I laced up my sneakers after quietly rolling out of bed, hoping not to wake up my son, who often sneaks into my room at night. For a brief moment, I gazed at the rise and fall of his chest. His signs of life—the inhale and the exhale. I brushed my fingers across his cheek, choking back tears wondering how someone could hate such a beautiful soul because he is a Black boy.
This past weekend, I took part in the #IRunWithMaud campaign, as a part of the NAACP’s new initiative We Are Done Dying to protest the cold-blooded murder of Ahmaud Arbery. While my feet pounded the pavement, I thought about the systemic and systematic racism that has allowed this to be America’s narrative since the birth of this nation. I thought about Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sean Reed, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and the countless other people of color who have been killed in the name of racism in the last few years.
I am tired of the hashtags and momentary rage. This time must be different, but until we uproot, tear down, and rebuild the system that has bound us to view certain lives as more valuable than others, to not acknowledge the privilege of being born of a certain hue, and finally face and acknowledge that slavery still has economic, psychologic, and systemic impacts today that deserve to be reconciled, we will continue to keep repeating history generation after generation.
It is no longer acceptable to privately say you are for equity and justice, but publicly remain silent. Your silence is loud, and if you are an educator who remains silent in the face of this insidious hatred that permeates every facet of our country, I see you for who you really are—no better than those who cut down so many countless lives throughout our history.
As you stand quietly and idly by, our children are watching and it is past time for you to do better. We have a responsibility to teach our children to be antiracist, and education is one of the ways we can do that. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon in which you can use to change the world.” Throughout the weekend, I saw many images of people who took part in the run, but my question today is, will you teach to change this world? Will you #Teach4Maud?
Last year, I was asked to speak with a group of seniors about my journey into education. The teacher who asked me to talk with the students explained that the students of color did not see representation in their teaching population and would benefit from hearing from someone who looked like them. During our talk, I mentioned the Civil Rights Movement and Emmett Till. “Who is Emmett Till?” they all asked. I was astounded to learn that these students had no clue who Emmett Till was and how pivotal his death was to the Civil Rights Movement. How could seniors, I wondered, have gone their entire 13 years of education without learning about the true history of this country?
We teach the parts of our history that keep us comfortable and maintain the status quo, while altogether avoiding the parts that make us feel uneasiness, but when we #Teach4Maud that can no longer be acceptable.
When we #Teach4Maud, we need to teach our students how to be accomplices. Too many times, people talk about being an ally. I had a lot of allies in my inbox this weekend privately telling me that they support the work of equity, but an accomplice is someone who voluntarily and intentionally participates with you. We must teach our students about Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a true example of what it means to be an accomplice. Rather than remain silent about the injustices she witnessed, this educator joined the Civil Rights movement, participated in sit-ins, and was arrested multiple times in the name of justice.
When we #Teach4Maud, we teach our students to speak up against everyday bias. We must teach our students about Viola Liuzzo who saw the murder of a veteran protesting for the right to vote and accepted Dr. King’s call to action to come to Alabama. Liuzzo, although not directly affected by the oppressive conditions that impacted Black people in this country, chose to take a stand that cost her the ultimate price of her life. She is the only White woman to have been killed during the Civil Rights Movement.
Teach students that every act against bigotry, no matter how big or small, is powerful. Stop ignoring the prejudiced commentaries at your own dinner table. Stop looking the other way when people in your network make underhanded, thinly-veiled bigoted comments and call out the behavior. We all have a responsibility to stop everyday bias when we #Teach4Maud. As an educator, do the necessary work of examining your own bias and seek to weed out those areas of bias in your life.
When we #Teach4Maud, we must begin to challenge and dismantle disparate systems. Does your school discipline system harshly punish students of color? Has your school done an equity inventory and looked at every structure within the school system to see if representation truly exists within the school? Have you looked at your AP program, Honor Society, and Student Council to see who is a part of those organizations? What does that look like? Who gets invited to your school or district to speak or provide professional development? How do you treat parents, students and colleagues of color? What does your teaching population look like? What authors are taught in your literacy class? What parts of history are taught in your history classes? Is Black History Month the only time you teach about people of color?
Your thoughts and prayers are nice (thanks…), but faith without work is dead, and it is time to put actions behind the words we speak. The #IRunWithMaud campaign was a wonderful start to stand in solidarity, but I am asking you to #Teach4Maud moving forward. I am asking you to turn this moment into a sustainable movement! Teach yourself, your children, and your students to be antiracist by tearing down, uprooting and rebuilding a new narrative. One in which my family and I can go to the park, swim at the pool, run in our neighborhood, worship at our church, and have liberty and justice in our everyday lives.
Tweet out and share, using the hashtag #Teach4Maud, about what you will do from now on to #Teach4Maud.
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