Let's Keep Educating Ourselves about Structural Racism

When I started creating resources, I thought “I’m not racist; I try to include lots of cultures.”  I make an effort to buy books for my classroom library that represent a variety of perspectives.  I used to have a fun Cultural Foods Event (until continuing this tradition would have meant excluding students with food restrictions).  I thought I was doing plenty in my classroom to make everyone feel seen so I was doing enough.

Now I understand that although I try to kind and inclusive, that doesn’t mean I’ve been perfect.  Just because I don't intend to offend anyone, doesn't mean I haven't offended anyone.  And I need to be open to hearing it when I make a mistake.  Looking back, I can think of 3 specific mistakes I made in my teaching career.  One I was called out on.  One I saw others make too and get called out on.  And one that no one ever called me out on, but I realized oh...I should have handled that differently.  I didn't intend to hurt anyone, but I realize now that I did.  And I regret that. 

I recognize why the assumptions I made and things I said are wrong, and I won't make those specific mistakes again.  But that doesn't mean I recognize every mistake I've made.  Some might still be in public view right now.  I may make mistakes in the future and need to learn from those later on. 

Because I don’t feel like an expert I know I need to educate myself.  Here are some articles and videos I read/viewed:

Vera at Diverse Reads and The Tutu Teacher has helped me grow my classroom library over the past 2 years.  She is passionate about sharing children's literature written by authors of diverse backgrounds and I've been happy with many of the purchases I made.  When searching for her section to link you the most posts at once I realized I missed one of her posts so after I click publish it looks like I'll be doing some Amazon shopping!

This article has a few good ideas for addressing children's questions, beliefs, and behaviors that can easily be adapted from the family context to a school context. 

This is a quick (less than 7 minutes) introduction to thinking about cultural bias and how it relates to racism.  The speaker is a white woman (Robin DiAngelo) and it's a good introduction for people who are pretty sure they are not racist, but want to understand more about cultural bias. 

This is a TED talk (about 20 minutes) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about the dangers of seeing diverse groups of people as one.  She grew up in Nigeria and shares multiple times when her eyes were opened to seeing people as “more than one thing” and times when others made assumptions about her, as a former resident of an entire continent they know only a little about.  The takeaway for me is that one thing I can do to help round out my perspective better is to read more.  Fortunately for us, she is an author who has a novel about a family in Nigeria.  But if I choose that one to read, it’s just one of many stories.  And she humorously reminds us that fiction is, of course, not real.  And when we do choose to read nonfiction, it’s interesting to read from both sides of nations in conflict or conquest.  Often one will start the story at a different place than the other, which alters our perspective of causality. 

Of course there are many TED talks and book lists available to help guide your thinking about racism.  These are next on my reading list.

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