PREYA KRISHNA-KENNEDY


INTERVIEW


How has race and intersectionality impacted your life?

I always felt like an outsider, and that’s why I became an educator, eventually.

I am an Indian American cisgendered heterosexual woman. I grew up in a white suburban area in upstate New York, in which I really did not feel a lot of belonging—even within the Indian community, I was the darkest-skinned. Many of the people around me were lighter and seen as prettier. I always felt like an outsider. To make things more isolating, my father was born Hindu, my mother was Christian. I didn't fit into the Christian or Hindu community. I didn’t fit into the Indian community, and I didn't really fit into the American community. I always felt like an outsider, and that’s why I became an educator, eventually.


Feeling like an outsider, it made me want to change things. So, I protested quite a bit in college. I tried to defend people who didn't have voices. I then entered the field of education to try to make a difference for my students, to teach from a history that was not the dominant perspective.


I became a teacher at my school 23 years ago. I was the only person of color. Well, there were several people in the foreign language department who were people of color, but I was the only one who had darker skin, who you could visibly discern. Students and other educators always questioned where I belonged. Fellow teachers assumed I was a math or science teacher. Once, the school did a promotion video about themselves, and I was on that video like five times, because “they wanted to show diversity.”


Why is talking about race in the subject(s) you teach necessary?


I've been married for over 20 years to my husband. He’s Irish and German and Scottish and English. And when we had babies, he didn't have as much of an affinity for his culture as I had with mine. So, we raised our daughters to be similar to me. I cooked Indian food, things like that. They’re much lighter-skinned than I am. In fact, they’re White passing. Naturally, I had a lot of conversations with them about feelings of belonging, about being an Indian, but never being accepted as an Indian, about their privilege.


I want meaningful conversations like that with my students, my other kids, too. Some parents never have those talks. I try my best to do it in global history, economics, and in my race and identity class.


With economics in particular, it’s the study of how people deal with scarcity and obtain what they need. Using a racial literacy lens to teach allows students to understand that some people don’t have the same opportunities as others, and it allows students to see an important factor that causes socio-economic disparity and inequality.


What was it like teaching this lesson or unit plan? Okay, so “White responsibility.” Most of my class was White, because my school is predominantly White. So I did this lesson thinking about that. White people are the only ones who don't have to think about race all the time. I had to directly get them thinking. I pulled Melina and Archibald's story from Tell Me Who You Are as catalysts, which really worked. I wanted my White students to understand that the responsibility is not just for African Americans or Indian Americans or Chinese Americans. We should all be thinking about equity. It should be everyone’s responsibility.


For “Oral Histories Final Project,” the inspiration was from college. I took a class in college, and one of my professors had me do an oral history piece. I still remember it as one of my favorite things. When I read TMWYA, I saw all the oral histories, and it really reignited my college professor’s idea. So, I did an oral history for this class’s final project. One of my students interviewed her best friend, who is Mexican American, but who passes as White. Her friend talked about her White privilege, how a little bit of her dies every time she is mistaken as a White person, because she feels very Mexican, things like that. And this student of mine, who did this oral history, was so surprised. She had no idea what her best friend was going through. She was like, “What?!” It showed how valuable these conversations are.


What would you like to tell any educator looking at your work right now?

It’s silly of us to even think that we could know more than what our own experiences are.

First of all, don't be afraid of the difficult conversations. And secondly, know that we don't have all the answers. It’s silly of us to even think that we could know more than what our own experiences are. So, we have to let those difficult conversations happen. It's our responsibility as teachers, no matter what we teach, to allow for those conversations to become the norm.


Allow students to think, to struggle. As teachers, we try to micromanage sometimes. This is not something you can micromanage. This is something that needs to be out in the open and spoken about all the time as part of our regular conversations. Just let it happen.



PREYA KRISHNA-KENNEDY's UNITS:

TYPE: Unit (series of lessons) TITLE: White Responsibility in Ending Racism CONTENT AREA: Social Studies

GRADE LEVEL(S): 9th to 12th Grade

DESCRIPTION: Throughout the semester, students have been learning race concepts including the origin of Whiteness (using TMWYA pp. 8-10), implicit bias, unconscious racism, white privilege, intersectionality, theories of race and ethnicity, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, stereotyping, microaggressions, code-switching, passing, covering, shadeism/colorism, fallacies of race, Jim Crow/segregation laws, sundown towns, “driving while Black”, “color blindness” vs. “color awareness”, and many other concepts. They have been encouraged to value others opinions and create brave spaces in which all are treated with respect and their intersections are understood. This is the final project for a semester class that is meant to help bring together all the ideas that have been discussed throughout the semester. It acts as a replacement for a final exam.

Click below to download a PDF of Preya Krishna Kennedy's unit.

White Responsibility in Ending Racism, K
.
Download • 185KB



TYPE: Unit (series of lessons) TITLE: Tell Me Who You Are: Documenting Oral Histories CONTENT AREA: Social Studies

GRADE LEVEL(S): 9th to 12th Grade

DESCRIPTION: Throughout the semester, students have been learning race concepts including the origin of Whiteness (using TMWYA pp. 8-10), implicit bias, unconscious racism, white privilege, intersectionality, theories of race and ethnicity, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, stereotyping, microaggressions, code-switching, passing, covering, shadeism/colorism, fallacies of race, Jim Crow/segregation laws, sundown towns, “driving while Black”, “color blindness” vs. “color awareness”, and many other concepts. They have been encouraged to value others opinions and create brave spaces in which all are treated with respect and their intersections are understood. This is the final project for a semester class that is meant to help bring together all the ideas that have been discussed throughout the semester. It acts as a replacement for a final exam.

Click below to download a PDF of Preya Krishna Kennedy's unit.

Tell Me Who You Are_ Documenting Oral Hi
.
Download • 68KB




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