Today I just wanted to share this. As I contemplate this beginning of another school year and the rhetoric that is used by educators who have yet to develop their voice to fully advocate for children. I share my thoughts…
I am an AntiRacist educator because for me, time is up on using words that will cause my children and the children in my care to continuously hit the brick wall of institutional racism. Words like Anti-Bias, Anti-Bullying, Diversity, Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Cultural Competence are great words to start a conversation about difference. What those words do not cause us to do is critically love on the systems in which we operate daily that by mission and vision profess to create space for our children no matter their background, race, creed or color. It is time for those of us who are so inclined to speak on behalf of the most marginalized student in our care. We CAN be AntiRacist and cordial. AntiRacist does not mean confrontational. It means we ask critical questions of ourselves, our colleagues and our system. It also means we work to create new answers to old problems that have persisted in public education since the first schools were organized.
You see the brick wall of institutional racism was not erected by me, my children, nor the children that enter the walls of America’s public schools daily. The brick wall is privilege. Privilege is something many students will never access, adults as well. It is difficult to access privilege when born into a world that does not recognize your black or brown skin as worthy, human or good enough. As an AntiRacist educator, I also recognize that I have the responsibility to advocate for gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, ethnicity, ability, religion, and all identities that can be marginalized by those who are privileged in society.
Erected with jagged barbed wire atop, public schools keep privilege at arm’s length, yet so far from the grasp of our most marginalized children. When we as educators fail to take a learner’s stance and question the value of systemic decisions using our children as a barometer, we fail to critically love the system and act as gatekeepers, slamming the gate shut on privilege and future student success. We have to question why the cafeteria must be a “quiet” place. Have students not been quiet most of the day in your classroom? Why must we talk AT parents and tell them how to parent their children? Why do school principals have to sit and listen to talking heads instead of rolling their sleeves up and engaging in skillfully facilitated conversations focused on developing them as AntiRacist leaders in their weekly/monthly/quarterly meetings? When educators act as gatekeepers who do not take an antiracist stance we maintain the oppressive nature of public schools that would have our students deal daily with microaggressions, marginalization and dehumanization.
I for one choose to create space for children by questioning my decisions. Questioning the essence of the why in my decisions. Questioning who might be the most marginalized by the decisions I make. By doing so I’m less likely to choose a path that would close the gate on privilege and have students move through school spaces that do not make them feel safe, welcome or included.