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  • On Being an International School Counselor and #BlackLivesMatter


    I say this with every fiber of my proud, WILD (Filipina) American self (Galang 96). I state this at the risk of losing readership, but not at the risk of losing face. If you haven't figured out by now from the premise of my blog (identity, travel, living abroad, etc.) that I might have a thing or two to say about intersectionality and race - then MAYBE you haven't been reading my blog too well.

    Why now? WHY NOT?

    I just read a personal narrative by a teacher in Tulsa, Rebbecca Lee, on her school's response to the killing of Terence Crutcher. Her school, Knowledge is Power Program Charter school in Tulsa, Oklahoma is where Mr. Crutcher's daughter is a 5th grade student.   Her post reflects many of the questions, concerns, and fine lines I constantly contemplate as an international educator/counselor:

    • How can I authentically engage students in exploring these topics when they may or may not understand these issues as deeply as students back home in the United States?
    • Is it necessary for international schools to create a safe space for their school communities to delve into these issues?
    • Why should it matter to me?
    • How can I cope with my own feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, etc.?

    I've been wanting to write about this for as long as I can remember. I just couldn't find the words and for the sake of self-preservation, I busied myself with other things. Lastly, everytime I wanted to write about this before, it devolved into a curse-ridden pile of gibberish.  I was too angry, too sad, and everything in between.  Now, after a few months spent recharging and thinking about my role as an international school counselor/lifetimesocialworker/FilipinoAmerican/womanofcolor and the role I play with my students and colleagues, my mind is clear. 

    #BLACKLIVESMATTER - because even if at the end of the day I believe that all lives matter, according to the Washington Post, just in 2016 alone, Black citizens dying via police shootings represent 25% of total police-involved deaths and they're only 12.5% of the population. (U.S. Census Bureau 13). In plain speech - in the United States, police-involved deaths happen more to Black people than anybody else. Anecdotally, most - if not all - of my Black friends in the United States are afraid to walk out of their homes and those with sons are tearing their hair out trying to protect them.  The pain of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and countless others too fresh, too close, too young, too soon.  

    Moreover, as a student community service volunteer at UCLA and social worker for 5 years in Brooklyn, a routine part of my role was teaching children and teens (Filipino, Black, and Latino) about their rights and how to respond when confronted by police. When I moved abroad, I began to engage students/colleagues (who aren't always familiar with the US history of oppression) on discussions about what is going on back home and how they might be perceived in the United States, especially if they are considered minorities. Or fielding comments/questions from parents about the safety of their children IF they were going to visit the United States.  Furthermore, working at an international school also means looking at world events and social justice issues, patterns of oppression, etc. While I am eager to take this on, I am also quite tired.

    Each day I think - I shouldn't have to do this. 

    I should not have to teach children how to manage interactions with people meant to protect and to serve them and their families.

    I should not have to field questions from parents about their children's safety because of the news.

    I should not have to explore privilege, class, race, gender, etc. with my students - NOT IN 2016.

    BUT I DO.

    If I don't, then it would not only be a betrayal of my own personal background and cultural history of resistance (Constantino 76), but I'd be betraying my friends and the actions Black people took on during the Civil Rights Movement which afforded the opportunity for my family to emigrate to the United States. I would betray the reason why I became a counselor/therapist in the first place - to help people for the greater good.  I've transitioned that desire into international school counseling because I want to see the world and I firmly believe that Third Culture Kids (Pollock & Van Reken 9) have the agency to effect wider societal change. They need the social emotional tools to empower themselves and their communities to dig deep and think critically about how to make our world a better place to live.

    Because of this - I harness the anger, sadness, confusion, and other emotions I may be feeling and I redirect it towards helping my students explore issues surrounding identity, race, culture, gender and our place in all of it. I write and I engage in productive dialogue with people face to face or on social media. It's the least I can do when I am so far away from home. 

    If Black lives didn't matter to me, I'd be a hypocrite. 


    Literary Resources:

    A History of the Philippines by Dr. Renato Constantino

    Her WIld American Self by M. Evelina Galang

    Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

    White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Dr. Peggy McIntosh

    Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - Dr. Beverly Ann Tatum

    Web/Organizational Resources:

    Black Lives Matter

    Define American

    Interrupting Racism: Race & Equity in Your Program - American School Counselors Association

    Learning to Give

    Letters for Black Lives: An Open-Letter Project on Anti-Blackness

    People's Institute for Survival and Beyond

    Teaching Tolerance