Now we are facing a new kind of pandemic. The pandemic of racism. The murders of black men and women has been excruciatingly painful for the black community, and the white community is now finally looking at our complicity that is this toxic culture of systemic racism in our world. I too, have been looking at my own complicity, and some stomach turning ways I have contributed to making specifically my black students to feel marginalized.
I have taken this past month to do the kind of reading and learning I should have been doing since beginning grade school. I always knew the broad outlines of racism, but not the more personal and less obvious ways POC have been made to feel less then. I have a lot to learn, and I have made it a priority to do this. Some of the most meaningful writing I have read is by black students ‘real time experiences of living and being schooled amongst white people. I have linked below an amazing article by a young man who was a METCO student in a wealthy white community. I will let him speak for himself.
I have also been extremely moved and humbled by reading a number of instagram groups that have formed to share their experiences as black students in predominately white private and public schools. A few I have read are blackatwellesley, blackatandover, blackattabor. It is these posts that have made me realize my own lack of awareness. Above is a post from a student who comments on a teacher who kept mistaking her for another black student in the class….repeatedly! As I read that, I felt in the pit of my stomach that “oh my god moment” of I have done this!!! A few years ago, in one of my college classes I had three black young women who often sat together. I am always a bit bumbling in general in my efforts to remember my students names, but I do remember vividly that I often mixed up their names. I always apologized but I feel the shame now of how I must have made those three students feel. I have to do better, I will do better. What I have realized is how much I didn’t understand the emotional life and deep hurt POC carry around all the time. Reading these posts from these young people have opened my eyes and help me to firmly commit to myself to learn and understand.
As we all try to figure out how we can do better, one place is to start is with your family. Using the article linked above and these instagram groups would be a great place to start. Read them aloud at family time, share your own experiences where you might have unknowingly said something or done something that might have made a person of color feel less than. Model for your kids that acknowledging is the first step in changing. As you read these posts, ask them if any sound or feel familiar. Have they witnessed someone else doing or saying something or is there something they said or did that might have been disrespectful to a person of color. As we all learn about anti-racism, we must first take the important step of taking responsibility for our own part in it, and commit to ourselves and our community to do better!