It is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today and I have agreed to participate in a Twitter chat with some educators from Australia. The time difference (11 hours) has me realizing that I’ll be late to the online chat, but I’m not concerned. Asynchronous learning has so many benefits and I’m anxious to listen to more voices.
This personal interest in equity and racism is not new for me, but my intentional self-education is. I’ve read more and listened more and have purposefully acted more for inequities in the system for racialized students. And it was unnerving when I realized the extent of the resistance to listen to student voice and reflect on the changes required for equity in education.
I overhead several pockets of discontent and grumbles of White teacher discomfort following our school’s Black History Month assembly; Black students had publically called out White teachers for erasing them from the curriculum. They called them out for teaching books with the “n-word” and not providing historical context or recognizing how they might feel when a White student reads the word aloud. They called out their classmates for asking for the “n-word pass”. And, teachers knew that we had helped with this assembly. They saw me and my colleague in the student video. They saw me say that we should decenter Whiteness for equity. They saw her say that White people should never say the word.
I was ruffled too, but only by their response. The students were voicing their truths. I resisted my own capacity for fragility. But, I had a series of questions and wrote an email to Adrienne Coddett, a Black teacher who runs the Black Youth Forum and just casually mentioned the disruption that this event had initiated. She wrote back and reminded me why it’s important to resist the pull to comfort saying,
“For those people who are challenged I say, ‘It’s just your turn to even briefly experience what it’s like to not be the centre of attention’. It’s important for people to sit with those feelings. Doing nothing about it means they are part of the problem. Not wanting to transform that experience means they are part of the problem.
Students will know the difference between those who stepped up to the challenge and those who want to promote a “status quo” that continues to stifle the opportunities for Black students.”