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instead of Jah-NEE-sa. My sister, being a relatively quiet child, went by one
name at home and another at school. She’s fifty-two, and her school friends
still know her by a completely different name than her family knows her. My
sister was too polite to correct her teachers after one or two attempts and is
too polite to correct her classmates decades later. Besides, what should a child
be expected to do when a teacher decides that renaming (or respelling) is in
order? Although I think this is a good question for our chapter on power, the
correct solution is for teachers to ask the child or the child’s family.
You note, Janet, that we need to leave room for families to tell us what’s
right for their children, even though it might not fit with what we know
and believe. I would even go so far as to say we should do this even when it
doesn’t fit with what we think we know and believe. It might become easier
to dance with conflict if we can “scooch” over what we know and believe to
make room for the fact that there may be more than one right way. Children
always find a way to scooch over to make room for one more, and one more,
and one more. Diversity can work only if we make room for one more idea,
one more belief, one more perspective, one more practice, one more value.
Then we can begin the dance with conflict.
Dancing with conflict: when you make conflict a bad thing, you don’t
consider it to be a good dance partner. Who wants to dance with something
bad? But I want to ask, why can’t conflict be a good thing? Conflict and
disagreement are perfect opportunities to learn something new, something
different. I think conflict has been given a bad reputation that makes it too
easy to automatically avoid it whenever possible. Conflict is probably a great
dancer just waiting for us to step out onto the dance floor. When we do, a
whole world of possibilities will unfold before us—something new and dif-
ferent. The big disagreements, misunderstandings, clashing of perspectives in
our work with a diversity of families and communities will never be resolved
by people who are afraid of learning something new or seeing something dif-
ferent. Besides, new and different aren’t going away. That’s why we are still
struggling over the same realms of diversity today that we’ve been facing for
decades. We expect children to dance with conflict (“How do you think that
made her feel?” “How can you share it with him?” “How do you know you
don’t like it if you haven’t even tried it?”) but are hesitant to do it ourselves.
This is actually quite odd because we all remember being children and being
expected to try new things, learn new things, taste new things. I wonder
what age you have to be to stop learning or trying something new and dif-
ferent. When are you old enough to begin assuming that everyone sees what
you see, believes what you believe, thinks what you think?
The example of green being both blue and yellow and something new
is perfect. That perplexity shows up so often for biracial, bilingual, and
10 C H A P T E R
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