Whether we’d like to admit it or not, many schools today still remain widely segregated. What are we doing or saying to maintain the status quo?
Some may question modern day school segregation. One may automatically think or say, “all people have a right to attend any school”, “everyone has equal opportunity”, or “my grandparents worked hard and were able to make it without a good education”. In reality, the deep rooted history of our country very much impacts the state of education today, with redlining and lack of educational resources limiting opportunities for African American people.
Yes, Brown v. Board of Education overturned segregation in 1954. However, “separate but equal” is far from the truth. In 2016, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project & The Center for Education and Civil Rights reported that 40% of African American students nationwide attended schools with a population of 90% or more students of color (Sources: Time Magazine and “Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown“). While some claim “separate but equal” as truth, this is not reflected in today’s schools. Facts and observations affirm this.
Given the academic opportunity gaps existing today, we stand responsible for change. For those of us working in schools- with AND without students of color, it is imperative that we honor our students with the way we speak about them and their communities.
The following statements, IF said in reference to an entire racial group, are stereotypes and microaggressions.
“These kids just don’t care”
“Education just isn’t a priority for these kids”
“These parents are lazy”
Always challenge yourself and others to question- “Who are we referencing when we make statements about “these kids”? Are these statements affecting how we treat our students or the opportunities we provide in the classroom?
Surely, individual students of all races display undesirable personal characteristics- this is humanity and none of us are perfect. When used, however, to generalize African American children or attribute personal struggles to skin color, the statements carry more harm than we might think.
The purpose of addressing microaggressions is not to invoke guilt, but to challenge implicit biases. We cannot effectively make change for children if we remain lost in guilt or self-pity. We must understand that statements such as these can harm student mentality and reinforce low expectations – hence continuing a cycle of systemic racial oppression in schools.
Thankfully, there is a lot we can do as educators and community members to make change. Our words have power. Having Courageous Conversations, reading, listening to and empathizing with others are key steps to combat systemic racism in our schools.
Below are a few texts to get started. Please note that fighting for equity and justice is an ongoing process and does not end with a few books. Continue to have conversations and learn.
We cannot combat racism if we remain stuck in guilt and discomfort. Dive in and inspire change!
“Courageous Conversations About Race” by Glenn E. Singleton
“Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
“We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom” by Bettina L. Love
“How to Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi