As a new year begins, racism and hate are very much prevalent within our school communities and our society as a whole. Yet, we still find ourselves struggling to find answers to the same old questions that keep coming up every year. Here are a few of them:
Why do so many of us still engage in selective amnesia anytime a Black or brown body is murdered or falls victim to the criminal (in)justice system?
Why are so many schools/districts still adamant about posting mission statements dedicated to creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning spaces when they clearly have no intention of investing in or following through with said mission?
What’s the point of organizing affinity groups for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students/teachers in your school if you still maintain an affinity to norms, protocols, procedures, and curricula that reinforce white supremacy culture within your school community?
Why are so many folx still wearing the Black Lives Matter shirt, the Stop AAPI Hate pins, rainbow colored Pride shirts, when they don’t embody the activist spirit of that apparel?
Why do so many of us still think it’s okay to only center Black, Indigenous, AAPI, and Latinx folx on designated celebration months instead of the span of an entire calendar year?
How can we sit here and preach the importance of children seeing “windows and mirrors” of themselves in books in one instance but then ban books that fulfill that very purpose in another instance?
Why are so many school districts still requesting for the services of BIPOC antiracist and equity consultants but don’t want to fully compensate them financially for their labor?
I don’t know about you all but these are the type of questions that constantly float through my head. Although these questions are all rhetorical in my case, I’ve come to realize that there are some folx who are still innocently and completely oblivious to what’s happening around us while there are others who know exactly what’s going on but elect to live their lives in complete oblivion. Although the sources of their inaction may differ, the concluding outcome of their inaction is ultimately the same—and that specifically is the perpetuation of white supremacy culture.
The bottom line is this: the permanence of white supremacy culture necessitates the performance of anti bias, antiracist activism and solidarity. That still remains to be the case as we begin another calendar year. Too many of us are still content with dipping our toes in the pool but don’t want to dive in all the way. Too many of us are having Milli Vanilli moments where it appears as though we’re talking the talk but, in the end, aren’t saying a damn thing at all to liberate others and, most importantly, ourselves. We’re insistent on remaining in our post-racial fantasy worlds and reluctant to face the harsh truth about the world we live in.
We want to change the frames of our glasses but maintain the lenses even though we are in dire need of a new prescription from our optometrists. Even if you change the frames of your glasses, your lenses will still prevent you from having a clear vision when traveling down the path towards radical self-love, liberation, and justice. You can’t manifest a world that you fail to envision and witness with your own eyes.
As a teacher, you are a LIABILITY to your students if you LIE about their ABILITY to succeed academically and thrive in a society that constantly hates them back. Your students deserve honesty and transparency no matter how difficult the TRUTH is. How will they learn how to become effective problem solvers and critical thinkers if we’re always protecting them from the realities of how ugly and cruel our world can be?
Shielding your students from the harsh realities of society will only serve as a disservice to them. The best teachers ground their practices in TRUTH and walk in their TRUTH so that their students have the courage to do the same. That is the very definition of radical love and liberation in practice.
If you know that you may be falling short in that arena, please don’t beat yourself up about it. One of the greatest things about being a teacher is that we always have an opportunity to make amends, grow, unlearn, and learn the very next day. Let’s keep that in mind as we enter the new year and deelply reflect on our practices. As you engage in your reflections, please consider the following questions:
Are you in this fight to PERFORM or TRANSFORM?
Are you in this fight for individual acclaim or to help your students create lasting legacies?
As an educator, is your function in conjunction with an educational system reconstruction?
Let your responses to these questions guide you in your journey—this year and every year— to become the educator that you want to be for your students, your colleagues, and most importantly, for yourself.
Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the ...