In the aftermath of Charlottesville and ongoing White Supremacist rallies looming, at a time when many teachers are making plans for their first weeks of school, educators at all levels are asking, “How do I address the hate and violence we are seeing all around us, in relevant and developmentally appropriate ways?
Educators are right to ask this question. Whether we want to admit it or not, schools have always served as a powerful means of racial socialization.
A Definition: Racial Socialization
Before I go any further, let’s define terms:
Racial socialization, is the process by which we learn what it means to be a member of a particular ethnic or cultural group. This can be both active or passive. Racial socialization has a major impact on our beliefs about ourselves and others. It also has a great impact on our values, the way we behave, and the way we treat others.
The rise in White Supremacy, White Nationalism and hate violence directed at People of Color, is a direct result of the ways our nation racially socializes its children. Contrary to what many have said in the past, we do not live in a “post-racial” society. It is becoming glaringly obvious that the “old White racists” who we were told would “eventually die off” are quickly being replaced by young white racists.
This racial socialization impacts both White folks and People of Color in negative ways. This became visible after Black activists elevated the conversation about radicalized violence using the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName hashtags, and became even more visible (to White folks) after the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer.
When white students attend segregated schools or are segregated within school (in gifted programs), they miss out on opportunities to experience the healthy “racial stress” that allows them to appreciate non-white perspectives. Dr. DiAngelo, and expert on “whiteness” states:
… the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as “good.” The implicit message is that there is no inherent value in the presence or perspectives of people of Color.
Additionally, she states, when “mainstream sources — schools, textbooks, media — don’t provide us with the multiple perspectives we need.” students become “racially illiterate”
It goes without saying, racial socialization also has negative impacts on People of Color. When perspectives and contributions of Black and Brown communities are absent in school celebrations, reading lists and history books, Students of Color also internalize the message that their culture is not valued in the predominant culture. They can either internalize this message, which leads to feelings of helplessness depression and low self-esteem. As a result, students may choose to disconnect or rebel from academic pursuits.
So, what’s a Social-Justice-Minded Educator to do?
Educators are meeting this challenge using a hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum, started by Melinda D. Anderson. Over the next few months I hope to support this effort by using this blog and this series to share resources and best practices.
One powerful, and positive way, we can disrupt Racial Socialization that tells students that white people, cultures and histories are “better” or more valuable than that of students of color is by countering narratives that center whites and erases People of Color.
Schools and society.
"Nobody is going to teach you your true history … if they know that that knowledge will help set you free." pic.twitter.com/O43AHEbarB
— melinda d. anderson 🤨 (@mdawriter) June 10, 2017
In the meantime…
Please share ideas and resources in the comments below. If you are an SFUSD Educators, and would love to share what you are doing, please email me or reach out in the comments and I’d love to showcase your work.
In the meantime, I will be participating in an upcoming webinar hosted by Facing History and Ourselves. Please share this with other #SoJustEdu educators and join the conversation! Here is more information from their website:
“When Hate is in the Headlines: Resources for K-12 Educators,” will provide a space to share resources and concrete examples of how to discuss these issues with students in elementary, middle, and high school. After the webinar concludes, we will continue our conversation with a Twitter chat using the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum.
— Facing History (@facinghistory) August 16, 2017
What ideas or resources do you have to share? Please write them in the comments below.
Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.
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