Dear Faculty and Staff:
When your personal passion project suddenly becomes the work to be done, you take notice. After a decade of teaching antiracism (from an ally perspective) to high school students, where examining the police brutality problem was a notable part of the curriculum, I as much as any like-minded activist cheered on the Black Lives Matter movement this past spring. While I mourn and rage against each senseless death, I nevertheless carry hope that this moment proves to be an inflection point in the drive for just society.
With antiracism in the public’s consciousness, the summer of 2020, spent in self-induced quarantine at our home in central Massachusetts, provided the opportunity to go back to school, to take a beginner’s mindset on what has been a steady diet of multicultural genre reading over the years. While I’ve pushed myself to read more fiction, and as such, consumed anything written by Coates and Whitehead, I knew I must deepen my education through reading more non-fiction. I was humbled by the endeavor upon realizing how little progress I have made.
I started with Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, a must read for anyone trying to make the world a better place for all humans. I realized right away that this book would serve as The Roadmap, and would force me to move away from the “suasians” of education and moral pleading, and focus instead on influencing policy.
DiAngelo’s White Fragility was an even more provocative read, and each chapter felt like a punch in the jaw. While I think her treatise on white privilege and white paralysis is overdone in some areas, I nevertheless chose to commit to address a few of my own practices: to stop unsolicited talk about what I am doing to combat prejudice and racism; to admit to my own racism (and stop acting like I’ve evolved past it); and to expand my friendships.
At the suggestion of my wife, I watched Ava DuVernay’s Thirteenth, about the U.S. prison system. I can’t remember ever being so angered after watching a film.
As the new school year approached, and I looked for something to think about other than Covid-19, I kept returning to two questions: 1. Where do we go from here? and 2. What is my sphere of influence?
I cherish the privilege of leading a nonprofit international school committed to equality and justice, though we have a lot of work still to do here. Being a diverse organization does not make it a safe place for everyone, nor does it make it an antiracist institution. I’m ready to answer the roll call, and commit to the following:
- To use my positional authority to enact meaningful and lasting change,
- To focus on policy (e.g. hiring and retention) over all other endeavors,
- To fully understand the support our community’s people of color need and deserve, and
- To diversify the K-12 curriculum.
Most of all, I commit to joining you in charting the course to create an actively antiracist school. This is not a formal call to arms, but rather an invitation to come together to exact change, to improve the experience of all community members, and to grow as people.
Are you in?
2 thoughts on “Roll call: Antiracist School”
Sure thing. I have been working on this for a long time, teaching a variety of gender and diversity courses. I was fortunate to work with Dr. Joseph F. Healey on the sixth edition of this text, now in its 8th edition. Mostly focusing on the challenges in the USA, however the sociology research is comprehensive. “Race, Gender, Ethnicity and Class”
I am in. I would also like to recommend “The Skin We’re In” by Desmond Cole. He takes us back to the origins of systemic racism in North America. The Doctrine of Discovery provided legal and moral justification, in the eyes of the colonialists, to rob Indigenous sovereign Nations of their land. I was privileged to learn from and work with many Indigenous partners, Elders and Knowledge-keepers over the past 6 years in Ontario to support student and community learning of ways of being and knowing, and of the impacts of colonialism and racism. Canadian Senator, and Anishnaabe Elder, Murray Sinclair, implores us to consider these 4 questions: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I? Knowing the answers to these questions (and the answers may change over time and place) gives us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, a place to start the important work we need to do together. How do I use my privilege? There is so much to unpack….