I have done a lot of self-reflection over the last few weeks. I am angry with myself. I, who pride myself on being culturally competent, feel like a fraud. Why? Because I was not doing enough.
The process of becoming culturally competent involves looking within yourself and examining your worldview, implicit biases, determining how they impact you, and how this affects your interactions with others. In the context of the educational setting this is vital because it impacts how you interact with your students and their families.
Over the last few weeks, I have been reading about anti-racism (Thank you Dr. Kendi!), listening to podcasts, following social media accounts and participating in webinars. These have been incredibly helpful and I have been having a lot of “aha” moments. I have also gone through feelings of sadness, disappointment and anger—all toward myself. Although I advocate for my students, I am guilty of not calling out racist remarks.
I can recall situations where I have heard educators make comments that have made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. At the beginning of my career, I had a teacher tell me,
Latino parents do whatever their kids tell them, so there is no point in calling them.
She did not seem to care that I am a Latina parent and I did not call her out on it. Would this same statement be made of the white community?
I can also recall a meeting where someone made a comment about unrest in a community which included the assumption,
It must be gangs.
I thought that was interesting since she was referring to a group of Black people. Would the same comment be made if it was a group of white people?
Another time, an educator was asked what a student’s aspirations were. She replied,
He aspires to be a thug.”
There was a pause in the meeting, and a colleague called her out on the statement.
I sat quietly, once again, not speaking up.
If a white student was having difficulty in school, would that student be viewed as aspiring to be a thug?
The thug comment really got to me. I remember going into my office and berating myself over not saying anything. The next time this person made a comment that I interpreted as racist, I engaged her, which made her take a step back.
There are plenty more examples of racist comments and microaggressions I have heard over the years, towards me and to others, both in and out of school. In my personal life, I have heard loved ones make comments that I vehemently disagree with, but in order to keep the peace, I have kept quiet.
No more. I am done. This is the time for change.
If statements and behaviors are not called out, we cannot make a positive change. When calling people out, I do not mean attacking them, or engaging with negative intent. I am referring to pointing out their comment and inquiring in a respectful manner as to their meaning. This is also a time where the implication of the comment can be addressed. For example you can point out how a comment can perpetuate a racist idea. This can lead to a dialogue where both sides are heard and hopefully minds changed for the better.
Districts should continue to invest in professional developments that focus on implicit biases, but these trainings should not be a one day, one-hour training. Beliefs and biases are ingrained and developed over the course of a lifetime. A one-hour training is surely not enough to delve deep within oneself. Cultural competency training is the first step in the right direction. However, it is not enough to be culturally competent, we need to be actively anti-racist.
I have begun calling statements out in my personal life. Once we are back in school, I will continue to do so professionally. This means I will probably be disliked among those who make racist comments, but that’s O.K. Advocating for my students means calling out racist comments.