“Race is not a card that I play” says Dr. Keith Stanley Brooks, Dean of Academic Foundations at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “It’s my lived reality and experience and there’s so many things that happen on a daily basis that happen to remind me that I’m black. I don’t go outside my house saying, ‘Hey, I’m black,’ no, things just happen.”
Dr. Brooks gave an EDTalk at Icehouse in Minneapolis about Critical Race Theory – Fact vs. Feeling. He said that white supremacy isn’t a bad word. “It’s a mindset, I’m not walking around concerned about individuals in hoodies and burning crosses, they are who they are, I’m not concerned about them. It’s the daily individuals that I’m around who ascribe to white supremacist thinking, and don’t know it; they’re the most dangerous.”
Like solving any problem, Brooks says the first step is recognizing it.
“White people don’t want to accept how affiliation and social benefits gave and continue to provide them advantages people of color don’t have and some never will.”
A licensed principal, Brooks has worked as an Associate Professor of Education at Bethel University, a Project Manager at the St Paul Public Schools Foundation and the Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs at Anoka Ramsey Community College. He earned his M.ED in teacher leadership and PhD in work and human resource education at the University of MN.
EDTalks is presented by AchieveMpls and The Citizens League in partnership with Young Education Professionals – Twin Cities. It is sponsored by generous grants from Verne C. Johnson Family Foundation and Bush Foundation. This EDTalks was presented on April 18, 2016. Learn more about EDTalks and AchieveMpls.
Transcript and video
Good evening, everyone. I hope everybody’s still with me. The only thing that’s missing from that clip is lots of the advancements and triumphs of many people of color as well.
There were lots of advancements and positive as well.But it such a great, great visual aid to what we’re talking about today.Thanks for having me again,
I’m Keith Brooks and I want to talk a little bit about critical race theory,fact versus feeling.So, I always like to share with people, that, okay, hey you don’t agree, hey, you don’t like it,hey, you’re offended, hey, you’re defensive, fine,but the momentary, temporary discomfort that you experience is nothing…let me say that again,it’s nothing compared to the people that are on the receiving end of what we just saw in that clip.
Historically and current day, so you can be uncomfortable for twenty minutes, what’s twenty minutes between friends, between educators, between community members, okay?
So, I also like to share with people, to me there’s no such thing as a broken system.Every system is doing what it was originally designed to do.So, I’m not really shocked or surprise at a lot of the things that we are looking and experiencing on today. If I had more time, what I like to do, is, it’s a fun game,it’s a fun activity, when I go and do professional development and staff development at schools and school districts or other spaces,is I ask people to give me one person of color, pre-1970 in the United States, who was famous or significant figure,just one person, so I’ll cut to the chase.
Usually what happens is that I get a load of athletes and entertainers and musicians and mostly just African Americans, so the Native American,the Asian American, the Latin American narrative is also left out. I think it is very indicative and telling of our curriculum in our P-12 and our higher ed settings.
And then, you see a few categories that are highlighted in red, and I don’t think it is any surprise to maybe most of you all, if you all are connected, in most education circles,at least, that these represent the disparities that exist across the country, and the state of Minnesota,has some of the widest disparities in all five: education,employment, homeownership, law enforcement policing,and health.
So, again, because I have short time period, and again,I don’t expect everyone to understand, but at the root of what we’re talking about, if somebody wants to say,well hey, what is the problem, what’s the challenge,why this, why that?
This is it. It’s not a bad word, white supremacy is not a bad word.It’s a mindset, I’m not walking around concerned about individuals in hoodies and burning crosses, they are who they are, I’m not concerned about the them. It’s the daily, the daily individuals that I’m around who ascribe to white supremacist thinking, and don’t know it; they’re the most dangerous.
And so that’s why I’m glad to have the opportunity to be with you all today.
And I’m I know I’m going very quickly, but I will share my powerpoint with whoever sends me an e-mail and says that they want it.
Critical race theory, so I want to acknowledge a few of the individuals that I have drawn
from because there’s nothing new under the sun and these are individuals that are phenomenal authors and speakers. Derrick Bell, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and you see the rest of the names.
So in the original literature, most of them just say race as a factor, but it’s not race as a factor, per se, it’s the concept of race. Meaning, it’s not real, right, there’s no Norwegian gene or Nigerian gene, or Irish gene, right, it’s something based on skin color, so what you saw the past 400 years or so, there’s all these things loaded up on the meaning of a person’s skin color and we have just inherited it,and many times don’t process and think about what those things are, and then it’s lived out in our daily realities and interactions.
So, for example, even as a professional, even somebody with a doctorate degree, I can’t tell you how many times in professional settings, where my questioning, or asking questions, or looking at things through an equity lens comes off as belligerent or angry, or insubordinate.
