There is a rush going on. It is happening from many sides and angles. The rush can be felt, heard and seen. It is happening in front of us, behind us and in quiet corners of many areas of our lives. It is blatant and it is underlying. It is scary and it is dangerous.
When the topic of race comes up, many people leave the conversation. They slink away, stop listening or click off the link. They are uncomfortable and uneasy. They do not want to appear racist in nature. They are insecure and unsure of what to say. This is human nature to not want to hurt others. This comes from a place of goodness. This is human frailty and becomes exposed in difficult conversations. I myself choose to talk about things that make most people uncomfortable. I have been doing it for as long as I remember. I am sure that my parents wanted to muzzle me at times, but it is who I am. I will not shy away from a difficult topic. I try my very best to do it with humility, but understand that I will not apologize or correct a wrong that does not exist. I will listen and learn, but I will not be indoctrinated by anything other than the truth, and that only comes from God.
I have a former colleague who showed me a book that she is reading, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys”. Hmm I thought. I never read this book before, and I have been teaching them for 10 plus years. Apparently I have been doing it all wrong. I discussed at length with my friend the caution she should take when reading such a book. She told me she was learning that she expected them to act white. I was gagging in my mouth when I heard this. I questioned this with patience, although difficult to do. I asked her how was expecting them to act right, expecting them to act white. She said she just thought she should be more culturally aware. Oh boy. She also expressed how she is worried that people will think she is racist if she does these things. I got really fired up at this. I questioned her and said this: It is ok to have high expectations and demands, this is not acting white. Lowering the bar or giving them different expectations IS racism. It is saying that they cannot possibly meet high expectations because of what they look like. I said just do what I have always done, LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY, this is the secret sauce. Do not pity, shame or set different expectations for any child! They are all capable. It is our job to love them and remind them of this every day. Period. Get over yourself and teach on.
I saw a meme online today that speaks to this rhetoric that I so wholeheartedly disagree with. It says “If you can’t say Black Lives Matter, you shouldn’t be teaching Black children.” This is from a person that provides training to school districts, currently Minneapolis Public Schools this coming summer and fall. This is dangerous since this is indoctrination. This is race baiting and racism at the foundation. It is making a mockery of the very people who do the hard work everyday in our schools. It is placing sole blame for the success or lack there of on teachers and the administration of the schools. It is implying inherent racism and inequity. It is interesting to me that this is just now surfacing as a problem.
If we look at timeline here it is: George Floyd was killed in May by a Minneapolis Police Officer. He was in my opinion, murdered on the street. I only have the video I have seen, but from my angle, there would have been no other conclusion to be drawn. My question is this: If George Floyd would not have been murdered by a Police Officer in May, would we be discussing schools as racist right now? Would we be having blanket statements and initiatives? Would districts be running to outdo each other in the eyes of the public? It seems suspicious to me that this is all just coming to light? It seems like a popularity contest in the court of public opinion. It is all smoke and mirrors.
I have seen this wave of blame and shame coming for a long time in public schools. I have attended trainings and listened to equity coordinators talk about what we do wrong, how we can fix it and how we are inherently racist if we are white, just because we are white. I have always, and will continue to pose these questions, though wildly unpopular, how does me apologizing for my skin color, help you in any way if you are not white? How does admitting to something that I do not do, based upon perception of another, help further race relations and the abilities of students of color? How does the blame solely fall on those who were born white? Who decides who takes the blame? Why do we allow blame to enter into the equation at all?
I thought that my job as an educator was to teach students and draw out their abilities to make them productive, successful and confident adults for our society. There is no way that I can do this successfully if I am constantly challenged on my instincts, INTENTIONS and behaviors. This is a difficult job that requires 150% of your focus, attention and stamina each day that you are there. I do not work with ANYONE that is racist! ANYONE. It would be virtually impossible to do this job and be racist!!! Kids would see through this and eat you alive. You would never last a day in this vocation if you were.
