Challenging Racism: An Educator’s Call
As I walked through my neighborhood earlier this week, I was aware that in my white skin, the only immediate threat to my health might be getting too close to the jogger who was not wearing a mask. Many of our students at Dearborn Academy do not have that privilege. They leave their homes every day knowing that they may confront hostility, harassment – or worse – because of their black or brown skin.
We live in a country that institutionalized racial disparity in its founding documents. Today, many assumptions, opportunities and privileges continue to be based on race. The race I was born into profits from the injustice that my students, colleagues, neighbors and loved ones with brown and black skin experience.
Injustice for people of color is not new, but thank goodness it is harder and harder for white people to look away. To my white caregivers, staff, students, supporters and friends, I say that it is not enough to pray and send our thoughts.
I challenge you to join me to work for change to systems that serve to keep many black and brown people in communities with poorly funded schools, inadequate health care, limited access to healthy food, and other deprivations. AND, work to change police departments that do not work to protect and serve ALL people.
What We Commit to Do at Dearborn Academy
As role models for students, Dearborn staff members have an obligation, and the privilege, to teach by example. Our work for diversity and inclusion is part of everything we do. However, the ongoing – and perhaps increasing – racism and police brutality that has left black and brown communities wounded and staggering demands that we do more.
We are recommitting ourselves to make explicit that we know all people are created equal and deserve to be treated with the dignity they are born with. We must have brave conversations in which we are prepared to talk about our own racist thoughts and fears. As school staff members, we are obligated to have difficult and uncomfortable discussions with one another to help change the world for our students. As a staff, I know that we can do all of these things if we keep our students at the center, and keep our hearts and minds open.
This is not about politics. It is about dignity for all humans. No child should have to sing a song asking to live as in this video.
At Dearborn, we are taking/have taken the following actions to make sure that Black Lives Matter:
The Multicultural Club held space for students to share how they were feeling about the current #BlackLivesMatter protests and recent deaths at the hands of police of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and the many more that came before them. Students were also asked, “What is your dream for the future?”
For a high-school wide conversation, staff members were asked to make sure that every student had at least one conversation where they heard Black Lives Matter affirmed. Multiple and numerous conversations with our students helped to ensure that students of color felt safe before joining larger discussions.
The people of color on our staff are meeting to discuss ways they can support students – and each other, as Dearborn expands its work to address oppression in the coming months and years.
Staff have been sharing resources with each other and for families to aid in deep discussions about race and racism, including the website Raising Race Conscious Children.
Staff members have been holding meetings in components (clinical, educational, milieu) to have small group staff discussions and offer support for each other and to challenge ourselves, as well as in all staff meetings.
Taking into consideration the trauma and/or mental health challenges that our students face, our staff members planned individualized, trauma-informed approaches to discussing the violence and racism impacting our students and communities.
We are communicating with caregivers and asking them to partner in the discussions and support of our students. Most of our caregivers are spending more time than ever with their students and can be present and working alongside our staff in ways impossible before school buildings were ordered to be closed.