A Nation Divided: Talking Race in America’s Schools


merry goCurrent statistics indicate that the racial diversity of our national demographic, by the year 2020, there will be more black and brown people than whites in America. The traditional, established ‘majority’ will soon become the ‘minority’ group. That speaks volumes, and statistically alone, there will be changing of the guard, so to speak. Since there is already a racial it is time for adults to engage one another, and initiate meaningful conversations about race, racism  NOW!

Children under 8, who are considered minority, or about whom the term ‘diversity’ refers, will outnumber white children under the age of 18, and right now, in 2016, they already do. These children attend our schools and because educators and teachers remain 77% white,  there is a pressing need for them to acquire a practice that reflects a culturally proficient mindset. Self-reflection, training, and biases must be challenged, confronted and altered if necessary.

The one setting where children engage with adults, who represent the larger society, is in school settings. So, administrators, teachers, parents and all adults, whether knowingly or intentionally, you are role models who inform and influence their self concept, motivation, sense of belonging, classroom behavior and contribute to their developing worldviews.

So, how does this difficult process begin? Conversation, and more conversation, and this is critically imperative to engage as adults before you can comfortably and respectfully engage in meaningful talks with your students. Hence it begins with adults.

When do you have these conversations? Administrators should make a decision to engage staff during weekly meetings, and ensure your school culture and climate is supported by a collective alignment with the goal to deliver to all students quality-filled educational experiences with equal opportunities and respect for diversity. Here are a few conversation starters to put you on the road to equitable excellence in education. You may present one question per week, but it must be ongoing and continuous, throughout the year. If we are going to continue to talk the talk, then we must walk the talk, as well. After all, words without work is just rhetoric!

fam-school

 

Questions to Start Adult Discussions About Racism in School

 

  • Does racism exist in our schools? What does it sound or look like?
  • What would it take to create a truly race-neutral society? Do we want this?
  • Am I racist? Why, or why not? Am I open to others’ critique when it comes to how I relate to other races?
  • Does the rise of certain groups’ influence—Latino, Jewish, white, Muslim, or whatever—mean a decline in other groups’ well-being? If people say yes, discuss whether this represent a “zero sum” mindset. Is this a mindset we want to communicate to students?
  • How can we counter negative stereotypes?
  • Are we responsible for teaching students and colleagues to recognize and confront racism?
  • What should we do when we inadvertently do or say something racist?
  • What do we communicate to the parents of our minority students about our expectations for their children?
  • How are we battling the student opinion that academic proficiency is inherently white?
  • Do we have a disproportionate number of administrative referrals for our minority students?

 

Start talking, reflecting, and be the change we wish to see…in the best interest of our students and ourselves!

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