My gym has reopened select locations and I was excited to be back. I had to drive over 30 minutes to get there, but I needed to lift some weights! While warming up on the treadmill, there was a report on TV about a Black Lives Matter march in a neighboring town. The man next to me on the treadmill, sort of scoffed and then stated that it was part of a "radical conspiracy". I had heard that rumor before , so I asked him to say more. He stated that Whites do not have privilege and Black people have as much of a chance in America to make it as anyone else.
He went on to say that Black people use racism as a crutch. That if they would do what he did, they too could get ahead. I told him that I was currently writing a book for teachers that addressed the structuralized racism in schools, and my research had lead me to some startling statistics. I asked him if he were knowledgeable about the statistics that show Black people are pulled over more, suspended from school more, incarcerated at higher rates etc. Additionally, Whites are overrepresented in positions of power, wealth, health, housing and employment. He replied, "Well it is not just a Black and White thing, it is because of people's choices and actions.
He repeatedly began his comments with, "I am not racist, but..." I believe, that he believes, he is not a racist. However, until we begin to believe what Black people say about their experience in this country, we cannot shift the racism.
How can we get people to believe that Black people experience life differently than White people in the same society? As an educator, I believe the answer is education. Start with the statistics on White Privlege Then read history about the treatment towards Blacks in this country. From the earliest times in this country, when Black people were first brought here as slaves, through the civil rights movement, to today, there is an abundance of information that shows discrimination, terrorist acts, segregation, abuse, disrespect, mistrust, and murder has been a continuous thread.
The importance of doing this research is imperative for everyone, but especially educators. Educators must be knowledgable in the true history. There is a plethora of books, articles, podcasts, blogs and posts that can educate. Take the time to learn the facts and history of systematic racism in our country, the desire by people in power to relentlessly pursue a systematic, subversive, plan to keep Black people in a category of less than white.
By not believing Black people when they tell you that they are pulled over more often than Whites, that they are followed in stores, looked over and passed up when waiting in line, asked for multiple forms of id when returning an item, or suspended from school when their White friend did the same thing and returned to class, or the rage that is felt when it is assumed they got into a good school because of their race, is to deny their lives.
Through reading the history, it is evident that racism and discrimination happen daily. It is not something that can be changed by Black people just trying harder.
Please know, I am not saying that Blacks are not racist too, but Whites generally have the power. Black people have their part too, but as a White person, who wants to see an end to racism, I must look at what I can do, where can I change.
The mindset of an educator has a far reaching impact. What you believe to be true about your students, becomes what they believe is true for them. It is our responsibility as educators to know the truth, to support and defend the underserved populations in our schools and above all else, believe them when they tell us what their lives are like.
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