So there’s really no difference between me or Tamir Rice, or Trayvon Martin or Jamar Clark, Eric Gardner, on and on, there’s no real difference. We’re viewed the same.
So, U.S. society is based on property rights. I always encourage people to look up the concept of whiteness to understand what that is and racial identity development to understand truly what we’re dealing with.
So the narrative many times is told from the perspective of a group that has historically and continually exploited and manipulated situations and people to overlook wrongdoing; that needs to be addressed and if we don’t address it, then what we’re indirectly saying is that we’re okay with the current state of affairs.
Take a look at this, now, I think it’s strategic that civilization prior… Africans, prior to coming to the United States, or brought to the United States,is a better term, there are so many advancements in terms of the civilization from the continent of Africa that are not included, so many times, in most cases, in many of the most classrooms, kids of color, specifically African Americans, are very invisible in regards to the contributions that they have made to our society.
But when you look at this diagram, right here, it says bondage and Jim Crow, so African Americans specifically have been in bondage and Jim Crow for 345 years, and only had somewhat increased opportunities for just 52.
I’d like people to process that, because what I find is that I talk to individuals about these issues but they don’t have the background or the comprehensive understanding or the historical knowledge and the understanding of systems and how the United States actually works and they’re trying to have conversation with me. And it’s like, okay, I can’t have a conversation with you, because we’re not working from the same amount or depth of understanding of how our country actually operates and works.
So, I always ask people, divide it by the whole story, don’t just tell me, I was raised to believe, my parents raised me to believe that a half-truth is a whole lie, so it’s important to understand these things.
So, here’s what I’d like to do during the time that I have left, and I’m going to go very quickly. I was really struggling with this, I was really struggling with, and when I say this, meaning even coming to do it. Because, I had to say, okay, well Keith, if you have an opportunity to tell the socially and racially unconscious and the culturally incompetent white brothers and sisters what would you say to them?
And that’s, so that’s what I’m getting ready to share right now.(light applause)(laughter)
So, it’s comments, events and questions, things that just pop up, okay? First of all, if you can receive this information better from Tim Wise, something’s wrong. I hear this a lot, “Hip hop degrades women.”I always want to ask them, okay, wait a minute,you don’t know Trace Adkins? You’ve never seen Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk? Google this, alright, and look at this video,Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, it’s like okay, you never heard of John Mayer or Kidd Rock or Donald Trump? You never heard of any of these folks?
Stop acting like hip hop is destroying the black community, it’s like, no, look at history and you’ll see what and who destroyed the black community, whatever. So, right here, unthinkingly criticize a person of color for doing the same things that white people do all the time.
So, here’s the thing, I’m trying to figure out why Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers gets attacked so much, so now, I don’t condoned it, I don’t support it, just in terms of my faith and how I was raised, but I don’t judge anybody, but here’s my point.He recently had a child out-of-wedlock, and there was this open letter to Cam Newton that people posted about him doing that and calling him such a bad role model, but did anybody do that to Tom Brady when he had a child out-of-wedlock?
I always like to ask those questions, because there always seems to be a double standard, and, okay, so Payton Manning basically commits sexual assault, like almost 20 years ago,but how does he keep such a squeaky clean image?
You’re so, I’ve heard many of my white brothers and sisters say this, “You’re so lucky you don’t have to tan. “And I’m, like, okay, you don’t really want to trade places,but okay.There you go bringing out the race card.
Race is not a card that I play, it’s my lived reality and experience and there’s so many things that happen on a daily basis that happen to remind me that I’m black. I don’t go outside my house saying, “Hey, I’m black,” no, things just happen.
I’ve heard this, the Trayvon Martin killing wasn’t about race, or, some of them get offended easily and are hurt when someone calls them out, or where they’ve been perceived as racist, and I always tell people, hey, it’s not about you.
Here’s very good article,you can google, White Guilt is White Narcissism, google that when you get an opportunity, it’s a great article. And then I always like to ask people can my sons marry your daughters. And then, it’s like, oh, Dr. Brooks, of course…No, no, no, I’m saying it doesn’t haven’t to be Dr. Brooks, can it be just anybody, alright?
Alright. When I see you, I don’t see race, the colorblind mythology. People are just people, I don’t see color, we’re all just human, character, not color, is what counts with me. Well, once again, based on the history, who is defining what character is, and but then, also, colorblindness denies the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color, even if an individual white person can ignore a person’s skin color, society does not. Claiming to be colorblind can also be a defense for shutting the conversation down, that’s what I’ve found, is that people use that in a manipulative way to not talk about it.
White people don’t want to accept how affiliation and social benefits gave and continue to provide them advantages people of color don’t have and some never will.
