Many of us have seen the viral photograph of the Black police officer protecting White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The paradox left us awe struck:
A young, Black, male, police officer protecting the freedoms and the bodies of White, male, supremacists, whom believe they are superior to all non-whites, and use violence and intimidation to preserve their Whiteness.
We were awestruck, because we believe that we are the antithesis of this Black police officer. We believe that because we stand in front of children, dedicating our energy to fight for equity via teaching, that we don’t protect Whiteness as well.
Unfortunately, we do.
We support White Supremacy in ways that are more dangerous than what we observed from the police officer. It just looks differently for us.
Here are just three of the ways we protect White Supremacy on a daily basis:
We go mute in our classrooms. Either out of fear of being reprimanded or not knowing how to facilitate the conversation or prioritizing learning standards, we choose not to talk about it. Too many of us are going to walk into our classrooms Monday morning, and proceed with our normal day like nothing happened this past weekend. We won’t speak on it. We won’t “call it out” in the words of James E. Ford, and “as teachers, we may not know how much racism is kept alive both by what we teach and don’t teach.” Make time to talk about this on Monday.
If you are still prioritizing teaching Euro-centric, White-washed, culturally incompetent curriculum to ALL students (because White students need to know more history than their own), then you are protecting White supremacy. Novels taught to Black and Brown must reflect Black and Brown students. Black history is more than slavery and Martin Luther King, Jr. Curriculum that believes culturally responsive pedagogy is talking about weave bundles to teach students about how to place objects in equal groups is dangerously insulting. If your school or district is still pushing you to teach content that never focuses on the identify or culture of your students, then research content that does, plan a dope lesson, and close your door teach loud as hell so everyone else can get hip, because all students need to hear about their culture.
The school to prison pipeline is real, and it upholds White supremacy starting in kindergarten. Zero-tolerance discipline policies still exists in many of our schools. Minor misbehavior is treated with harsh consequences, and students with special needs are still getting punished before serviced. If your school has not started using restorative practices (schools have been doing this since 2014), then start in your own classroom. Dedicate a day each week to have proactive circles that build the community in your space, and use reactive circles to have students talk through conflict. Suspending students does not change behavior. It will not build community in your room. It will not make students engage with others more respectfully, behave more safely, or become stronger readers or mathematicians. Student behaviors change through positive relationships. I wrote an article earlier this summer on how my school is approaching discipline this school year.
We can all take simple actions to defy White supremacy in our schools, but we have to realize and stop doing things that protect the supremacy we are trying to dismantle.
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