#CharlestonShooting: Maybe it’s Time for You to Stop Talking

The victims

The nine people fatally shot at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church:

Clementa Pinckney, 41, the primary pastor who also served as a state senator.

Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews regional branch manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor, speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.

Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had a degree in business administration from Allen University, where Pinckney also attended.

Ethel Lance, 70, a retired Gailliard Center employee who has worked recently as a church janitor.

Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was a longtime church member.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a retired director of the local Community Development Block Grant Program who joined the church in March as a pastor.

Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.

Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a pastor, who died in a hospital operating room.

Remember when those who symbolically shut down the Internet when they threatened to filter what we could pirate online did nothing when someone else threatened who could feel safe in a church?
That was today.
Today I saw a social media feed that included my friends, former students, and colleagues of color posting under #CharlestonShooting about institutional racism. They were using social media to elevate and amplify attention to the problem. They were filling virtual spaces with physical anger, outrage, pain, and need for justice at what had happened in the real world.
By and large, my white friends and colleagues were not.
They were tweeting about pro-tips. They were posting about #ISTE15. They were writing about #edtech. They were enjoying the unbearable being of whiteness.
I was too to some extent. As much as a empathize with my black and brown friends in these too-frequent moments of horror, I cannot sympathize.
I am statistically safer when a police car passes me as I walk in my neighborhood at night. My educational attainment was all but locked up when I was born. And now, I will enter churches with less fear.
These things hurt my heart. I thought the terrorism was why I was feeling angry as the unaware posts scrolled by today. It’s part of it, but it isn’t all of it.
I am angry because I have heard, read, and seen many of these people talk about how #edtech, #connectivity, #techquity can do things like “level the playing field” in education. This is one of those opportunities they’re talking about, and they aren’t doing a damned thing in these public spaces that have afforded them some levels of success, power, or prestige.
Chris, who wrote here, theorized that the people I’m feeling disappointed in don’t know how to speak about these events in public.
This makes sense. Rarely will I engage in arguments and disagreements on social spaces. Public spaces don’t feel like spaces where I am safe to be vulnerable about issues that matter deeply to me personally. Those are conversations I need to have 1:1 with as many words or characters as it takes.
When it comes to truths, though, when it is about institutionalized racism, privilege, power, and class; those are statements of fact which I have no difficulty sharing.
And that’s what I’d like to see happening with my white friends who have been silent today because they are not in a place where putting their name to these truths feels safe. I’d like to see them finding the words of those who don’t have access to the same networks of friends and followers. Then, I’d like to see them sharing, liking, retweeting, reposting, re-whatevering those voices that are easily and dangerously unheard.
I’d like to see them decide to use the #edtech hashtag tomorrow for posting messages of actual equality and justice made possible by the same devices and connectivity they have touted as game changers and field levelers in keynotes and workshops.
They can start by looking at this twitter list of people of color in edtech compiled by Rafranz Davis and this list of my fellow members of educolor from Christina Torres and then follow all of them without reservation to bring some sense of equity to their rolls.
And in the long term, when they talk about technology and equity, they can ask educators to make their first posts about something of substance toward justice like the Voting Rights Act or how nine people were murdered as they sat in a place of peace and prayed.
Technology can be a game changer. It can level playing fields. It will not do it left to its own devices, and it will almost certainly contribute to shoring up online divides that mimic those of the physical world and allow for hate to hide.
If you are talking about #techquity and not willing to do anything for true #equity, there’s very little you have to say I care to hear.

4 thoughts on “#CharlestonShooting: Maybe it’s Time for You to Stop Talking

  1. Dear Zach,

    I truly respect your concerns here, but oh, if only the edtech community could be counted on for vision, wisdom, leadership, and justice. This ersatz community has gone from being warriors for social justice and powerful ideas led by profound thinkers like Seymour Papert to defenders of online testing, MOOCs, and the Common Core. Some seek justice. The edtech community seeks apps. You flatter us if you think we have anything constructive to add to the racial terrorism consuming our nation.

    I don’t think Tweeting changes the world, even if it feels cathartic. It is still a form of voyeurism – or worse. Perhaps this is a time for all educators to start reading and stop typing? Read about Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmet Till, W.E.B. Dubois, Bob Moses, John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and Upton Sinclair. Find ANOTHER speech by Dr. King.

    Read Jonathan Kozol’s books and discuss them with your colleagues. Read Herb Kohl. or Deborah Meier.

    Get to know your students a little bit more. Break bread with a person who doesn’t look like you or share your life experience. Stop rushing to D.C. to get your photo taken with Arne Duncan, a man with few challengers for destroying the dreams of poor children. Ask ISTE to stop taking Pearson money. Stop making lists of social media acronyms, Worldes, and other sub-mental bullshit.

    Fight for women’s reproductive rights, union rights, and civil rights. Buy a kid a sandwich, or a toy, or a book.

    On the hierarchy of constructive uses of technology for learning, Twitter (and all social media) is the low-hanging fruit and the least nutritious. Tweeting is literally the least we can do to grieve, heal our world, or educate our children.

    But if it makes you feel better…


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