Teachers need time to collaborate. They need time to look at curriculum and design beautiful lessons for their students. They need time to recharge and regain the strength to do their jobs completely. What they do not need is this: ANOTHER TRAINING SAYING THEY ARE INHERENTLY RACIST! This demoralizes and does not help anyone. This is damaging and blaming. This does not leave teachers empowered or inspired. It leaves them sad, guilty for something that they did not do, and defeated. It packs a burden to their already heavy load.
Many will say that teachers need to be on a journey of personal and professional development in order to be good at what they do. I agree that honing our craft takes time. Our craft is teaching. We should be allowed to do so with our instincts. We should not be judged because of our skin color and be made to feel less because the newest workshop tells us we are inherently bad. We are asked to treat all of our students equally, time for that coin to be flipped. I ask the administrations and communities to also treat teachers equally. Assume positive intentions until you see otherwise. Correct those who are behaving badly, just like any other sect of society, and remove them if they refuse to comply.
I would like to share a personal story of something that happened to me a while back with a student. It was not a student that I was responsible for personally, but he frequented my hallway for other reasons. He would often stop and talk, like many students did. My door is always open, deliberately, and I welcome students all times of the day. I want my room to be a space they can come to if they need a moment to catch their breath. I do not always tell them what they want to hear, but they still keep coming back, so it is apparently what they need. This student asked me in quiet conversation one time if I go to a Black church or a White church. I was taken aback by that statement and thought huh. I posed the question to my friend, a pastor of a Black Church, what did this cherub mean by this.
What I did not realize at that moment, but came to understand later, through talking to my friend, is that this student asked a question with pure, unbiased intentions. He asked me this question because he knows that I love ALL students equally, and he felt in his heart that I could have worshiped in either house, for I did not see color. I will say that to this day, this is still the highest of all compliments that I have received from any student or staff member to date. I carry this with me always. It was the purest, most innocent of questions, that gave me the motivation to speak and to write about these difficult topics. It guides my teaching each and every day.
Here is how I see the need to move forward in this craziness. We need to stop talking about the color of our skin and the things that make us different. We need to ignore those workshops and books that solely define us by our color and look to divide. We need to work together with those who are in our schools and communities. We need to invite parents to our schools, collaborate in the process of education, and stop blaming teachers for all that ails students.
Schools and communities need to accept that schools are about educating. You have burdened them with more than they can handle, and it is time to push back. We are not their parents. We are their teachers. These two different roles hold valuable importance. Do not expect one to take on the other. They are separate for a reason. They need to remain that way in order for students to find their best selves.
Moving forward, stop blaming teachers and give them the gift of time. Stop filling their personal development calendars with equity and inclusion trainings. This is not what they need. They need time to collaborate, develop rich lessons and further educate themselves in their craft. If the district has hired someone racist, it is their duty to weed them out and tell them they have no place in their schools. Stop assuming horrific intentions from the entire collaborative of teachers. Stop blaming and name calling. Stop telling them it is never enough.
If you do all of the above things, what you will get is a field of blooming flowers in our children. You will have teachers who are rested, prepared, enriched and ready. You will have students who are loved and feel loved. You will have communities that thrive because they have happy students who are confident and have skills to give back. If you keep doing the blaming and shaming, you will have anger, strife and divide. You will continue to crack the foundation. You will defeat those who are watering those flowers. You will eventually discourage them from trying at all.
I ask people to start pushing back at their school districts when they try and shove rhetoric and initiatives that take away from student academics. Ask questions and demand answers for their motives. Stop being passive and expect teachers to be the only voices in this. Do not be afraid to ask questions about why this is all of a sudden important.
I am aware that many are uncomfortable with my above opinions. I challenge you to find out why. Are you truly searching in your soul to figure out why you are doing something, or are you following the crowd because they say it is right? God asks us to LOVE ALL of his children. He says LOVE Him first and foremost. LOVE yourself enough to stand up for what you believe to be true about yourself. If we do these three things, we are always going to be right.