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First Person Documentary Project's posts

When I think urban, I think black

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Thirty-two urban education students from Swarthmore College recently watched the introductory First Person DVD on their first day of class. Over the next several weeks, excerpts from their responses will be posted as part of this blog.

Urban education provokes images of large, graffitied schools in dire condition. I grew up in white suburbia in the wealthy suburbs of Boulder, Colorado. At best, I had limited experience interacting with teenagers from the “urban� sections of Denver. These experiences were drawn from day or evening trips to the city to compete in athletic or debate tournaments. The few experiences I had were brief ones, and only offered glimpses into these communities. I would see dozens of black kids loitering out front of dilapidated schools wearing stereotypical “hip-hop� garb. I vividly remembering having to wait inside a school bus for five minutes outside of one school because an administrator charged with the duty of escorting us 50 yards into the school was running a few minutes behind schedule.

My time at Swarthmore had enlightened my view on urban education, but I still harbor these biases because they were my first experiences interacting in an urban educational environment. Obviously, the portraits of the six teenagers in the First Person trailer differ, in certain ways, from my simplistic, generalized notion of urban education. First off, when I think of urban education, I think black. I was caught off guard when the trailer transitioned from one of the African-American students to one of Caucasian decent….Of course I know that urban schools are not 100 percent black, but when I think urban, I think black.

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