An educator confronts the failures of an education system that breeds white supremacy, and offers concrete tips for teachers who seek to challenge it.
By Xian Franzinger Barrett
This article first appeared on AlterNet
White supremacy did not appear as a surprise guest to this weekend’s events. It is a plague that permeates every aspect of our shared society. At the same time as it threatens to strip people of color — especially Black — of their lives and freedom, it corrodes the logic, reason and future of our society as a whole. White supremacy is also a deeply embedded feature of our education system even as it runs counter to the values we claim to hold in pursuit of education.
In response to this weekend’s deadly white supremacist rallies and violence in Charlottesville, there was a shared outrage among educators on social media. I saw a range of reactions. There were a lot of folks — especially white — saying: “How could this happen in America?” And there were a lot of folks — especially folks of color — saying: “We’ve been telling you that this is happening in America.” What many of us shared was a conviction that the events in Charlottesville couldn’t go unchallenged.
In considering effective responses while looking at the sea of hateful white faces in the media of the event, I wondered: “Who grew this hate? Who planted it? Who nurtured it? Who protected it from exposure to education and love?” With an eye to education, I asked: “What schools failed to educate these white supremacists? Who were their teachers? Who taught this hate?”
As teachers, our job is not solely to pour mathematics, science, language arts or any other content knowledge into the heads of our students. It is our duty to our profession, to our society and to the students to lovingly teach them to learn and grow beautifully as complete humans. The fact that the violent white supremacists in Charlottesville moved through dozens of classrooms that taught English, Social Studies, Math, Science and other subjects while nurturing or enhancing their white supremacist ideals is an indictment of our daily practice. It says that their institutions may have effectively served math facts or essay writing, but it was with a side of white supremacy.
This may seem too harsh on my colleagues at predominantly white schools. Let me be clear: first, this is not about blame. I write out of deep urgency that we address the cultural and systemic failures in our school system that are promoting white supremacy. I ask you to consider how it is that we’ve grown accustomed to narratives regarding the failings of segregated schools that serve students of color, but not the schools that educated those who defend and promote that segregation.
So what do we do?
As we walk into our classrooms in the coming weeks, here are a number of concrete actions every educator can take to address the evil that was on display in Charlottesville. Some of these suggestions deal with Charlottesville specifically, but most will help educators address the longer term systemic challenges in our classrooms that foster white supremacy and other oppression. Continue reading