented Evaluation, Patricia Jessup (Jessup & Associates), chair. What Evaluators Need to Know About Structural Racism, Nicole R. Bowman (Bowman Performance Consulting, LLC) & Beverly Anderson Parsons (InSites), presenters.

April 21, 2016 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am | Room: Chicago

Conference program

From the symposium abstract: “The session includes a description of four evaluation designs that are being incorporated into the evaluation guidebook. The designs highlight critical points in the complex and often unpredictable processes of changing the basic paradigms on which our social systems are built in regard to race. The designs are grounded within communities but reach inward and outward from that pivotal point with attention to honoring all voices. Investment design, implementation, and evaluation all work together to increase racial equity that generates significant practical returns in the form of improved social and economic outcomes for vulnerable populations.”

2016 Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) International Conference

April 20-22, 2016 | Chicago, IL

Conference website

Conference schedule

From the website: CREA 3rd International Conference The Next Generation of Theory and Practice: Rethinking Equity through Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment will demonstrate the kinds of interventions in education, health care, criminal justice, and social services that are being undertaken to address inequities. What has been attempted? What are the results? What works for whom, why, and in what circumstances? This year’s theme includes, broadening participation in STEM and beyond; capacity building in global and local communities and neighborhoods; development of equitable measures, methods and metrics; policies and practices of influence and consequence; and examples of effective models of collaborations and networks.”