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Moving Beyond Silence

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And ground zero for an equitable, nonracist society is the K—12 classroom. Before we consider recent examples of racism and how it affects all Americans, let's be clear: No one is born racist.

Just as important, racism is not insurmountable. In response to a recent Pew Research Center report that showed white and black Americans aren't on the same page about issues of poverty and racism, blogger Rob Wile noted, "While most black people think that higher levels of poverty and lower levels of economic mobility in their communities are the fault of America's legacy of systematic racism and under-investment, more white people are content to blame black people themselves.

Five years ago, I was giving a day-long presentation to a group of teachers in the United States. During a morning break, I overheard one woman say to another, "When we get that darkie out of the White House, we'll get this country back the way it should be.

Refusal to respect other cultures isn't confined to interactions between blacks and whites. On commercial flights, passengers dressed in Muslim clothing who are texting on their phones have been asked to leave the plane because they are making other passengers uncomfortable. And some of my Hispanic students have told me their parents have been shadowed by security personnel as they shop at stores. Imagine if, at a dinner celebrating local Cub Scouts and their achievements, the adult leader asked everyone to bow his or her head for a word of prayer before the meal.

Then he prayed into the microphone, "Praise and glory be to You, O Allah. There is no God but You. My family experienced something similar at a Cub Scout dinner. The pre-dinner prayer was full of Christian references like, "Through the one and only God, Jesus, our guiding savior, we are redeemed and made whole. Imagine those non-Christian families' reactions to such a prayer.

I asked the leader if there might be a more inclusive prayer we could offer. She dismissed the concern. As I looked around the room at the faces of many parents and children, I saw the real lesson learned: Not all disrespect and conflict is purely about race. Religious, cultural, and racial differences interweave. Stark differences result in fervent debate and divisiveness among Christians as well as among Muslims and Jews.

Racism, however, is among the most insidious and deepest-running challenges of our time. Clearly, Americans must begin talking candidly together about race—starting now. We don't need to justify having focused conversations about racism in schools. I'm bothered by my own silence at times as I witness racism. After I overheard the comment about "that darkie [in] the White House," I didn't confront these women. It wasn't a proud moment; in my silence, there was tacit acceptance of racist thinking.

I'm upset at my silence about racist statements and behaviors by others that I've heard about but not witnessed personally. It might seem that because the incidents are second-hand, I'm absolved from speaking out against them. Yet, how do I reconcile that silence with my belief that each of us is free only if everyone is free? As Nelson Mandela wrote, "Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

Besides the stunning cruelty of racism, letting it fester serves no one, not even the predominant group. We're in this together. It's ironic, then, that we focus on labeling differences among us, particularly whether those differences are negative or positive.

For example, if a teacher looks at the students before her at the beginning of the school year, it's likely she will wonder who are going to be the easiest ones to teach. Isn't the one we assume to be easy to teach the student who most reflects our own culture, or the one who looks similar to a student from last year we enjoyed teaching? We're already sorting according to built-in biases.

When we wonder who'll be the hardest to teach, we often guess the students who don't look like anyone we've taught before. Humans have built-in "other"-isms in order to protect ourselves. We categorize people in terms of ourselves and, in many cases, interpret differences from us in a negative way. That music they play in their homes is annoying! Can't they eat less disgusting food? We might even think, How sad. My neighbor who worships at a different church doesn't understand the higher truth.

Or for easy identification, we might resort to caricatures, versions that emphasize one or two attributes we think a cultural group has. All Asians are gifted mathematicians. White people who live in trailers are alcoholics. I sometimes question whether white educators can accept that institutionalized racism exists and whether they can do so without succumbing to paralyzing guilt about their complicity in racism's growth or becoming so overwhelmed that they give up.

I sometimes question whether black teachers and parents can embrace white teachers and parents who want to do right. Can they accept whites' sincere efforts to work together to end racist practices, even if they stumble or are unintentionally offensive? But we have to try talking with one another, because biases and quick categorizations about people who are different from us are expressions of our limited experiences with them.

Such categorizations are a slippery slope into classism and racism. With more experiences with others, we flesh people out in our minds and become comfortable with them.

