When I finished high school, I thought it was normal and justifiable for white forms of music and music making to dominate school music. I thought it was normal and justifiable for white students to be disproportionately sorted into advanced ensembles and to primarily interact with the students most like myself.
This just scratches the surface of the hidden curriculum of my school music experience. Although my teachers certainly did not intend it, their music programs participated in the perpetuation of white supremacy in our society. It may not be possible to entirely disentangle white supremacy from any part of American society within our lifetimes, but a music program that does less harm is better than one that does more. And if we must participate in white supremacy, we should do so with open eyes rather than denial.
Talking about social justice is a start. And turning those ideas into action that actually helps people is incredible. But what might you be accidentally teaching students? It is easy to identify white supremacy in others and easy to be blind to the ways in which we personally participate in it. At the same time, calling it out in others often does not lead to change, while we have the power to change ourselves, our organizations, and our fields. I have more power to challenge white supremacy in my school than in Facebook, so my time is better spent reforming the former.
So ask yourself, how do you personally participate in perpetuating white supremacy? Think long and hard. If you conclude that you do not at all, keep thinking. We all do, in countless ways, every day. Seeing an issue that you never noticed before is not easy, but the more you practice seeing the world and yourself through this lens, the better at it you will become. And if you seek out like-minded people to talk about this with, you will find that your creativity grows exponentially.
And finally, how could you apply this process to issues beyond race?
Homework for myself: spend way more time reflecting on my school experience and expanding the list in the first paragraph.
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