On Monday, January 17th, 2022, we will honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. I say, “we,” though I know that not everyone, even today, appreciates this man’s contributions to the advancement of civil rights for all. And there is a disturbing amount of people in our country who would rather not acknowledge our past. Some will ignore the date, some will protest against it, and some will argue that commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. somehow harms the children of this generation.
My anti-racist link for this week is to a Storycorps video about one of the men who motivated Martin Luther King Jr. to become an activist, Maceo Snipes. Snipes was an army veteran who returned from fighting for our country in World War II, voted the next day, and was murdered for exercising his right — one of the many rights he defended valiantly as a soldier.
This egregious crime prompted a young college student, Martin Luther King Jr., to write a letter that was published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. In that letter, King refers to the “scarecrow” arguments racists utilize to defend their terrible acts, attempting to justify themselves by claiming they were only protecting White people from Black people who want to take over. Sound familiar?
We often recall Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech this time of year, but I think we need to make sure we don’t forget why that speech needed to be made. It’s not pleasant to think about the horrific sins of our past, but we are in grave danger of returning to them if we choose to ignore them.
For more resources for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr., you can go here. I will also be adding a link to this post to my collection of Anti-Racist Resources.
I really needed a smile today, so I was happy to see the images on the Puzzle Huddle website when I clicked on the bookmark I had saved a few weeks ago. Even more delightful was watching the video in which Matthew Goins, who co-created the Puzzle Huddle company with his wife, Marnel, explains the path that led them to making these adorable puzzles. Although it’s sad that there is a need for more diverse puzzles, I admire that this couple is working to change that. “In my case, I got started because I wanted to make a difference for my three small children, so that now, hopefully, a few years and a lot of puzzles later, we will have made a difference for an entire generation of children.”
If I was still in the elementary classroom, I would absolutely want one or more of these in my room. The illustrations are fabulous, portray young people in inspiring situations, and allow children of color to see themselves in a fun medium that is often limited to white people. You can order from Puzzle Huddle (be sure to check out the Ada Twist series!), but you can also download some free coloring sheets. The company is also looking for Brand Ambassadors if you are interested.
I was listening to a show on NPR the other day that made my mouth drop. The program claimed that many Black Americans are automatically placed lower on kidney transplant waiting lists due to their race. Today. In the year 2021. It turns out that there is a formula used to calculate how well your kidney is functioning, and this GFR tool includes an adjustment for Black people based on an assumption made years ago that their genetic makeup enabled their kidneys to filter better than White people who had the same filtration rate. You can read more about this, and the faulty reasoning that that led to this biased math here. It seems that a task force has recently mandated that this variable should be removed from the calculation, and it has already been removed from some health care systembs, but how many people have died waiting for a transplant as a result of this widely applied algorithm?
I had, of course, heard about racism in healthcare before. For example, there are reports that Black patients are prescribed pain medication at much lower rates than White ones because of the stereotype that they are “faking it so they can get drugs.” And this is not isolated to Black Americans; other people of color are also victims of biased treatment. I think what surprised me about the kidney story was that there was an actual formula, embedded deeply in the medical field, overtly designed to ignore other symptoms in favor of a person’s race.
In other words, systemic racism.
There are movements to address these problems in medicine such as changes in medical school curriculums. But I wanted to find out if there are things we can do before students attend post-graduate school, as not all children will become doctors. Some of them may end up in fields like pharmaceutical research, marketing, or policy making that could also impact health care.
If you are looking for a way to make your home or school library more diverse, Bookversalis a tool created for just that purpose. Aleksandra Melnikova and Laura Hobson are the women who designed the site, and they are based in the UK. This means that many of the links will take you to BIPOC-owned UK bookstores, but you can, of course purchase them wherever is most convenient for you. (Here is a list of BIPOC-owned US bookstores for readers in the States.) There isn’t a gigantic selection so far, which is kind of nicely not-overwhelming. There is a link for making suggestions for additions, and I really like that you can jump to the different sections you see below.
Of course, if you want a really comprehensive shopping list, you can always select your books from the 850 that Texas State Rep. Matt Krause wants our school districts to review for “objectionable content” including human “sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” (You can read this article for more info.)
I am absolutely aware that teachers are in survival mode at the moment, and their least precious commodity is time. However, as we all know, there are situations where investing a bit of time at the beginning can result in a much larger return later on — especially when crowdsourcing is involved. If you are feeling a bit helpless when it comes to doing anti-racist work, this is a contribution you can make that will probably take you no more than 15 minutes.
The Care Resource Review Tool is an online tool from the Center for Anti Racist Education. It is meant to be used to analyze educational materials “through an antiracist lens.” After registering (free), reviewers go through a simple process through which they consider a self-selected teaching material based on 5 Principles. After answering 3 questions for each principle, reviewers get an overall score and some recommendation. Below, you can see the one I received after reviewing The Giver, a somewhat tricky book to analyze since its lack of diversity is what makes the fictional community dystopian. The tool is not just for literature, though. It can be used for textbooks, podcasts, non-fiction, or whatever type of resource is being used in the classroom.
CARE is currently gathering information from reviewers, but they intend to make a searchable database once they have gotten enough contributions to make it useful. Once that is up, you will be able to find materials that have already been reviewed and make better decisions about what you should use in your classroom to better serve all students.
I will be adding this post to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, which is a free collection of links to tools and articles about how to be an Anti-Racist educator.
Although it is not mentioned in this history of the origins of Native American Heritage Month, I imagine it is not a coincidence that November, the month when we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, has this designation. Traditional stories of the first Thanksgiving are often misleading about the roles played by the Native Americans (who some prefer to refer as Indigenous Peoples) and the Europeans, and the holiday is rife with opportunity for cultural appropriation. Last year, I shared some materials to help teachers honor the rich cultural influences and contributions of our American Indigenous Peoples, and I want to summarize that list and add to it this year. I’ll be adding a link to this post in my Anti-Racist Wakelet, as well as in my Thanksgiving/November Wakelet.
Lastly, if you are short on time (as most educators are!), I think this brief summary of “5 Orientations to Support IndigenousStudies Curriculum” is a very helpful reference to aid us in avoiding the harmful language that perpetuates myths and stereotypes surrounding Native Americans.