Today is Juneteenth. 155 years ago, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, the slow delivery of this official notice was indicative of the years that followed. Some Americans apparently still haven’t received the message.
As promised a few weeks ago, I am continuing to post weekly about anti-racism. As I learn more about my own complicity in our nation’s reluctance to face the problems of bias and racism, I want to share resources that have helped me, as well as ones that can be used with students.
In the last month, I have read two great books that I received through the Next Big Idea Book Club. These books arrived long before the recent protests, but they were perfectly relevant – which is a sad commentary on how far we haven’t come. I would recommend these books to those of you who are interested in scientific evidence that explains why we continue to make the same mistakes in our culture. The first is, Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell uses multiple stories (including the death of Sandra Bland) and scientific investigations to explain how our misconceptions and inherent biases lead us to believe we can “read” people we don’t know when we really are making poor assumptions. Biased, by Jennifer Eberhardt, is an intriguing look at our neurological tendencies to stereotype. Eberhardt, a professor of Psychology at Stanford, shares the results of several fascinating studies that reveal how our brains find it easy to embrace bias – and gives some suggestions for how we can overcome this. (By the way, these book links are to “The Dock” independent bookstore in Ft. Worth, Texas, an African-American owned store, through Bookshop.org.)
While spending a lot of time reflecting about bias, including my own, I was going through the Anti-Racism Live Binder that Joy Kirr had kindly shared with me back when I first posted about my anger regarding George Floyd’s murder. I found this post under the, “For IN Class” tab. “Confronting Bias with Fifth Graders: Using the Draw-A-Scientist Experiment and the Covers of Picture Books To Help Students Recognize the Biases They Hold” is by Jessica Lifshitz. There are several lessons and links to resources in this post that could definitely be used with students who are 10 and up. I’ve used the “Draw-A-Scientist” lesson that is at the beginning of their journey, but I never took it to the level that Lifshitz did. Teachers who are thinking about how to confront bias and racism in the classroom should definitely take a look at this post.
Happy Juneteenth. I hope that, a year from now, we can celebrate some real positive changes in these areas.