When we spend time with quadriplegics, for instance, we come to see them as individuals first, persons with paralyzed limbs a distant second. People with a hardened stance against LGBTQ rights soften when a member of their family reveals he is homosexual. Yet talking about racism is uncomfortable. We avoid such conversations in schools because it could stir things up that we're unprepared to handle.

We might lose friends or colleagues for a while—or longer. Or we're so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing or appearing racist that we cripple constructive opportunities to talk about race and resolve conflicts. By approaching one another with good faith and caring, we can ease these fears.

As Howard Stevenson writes,. Students, teachers, parents, and educators must expect, receive, and give affection nurturing , protection monitoring , and correction accountability while they take risks to become aware of and learn to resolve racial stress and conflict in daily social interactions. Without these ingredients, the risks of racial avoidance will be too great, and the improvement of race relations and racial climates within schools too arduous to complete.

Reviewing and agreeing on the principles below can help us have candid discussions about racism with our students—or among fellow educators. Chances are, it's true. It helps him know that his comments were heard and considered.

Teachers' inner selves are on view daily by many constituencies—students, parents, administrators, and the general public. They are also subject to self-doubts and high expectations of professionalism. As a result, they may be hesitant to open those vulnerability gates too widely. A peer can be a neophyte in such conversations, but effective in the classroom.

The questions in Figure 1 can help start robust conversations in school communities. As to how to launch these discussions, I don't recommend starting conversations on racism at a large faculty meeting. This often results in side conversations, cross-talking, and "knowing" glances passed among people, and personal buttons may be pushed.

In large gatherings, many voices and perspectives don't get heard in fact, a few teachers might hijack the conversation with their own agendas. A thoughtful exploration of issues involving racism in the school is better started in groups of no more than six.

Build to a larger group experience after conversation skills have developed. What does it sound or look like? What would it take to create a truly race-neutral society?

Do we want this? 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.

Take the art teacher from Chicago for example. There can be no discrimination in schools because is disrupts the learning environment. There are many stories and accounts of racism in schools against African Americans. They range from the little things such as telling the black boy to throw out his gum but let the white boy chew it, to moving all the black kids to the back of the class. Consequently, the teacher was fired for racial discrimination. The racism that teachers put onto their students causes low expectations from black kids.

Because they have had so many negative experiences in school, they lack the motivation and confidence to do well. There are reports of black students scoring lower in reading assessments than white students. This could be the cause of black students not trying because they are not confident in themselves. It was also found that black kids receive more severe punishments than white kids for the same offense, and they are more likely to be suspended from schools.

There are reports from the minority parents about the discipline problems. Black students do not expect to succeed in the educational world because how can one enjoy it when their whole lives they have been identified as unworthy and incapable. Kids need to be taught about racism and how to avoid discrimination so they do not develop any bias thought about people as they grow up.

Some schools are even trying to make racism and cultural diversity part of their curriculum. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding African Americans, Asians, and students of other nationalities and kids need to learn and accept all people. Introducing students to the different cultures that are out there can help them learn better and perform better in school. They would not worry about students getting hurt and would all have the same opportunities.

Students would not be concerned with disappointing teachers or receiving punishments that are not appropriate. There are countless accounts of racism occurring in schools all around the country and the world against students and also against teachers.


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Racism can be experienced by all kinds of people in a school- students, teachers, parents, workers. Racism in schools has had negative effects to individuals, the learning environment and also the working fraternity. Racism in schools is a .

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Racism in Schools Some people seem to think racism in schools died out a long time ago. This statement couldn't be more wrong. Racism in the learning environment is more evident than ever, and it needs to be stopped because it affects the way students learn and their success.

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Free Racism Schools papers, essays, and research papers. Some people seem to think racism in schools died out a long time ago. This statement couldn’t be more wrong. Racism in the learning environment is more evident than ever, and it needs to be stopped because it affects the way students learn and their success.

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Is racism is schools self perpetuating? In my essay, I run through my thoughts on racism on school and how it may be perpetuating itself. It is my opinion that there is a culture within the school and community that makes racism both inevitable and ongoing. - The Effect of Racism in Schools on Education I recent years there have been considerable interest in the educational performance of ethnic minorities. A number of studies have been carried on this issue, a common example is the government - sponsored Swann Committee report Education for all.