Category Archives: Anti-Racism

Texts for Talking About Race

As I continue to educate myself on anti-racism, I have vowed to devote a weekly post to this cause.  I have been curating resources for this at a rate that is impossible to sustain, and it has been a bit overwhelming.  I don’t want to dump a lot of links on you because you can basically get any list that you want from social media.  Following the tradition of this blog, I will attempt to share no more than a few quality resources with each post.

Today’s very useful resource is brought to you by CommonLit.  I’ve written about CommonLit a couple of times on this blog, and it is heartening to see that this website has continued to improve.  Provided by a non-profit, CommonLit also has remained free for teachers.  As you know, (and I mentioned in yesterday’s post), quality ed tech tools are difficult to find, and sometimes don’t last very long.

CommonLit has compiled 59 texts for talking about race.  It appears that the grade range is from 4th-12th.  Here is an example of a poem called, “The Child,” by J. Patrick Lewis, that is suitable for 4th grade and up.  As you can see on the right-hand side, activities are provided to go along with the text, including questions and discussion suggestions.  Students who are logged in on a computer (not a mobile device at this time) can also annotate the text.  They can have the computer read it out loud, or translate to another language.

At the top of the page, you will see tabs for paired texts, related media, and parent/teacher guides to go along with the specific text.  You must be logged in for some of these resources – but remember it is free to register!

If school is already out in your neck of the woods, be sure to bookmark this resource for next school year.  Parents, you don’t need to wait, since there are guides for you to use if you want to start the discussion now.

Stop Racism
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

“I Don’t See Color”

“The thing is, I really don’t see color in my class,” I told my husband and daughter at dinner one night.  We were discussing a student who had accused me of being racist (a story I’ll explain in another post), and I was describing my honest surprise at the student’s comment.

Of course I’m not blind, but I was genuinely offended by the student accusing me of reacting to him because of his skin color.  Having taught for more than a quarter of a century, I prided myself on being fair with my students.  When I said that I don’t see color, I meant that I placed the color of someone’s skin on the same level as the color of their hair or their eyes.  I meant that it was not a factor in my decisions about how to educate that student.  Growing up in a generation where acknowledging that a person was a different color was equivalent to prejudice and stereotyping, I thought I was doing the right thing by ignoring skin tone completely.  I had made the mistake that we often make in education (and in life) by over-correcting and jumping to the opposite extreme.

After last week’s post, I was afraid to write anything else.  I know that I have been racist, though unintentionally, and I was fearful that anything I said might, once again, shed light on my ignorance.

But then I got inspiration from what some might think to be an unlikely source.  I was listening to the latest My Favorite Murder podcast episode, “It’s Jenga,” as I walked my dog this morning. The hosts were discussing current events, and one of them admitted, “We’re so nervous to even talk about this because we don’t want to be wrong.”

“Yes!” I thought.  And then she shared some insight from her therapist:

Do-not-fear-being-wrong

So, I will admit that I was wrong to ignore the skin color of my students.  It was wrong because it meant that I was not willing to acknowledge the systemic problems that assault people of color in every area of their lives, the trauma that it can cause, and the way I might need to differentiate for this in my classroom.  I am truly sorry. (For a much more detailed explanation of why I shouldn’t have ignored color, please read this post by Joy Mohammed on We Are Teachers.)

In the meantime, I have been introspective about other parts of my life where I have been ignoring people of color.  I looked at my list of “Engaging Educators” on this blog, and realized I only had one person of color on the list.  This was not a conscious decision – but that’s the problem.  I sought to change that, and I have now added some other people who I deeply admire but it just never occurred to me include.  If you know of any other education bloggers I should consider, please let me know in the comments below or @terrieichholz on Twitter.

In my attempt to become anti-racist, instead of being a silent bystander, I am pledging to write at least one anti-racist post each week.  For those of you who follow me for the resources I share, I will resume doing that next week as well.

Take care out there.  I noticed a few hits on my blog today for this post, “Treat People Right.”  If you want to see a story that reminds you that there are many humans out there trying to be kind and do the right thing, check out that short video from StoryCorps.

Anger

I haven’t published any posts this week for several reasons, but what has inhibited me the most is the anger that I feel as I watch injustice on top of injustice unfolding in our country.  My schizophrenic Twitter timeline that places agonized appeals to repair a system that allows people to consistently murder people of color without redress next to the optimistic instructions for how-to-design-your-own virtual Bitmoji classroom (but, make sure that classroom reflects diversity and student disabilities) make me oscillate between being angry at myself for not doing enough and angry at those in power who are doing all of the wrong things.  I’m afraid this anger will flood out of me when I write – a confusing tsunami of emotion that drowns the innocent and has no effect, as usual, on the ignorantly privileged.

I recently heard an interview with comedian Hannah Gadsby on Fresh Air.  They replayed part of her Nanette comedy special in which she explained why she needed to step away from comedy:

hannahgadsby

I am not a victim.  But I feel anger on the part of the victims.  And I do feel, unfortunately, hatred toward their abusers.  But the consequence of hatred is fear, and isn’t fear what has brought us to this?  People who have a misplaced fear of those who they don’t understand commit vile acts against them.

I hate them.  The people who make a grown man cry out to his mother until he dies, the people who tell the police they are being assaulted by a black man when he is merely asking them to follow the rules, the people who take it upon themselves to make a citizen’s arrest of a man and end up killing him, the leader who systematically bullies and threatens anyone who doesn’t support him.

But I can’t let hatred guide me.  So I need to step back a little bit until I can find a way to re-shape my anger into something constructive.  I’m going to drown myself in puppy pics and heartwarming animal rescue stories from @Dodo for a few days.

And then I’m going to figure out a way to constructively eradicate those assholes.