Skip to main content

An Anti-Racism Journey, Part 2

Part 1 is here. I feel like this could be as many parts as I had time to write, and I really hope that people offer some feedback.

After I started teaching Black and brown kids, I quickly realized the work I needed to do, and in fact that all white educators need to do. Realizing that we have work to do, however, is a lot easier than doing the work.

If you've never thought about it, take a minute to consider how public school systems are entrenched in white culture. The hand-raising instead of calling out, looking adults in the eye, lectures, sitting still... many of these are not necessarily best practices and are not what many non-white people do at home, but we force kids to adapt to this mold. I remember when I first thought to question this. I was a student teacher in Sacramento and didn't think twice about asking a child to "look me in the eye" to show respect. A Hmong parent gently pointed out that, in their culture, it was extremely rude for a child to look an adult in the eye, and that her daughter was being polite by averting her gaze.

Oh. I had no idea.

Later, when I was a classroom teacher, a Black mom told me that part of why sitting still and raising a hand was so hard for her son was because they went to a church with call and response, and it comes naturally to him to just call out an answer. He wasn't trying to be rude; he was trying to be helpful! And, as a young white teacher, I just thought that calling out answers was rude, because it was not how you do it in school!

White people, myself included, can feel extremely defensive when we're called on things like this. "Of course we're not racist!" we want to say! "Of course our school system isn't racist!" But that simply isn't true. I hope that most of us are never intentionally racist. But we need to look at our biases and what we consider "the right way" and who that hurts.

So, I suppose the first step in anti-racism is to drop the defensiveness and start listening. When someone says, "a racist system," it's not helpful for us to bristle and say, "But I'm not racist!" We need to pause, take a breath, and listen. And REALLY listen.

Then, we have to act. The time for talk has passed. It is no longer enough to just "not be racist." We need to actively be anti-racist.

Racism is a public health crisis. We cannot sit by and watch.

I'd like more ideas on this, because this is the part of the journey I am on. I have some ideas, and will work on writing them up, but if you have any, please let me know!


Popular posts from this blog

Distance Learning and Profound Sorrow

Well, teaching during a pandemic has proven to be very interesting as any teacher or parent can attest to right now.

(my new teaching setup)
Let me start with a few points of gratitude. I am extremely fortunate to still have income and thankful for all online platforms. I am also very grateful, from the bottom of my heart, to all the teachers who are turning themselves inside out to throw together some sense of normalcy for the kids and parents who need it, even as they're homeschooling their own kids.


I didn't become a teacher to sit at a desk job.

I'm trying to hold my gratitude along with the sorrow and it is hard.

As most educators tend to think, I have the best students ever. I left the classroom almost 13 years ago and do private tutoring now, so I have kids of all ages.

The teenagers I'm working with now think this tech is no big deal. They're bored and grouchy and EVERY one of them thinks that their parent is the meanest parent in the world if they&#…

It's Not the Teaching

My favorite thing about teaching is not teaching. I'm sure there are teachers who love that part of it - who live for the moment that a lightbulb goes on in a student's mind and who are fascinated by pedagogy -- who stay up thinking about different ways of explaining a math problem or a grammatical concept.

I don't mind those things, and I like some of them. And, of course, it is wonderful to see that light bulb go on. But that isn't why I personally teach.

For me, the reason to teach is the whole child.

I love dealing with their brains. Their brains are so different at different ages and stages of development! Sometimes students are absolutely infuriating but it's totally developmentally appropriate. Sometimes you can almost literally see the neural pathways forming, like when third graders start questioning why Native Americans are called Indians, and I want to cheer them on: "Yes! Think things through! Taken nothing for granted!"Sometimes they are so i…

A Message from Jorge

I am so grateful for everyone who came to the virtual book launch for Letters From the Inside: Hope in the Journey Beyond Classroom and Cell. In conversation with author Mitali Perkins, also a friend of Jorge, my co-author, we had a conversation full of hope and promise.If you missed it, you can watch the video. Of course, there was a very important person missing from the celebration: Jorge, my co-author. He will be incarcerated for at least another eight years. He wrote this message to all of you:  Although I cannot physically be present to discuss this book and my life, I hope you all can understand a life of a boy who was traumatized, hurting, and craving love and affection from those who were around. Growing up in the environment I was raised in was not easy and until today it is not easy. It’s been told that people like “me” who were in the wrong path, are set to fail. Most children do not get a fair chance to succeed, often times they are judged. But before judging a struggling …