This Week In Equity & CRE

Resources & Information to Support Equity & CRE Efforts

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Updated on Tuesday 06.02.2020

In this moment of COVID-19 and uprsings over police brutality, being an anti-racist educator is crucially important. Our best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices will not undo the fear, hurt, anger and rage that many Black, Indigneous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are facing right now. The feelings that many of our students, families and communities of color are experiencing are not new, but they are being heightened by both the pandemic and the continual state sanctioned violence against Black and brown bodies.

How you engage with your students and families is critically important right now. Take a look at this list of “Practices that Cause Harm” and “Practices that Promote Healing” and endeavor to do all that you can to create spaces and interactions that promote healing.

Practices that Cause Harm

Conversations that do not have clearly defined norms for safety.

If you are not in the practice of having healing or restorative conversations, do not practice now. Spaces where safety is not the norm may open the door to harmful comments or actions. Ensure that conversations are not dominated by whiteness or those in power. If you want to create a space for students to check-in or talk then let them do the talking. Share, but check the conversation for students or identities who may be oversharing and limiting others from expressing themselves. If you do not have a clear intention and plan for facilitation then check-in with your students and direct any concerns to an equity expert, trained clinician, social worker, counselor, or therapist.

Conversations that do not acknowledge that this moment is about Black and brown students.

The inciting incident may have been the murder of George Floyd but the feelings of oppression and marginalization are strong throughout the Black community. When people protest they are expressing the anger at the various systems of oppression. When people express rage, it stems from a history of injustices. When people around the world rally and protest, they are protesting in solidarity of Black people. Conversations that talk around Black and brown students, or conversations that make this seem like “a news story” erases and minimizes the pain and frustration that students and their families are experiencing.

Conversations or messaging that tell students how to feel.

The Black community is not okay. Students should not be told how to feel but be given the space to express their raw true emotions. Those feelings should be affirmed and validated. If you truly feel like a student may be overwhelmed with grief or any other emotion, please reach out to a trained clinician, social worker, counselor or therapist to assist.

Conversations that insinuate that protestors are wrong.

Violent uprisings and protest have a long history of causing change, in United States history and abroad. These protests resulted from routine abuses against Black and brown men, women and children at the hands of the police. The protestors are protesting a system that has historically caused violence and harm to Black and brown people.

Conversations that condone violence against protestors.

Any conversation that condones violence against the protestors should be condemned and clearly expressed as unjust. This includes but is not limited to leadership including the President of the United States.

Conversations that prioritize the loss of property over the loss of life.

Black and brown bodies can not be brought back, properties can be rebuilt.

Conversations that deflect from the problem of systemic racism.

Deflections include but are not limited to conversations about black on black crime, the argument that good cops exist, arguing that all white people are not racist, the fact that the protests were not peaceful, the fact that property was lost, the fact that George Floyd may have allegedly committed a crime and any other justification that is rooted in anti-Blackness and the maintenance of white supremacy.

Practices that Promote Healing

Challenging anything listed in the harmful practices.

Silence is violence. Use your privilege to disrupt and dismantle harmful beliefs and practices that others around you may perpetuate. Make your stance clear. Use your voice to let others know that you are against systemic racism in all of its forms.

Reflecting and acting on systemic harm.

This moment is about routine and common injustices perpetuated against Black and brown people. The long list of Black men, women and children killed by the police proves there is a tolerance for practices that devalue Black lives. While police killings represent one of the most abhorrent injustices, practices such as the policing of Black students bodies, questioning their movements, limiting their autonomy, and questioning their capacity are all forms of everyday oppression. Take a moment and reflect on practices and beliefs that you hold about Black and brown people and how they influence how you engage with your Black and brown students. Take it a step further and ask your students if your classroom (virtual or physical) is a safe space. If there are areas of harm, ask your students what should be done to change it.

Acknowledging that systemic racism and police brutality is a problem.

Communicate messages that allow students and families to know that you acknowledge the problems that affect Black and brown communities. This will create a sense of visibility for students and families who are affected by these issues. If you are unsure about how to approach these topics don’t force it and follow the general rule of thumb: Stay wide, but don’t go deep. You may want to create a space for students and invite people who are trained in having these conversations. Keep your messaging centered on those who are impacted by the harm.

Developing an anti-racist methodology for your instructional practices and seeking ways to increase your understanding of anti-racism. Do not expect Black and brown people to tell you how to address these issues. This is an emotionally trying time for the Black community and there is a sense of collective frustration, anger and grief. Endeavor to engage with already existing resources. Here are some articles to start:

How to Be an Anti-Racist Educator

Teaching About Race, Racism and Police Violence

Why We Can't Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning

Dena Simmons: Without Context, Social-Emotional Learning Can Backfire

Who Has the Privilege to Be Empowered? - Educational Leadership

Facing History - A Blog Post on George Floyd

Sample Letter from a Teacher to Students

Goal-Oriented Student Check-Ins

When you check-in with students ask about daily goals. Having daily aspirations gives students the agency and power to build a better reality than the one that currently exists. Each subsequent check-in should celebrate accomplishments or identify ways to ensure the completion of each goal.

Critically interrogating all systems and practices that disproportionaly harm Black and brown students.

It is always a good time to see how our everyday practices are contributing to larger issues of systemic racism. Check your course failures, disciplinary data, attendance rates and any other system where outcomes negatively impact Black and brown students. What can you do within your sphere of influence to disrupt those patterns?

Supporting people and organizations that are actively fighting for justice and racial equity.

There are many organizations that are constantly fighting against systemic racism. Research them and partner with them. Perhaps develop community-based PBL projects where students take the lead in learning about how they can actively resist in creating a more equitable, just and humane society.