Last week Educators for Excellence wrapped up their series on racial inequity and why the conversation on race and social justice must remain present in classrooms.
We’ve already covered the intro of the series and a teacher’s letter her colleagues sharing why discussing race and equity with students is vital to their success as citizens and also for the future of social justice advocacy.
The week-long series continued with more letters from educators on racial equity:
- Teachers Donia Horton and Kiechelle Russell wrote a joint letter to their legislatures telling them that class discussions about race and culture isn’t an option—it’s a necessity.
As teachers, we can find it uncomfortable at times to discuss race and culture in our classrooms. But when we avoid the topic, we perpetuate stereotypes and resist unveiling the biases we may hold. Ferguson is a byproduct of unspoken biases and inequities in the education system. Too often, our pedagogy and our classrooms tell students of color they are not wanted at school.
- Attorney turned assistant principal, Melody Donnelly, spoke out to the legal community that our schools and society need restorative justice, not punitive justice.
We slap punishment on offenders, threaten former offenders with probationary restrictions that curb their behavior and often—through hidebound and systemic obsession with rule enforcement for the sake of an ostensible sense of security—remove the alternatives and opportunities that would enable them to move beyond illicit means and develop real skills, goals and results.
- Rocío Calderón, a Spanish teacher, sent his message to his “fellow non-Core subject teachers.” He wants them to know that all teachers have a responsibility to have discussions in class that enlighten students to the global and local occurrence of racial and social injustice, regardless of their class subject.
As I watched was going on in our own backyard and seeing the images in the media coverage of Ferguson and Eric Garner, I felt the need to address this with my students. However, my question was, “How do I do this?” These are topics that are normally covered and discussed in English or Social Studies classes, but a foreign language class?
- Tom Rademacher, an English teacher in Minnesota, wrote to his fellow white teachers that they have a special responsibility to foster openness on race and that being silent doesn’t make you neutral.
As white teachers, it’s not so much that we need to talk about race more, but we need to allow our students the space to do so, and we need to be there listening. We need to understand that being a well-meaning white person does not give us license to talk about the experience of black people like we know anything.