California Educator

October/November 2020

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Page 46 of 59

Here are some ways to get started on the path to being an inclusive, anti-racist educator. Become self-aware Becoming an anti-racist teacher means looking at how racism — even when it's unintentional — hurts students. It means changing the way you look at students, how you teach them and what you teach. It can be a painful and uncomfortable process. "We have to check ourselves constantly and remind ourselves," says CTA President E. Toby Boyd in one of the CTA workshops. "We are going to slip once in a while and pick ourselves up and learn from this experience. We then have to edu- cate students to take on this challenge and make sure they stay woke. We teachers are just begin- ning this journey. Our students will continue it." Being an anti-racist educator means becoming aware of your own privilege. You can be "against racism" but still benefit personally from a sys- tem that offers privileges to whites as a group, resulting in your participation in white suprem- acy culture, observes Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. While white supremacy is commonly asso- ciated with neo-Nazis, DiAngelo notes, "white supremacy in thi s context does not refer to individual white people and their intentions or actions, but to an overarching political, economic and social system of domination" that determines power, privilege and access to resources. is sys- tem is woven into the fabric of America. People who are white or perceived as white h av e m o re p r iv i l e g e a n d f e w e r b a r r i e r s t o resources than Black people and other people of color, writes Dena Simmons, author of the arti- cle "How to Be an Antiracist Educator" published online in ASCD Education Update. "Constant self-reflection enhances our ability to disrupt white privilege when we see or enact it," adds Simmons. She encourages educators to ask themselves the following questions: • How does your power and privilege show up in your work with students, take up space, or silence others? • What narratives are you telling yourself about students, and how does that affect grading, behavior management and other interactions? • Do you and the academic materials you use uphold white- ness or lift up the voices and experiences of people of color? Make your curriculum and class inclusive For far too many schools, Black history is something relegated to the month of February, focusing on Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Rosa Parks. But superficial curricu- lum about slavery and civil rights robs all students of a chance to understand the past and where we are today as a nation. "I didn't learn the real story of Rosa Parks until college," says Erika Jones, a member of United Teachers Los Angeles and a CTA Board member, in a CTA roundtable discussion on "Being an Anti-racist Educator." "I just thought she was older, that she was tired, and that she needed to sit down. But she was not an older woman w ho wanted to sit down . She was part of an organized civil rights action. I asked kids in my class, the majority whom are Black, what they thought about that. One said, 'If they told us the truth, then we would know our power.' Just think about that." Jaco encourages educators to look at every- thing they do and teach through a racial and social justice lens, letting students know that their culture is valued and that they can con- tr i b u t e p o sit iv e ly t o th e c o nv e r s a t i o n . S h e advises teachers to look beyond textbooks for relevant material. "Put students at the center. Make space for them. What can they teach us about their culture, language and music?" Focus on scientists, mathematicians and other accomplished historical figures who are cultur- ally relevant, says Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. She notes that most people never heard of brilliant African American female mathematicians and scientists until the release of the film Hidden Figures, or studied George Washington Carver, the most prominent Erika Jones Taunya Jaco "Being an anti-racist is about seeing race, acknowledging the system, and also acknowledging that we have much work to do in dismantling it." —ERIKA JONES, United Teachers Los Angeles 45 O C T O B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 0

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