Thabiti Brown on the Role Racial Identity Played
Thabiti Brown is the principal at Codman Academy, a charter public school in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
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"So, you know, looking at Sue and thinking about Sue processing this incident-- her being ostracized, her being on top of the heap, as she says, and then on the bottom of the heap-- it’s clear that in the end she thinks about her identity as playing a pivotal role in how the events unfolded. She mentions both being poor, being a low-income student; and then she also mentions her race, being an Asian, Asian-American student, in her particular city, her particular school. I don’t see how those issues can’t come to the fore when you’re talking about a group that is as diverse as this group is. And I thought it was compelling that she thought of herself as someone, as almost rags to riches, that she makes that comment about, you know, 'here I am, coming from the projects, and I’m running this group of rich kids', you know? And she felt like that was a huge achievement. You know, I don’t know if she would say she was running them, but she definitely was an influential member of that group.
So I think her primary lens was income and working class, and that was the thing she was looking at. And then her parents’ lens about, yes, you’re a minority-- which I think is fraught with a whole bunch of other concerns, or at least that term-- but, you know, she is the only Asian student in this small group. And I think when you’re the only in a group, it becomes pretty easy to stick out and pretty easy to be turned on, just looking at you. So, wasn’t the only low-income-- there were a couple African-Americans I believe in the group, and a couple white girls--but she was the only Asian, Asian-American. I don’t know what that means beyond just looking at it and naming it. But I think it’s an interesting thing, in that a parent would name for a child, and then the child would own, as, 'oh yeah, this will be a part of my identity that I have to think about when I think about relationships for the rest of my life.'"