This morning I read an amazing post by Denisha Jones on the Badass Teacher’s Association blog. Jones explains why teachers need to be on the front line of fighting racism and prejudice. She explains important differences between racism and prejudice, and she explains privilege and that it underlines how things in society get interpreted. Every teacher needs to read her post. Every human being needs to read her post.
Even though I come from Vermont, I have the privilege of working in the one school district in the state where at the high school, 32% of the students are students of color and 29.7% have a home language other than English. Our district has been working hard for the last several years to educate its personnel; to help us learn to see and understand white privilege; to help us understand the struggles of people of color so that we can work to end racism and prejudice among staff, and among students, and between staff and students. While what happened to Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin hasn’t happened here in Vermont, we want to make sure that it never does. It is important to have conversations. To listen to each other’s stories and learn from each other. Jones makes that point in her post. This country isn’t going to move forward while conservative pundits spout their ignorance. The system that allows that sort of thing perpetuates an institution that poisons people’s minds.
At the alternative school where I work, we don’t tolerate language that supports prejudice and hate. For years we’ve worked to help students understand that when they say, “that’s gay,” they are saying something hateful and prejudiced. It wasn’t a big leap for our staff to begin working on the district equity movement. Now it’s part of our staff and school culture. We are helping to do our part to educate kids not only on traditional school subjects, but also on being a decent human being.