I’ve heard this statement, “These protestors speak so well, but they’re such violent people. “You know, look at a few, look at Slavery in the Making of America, Slavery by Another Name, Race, the Power of Illusion,look at all the volumes of Eyes on the Prize and talk to me about violence.
If black men don’t want to get stopped by the police, maybe they shouldn’t dress that way.
So what do criminals look like? And again, I said, i.e., Bearns Sterns, and all of the other. That was a good movie I saw last week, The Big Short.
And talk to me about criminal activity. People get arrested because they’re committing crimes.
Look up the Innocence Project when you get a chance. You don’t necessarily have to be committing a crime to get arrested and thrown in jail. Racism ended in the sixties, stop making such a big deal out of nothing.
Now just look at a few of these statements.If anyone works hard, they will get ahead. Well, we just saw a clip that just said that that’s not accurate or true. Some people excuse themselves
for responsibility for racism because you weren’t born yet when people were enslaved. Some also insist that people of color should look at their intent and not the impact of what you do or support, because of good intentions.
Alright, very quickly, I’m about done here.
Some of you all may saw, Ahmed, did you all see this last year, 14 year old man, young man, makes a clock, gets arrested, because they panic and think it’s a bomb.
See some comments here from Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, and think he also had a chance to visit the White House,but I get concerned about the talented kids of color who have similar experiences and don’t get a chance to go to the White House, or get acknowledged in this way for the intelligence that they have.
What I find, is that many kids sometimes are just very bored, like I was, in most of my classes.
Did you all see a lot of the posts that came out during the Annie movie? So lots of people were just bothered.These are some of the posts, right here. WTF… I’ve got my kids in the room, so I’m not going to say what WTF means, alright? Since when is Annie and Daddy Warbucks black? Look at this one. Why not do a movie of a white Martin Luther King? Isn’t that strange?You’re talking about a fictional movie and you’re going to compare that with a civil rights icon. Alright, It doesn’t even match up.
Alright. And then, also, one of the reasons I’m writing children’s books right now so is that
my sons can see themselves represented a lot more.
And so what about super heros and sheros, cartoons? Lots of people were bothered by the black male that was a lead character in the recent Star Wars movie.
There was a huge fiasco around Santa being white and that he couldn’t be anything else.
These are college students across the country, so the place where there’s supposed to be higher learning, critical thinking, analytical reasoning,scholarship, strong intellect.
There seems to be a fascination with people of color, but stereotypical images, okay. Does anybody know who this is? The 2015 Miss America, I think her name is Miss Nina. So here is some of the comments that were posted,some of the Twitter posts. So, they not only called, now she’s from India, she’s Indian-American, she’s from New York, they called her Arab, they connected her with 911 for some reason, then they connected her to Al-Qaeda, and then, let’s see here,something around Miss Arab, or something like that, oh, look, Miss 7-11, so Miss America’s a terrorist.
So, this is who people wanted, this is who they thought should have won, they needed their Barbie, nobody else can fit that image, this is the standard of beauty, supposedly, in the United States, loves tattoos, loves her country, loves hunting, the real Miss America.
So, what’s been going on? You ought to know about the recent violence of unarmed, people of color, specifically African Americans, being murdered by law enforcement, not all law enforcement people are bad, or make those types of decisions, I want to be sure to say that.
So, you all may remember this, in Waco, Texas, white gang members and they’re just, like, chillaxin’, chilling on a curb, looking at their phones, right here was this,Ferguson, black man going home, and he’s treated like he’s the Incredible Hulk or something.
Now, I don’t want to stay on this right here, because this makes me tear up, because when I see them, I see my own sons and I see my own background of growing up in South Central L.A., and living through the ’91 riots.
I don’t want to believe the most of the country is at ease with current state of affairs and feels as though people of color are supposed to be on the receiving end of this constant harm and these road blocks.
So, people always want answers, what’s the solution,what should I do? Well, there’s lots of things.
One, always be real with yourself, increase your cultural competence, start with a cultural autobiography, look at literature, films, go to community learning events, events like this. Understand white identity development, whiteness,and understand racial identity development.
So, who can I trust with my own boys? I should be able trust people of color and whites.This is my oldest son, Jonathan. This is my youngest son, Gordon,who is sitting right here.And see, I trust Tom Rademacher, Mike Spangenberg, Courtney Caldwell, Nancy Heitzeg, Leann Stevens,Ryan Vernosh, and I trust them with my boys, most of the, the four of the five names are some of my white brothers and sisters, I trust them,because they will challenge my boys’ intellect and they’ll affirm my identity. They’ll see them individually and they’ll see them holistically, in terms of what it means to be them in the United States.
Thank you for your time.(applause)