Making Your Voice Heard, When Your School Condones Racism
For a world already badly hit and hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd was too much to stomach. The nature of his death provoked a wave of protests around the US and beyond under the “black lives matter” banner.
Following this ugly incident, bitter conversations around racism in America have begun. Many schools are starting to acknowledge that even unintentionally, some of their age-long policies have reinforced systemic bias. Yet, some other schools are ignoring these conversations and are not even willing to redress these issues.
It can be challenging to work in such places and almost impossible to reverse the school’s culture singlehandedly. Still, silence is not an option. If you stay in such settings and are willing to make a difference, here are some ways to go about it.
- Educate Yourself.
Being better prepared to help students or co-workers of other racial identities will require training that teaches the skills that are needed to tutor multiracial classrooms. These seminars generally evoke increased sensitivity to racial issues and empathy towards the plight of students of color. At the end of each program, you have acquired the necessary strategies for improving the development of all students and addressing racism in your school. You also expand your network and connect with a community of allies against discrimination in schools or families around you.
- Probe your School Policies.
Some schools have age-long observances that have not undergone review in a very long time, and because they are archaic, they may be promoting institutional racism.
After becoming skilled at identifying racism, you should look critically at these statutes to review them and uncover policies unfair to students of color. You will have to look through classroom arrangement practices, student discipline guidelines, and admission policies to find any clauses that are unfair to multiracial students.
- Criticize School Uniforms.
School outfits can be unfair to students, especially non-binary students. These outfits are usually gender designated and can be discriminating against queer students. These dress codes even go on to sanction hairstyles and outlaw those with certain cultural relevancies for multiracial communities.
Students are now in a position to decide whether to conform to the school uniform or being punished for preserving their cultural identities. Punishments that are unrelated to and not consequences of classroom behaviors are unnecessary and should cease. Review the dress code policies with a panel, and convey your recommendations to the administrators.
- Address Racist Behaviors.
Once in a while, you will encounter racist behaviors or hear discriminatory remarks; please don’t ignore them. It is your part to play if you want a school that accommodates multiracial identities.
Your responses must be firm but not punitive. Instead, it should open up dialogue. Some strategies to employ are these:
- Use suggestive instead of accusatory statements. So, rather than saying, “That statement is racist,” you should use “I feel that language is racist and harsh, please change it.”
- Keep your emotions in check. It is easy to be inflamed by discriminatory remarks and attitudes, to the point of lashing out at the perpetrator. Try to step back and gain control of your emotions before approaching the offender to express your displeasure in a non-offensive manner.
- Reverse the roles. People are more empathic when they are in the shoes of the victim. Ask them, “how would you feel if this happened to you?”
- Listen. One way to correct racist notions is by defeating their opinions with superior arguments. You can only deconstruct their ideas when you have a mutually respectful discussion with them, even when you may not like what they have to say.
- Engage their microaggression. Many persons are allies of discrimination without recognizing, they exhibit this in their microaggressions, and it can go unnoticed even by themselves. In discussions with them, query their choice of expressions and some actions by asking them, “Why did you make that utterance/ do that?”
- Question discriminatory practices. You should gently express your disagreement with specific rules and highlight how it affects the multiracial student and staff population.
After a level of self-awareness, you start to identify racism in other areas. If you need help addressing specific issues, you should refer to resources. These revised policies are not cast in stone; you should reexamine them regularly to conform to the current cultural environment.
- Get Administrators on Board.
After identifying inimical policies affecting colored families, you will have to engage your school leaders to get on board and adopt anti-racist programs. Please provide them with specific problematic issues that they should address to foster inclusivity in the schools.
If you are finding it difficult on how to go about this process, here are some tips:
- Avoid being overwhelmed by emotions and getting into angry altercations. Stick to the facts always.
- Request for a meeting with the School Proprietor or President to discuss your concerns on racism.
- Compile evidence in the form of published studies or news articles and any other relevant information you can get. It will be easier to convince others if you prepare.
- Some members of the school board or community may be supporting anti-racist initiatives already; reach out to them for solidarity and advice.
Remember, justice may be a long rough road.
Speaking up against systemic injustices like racism is difficult, and if it puts your job on the line, it can be harder on you.
It would help if you prepare for some resistance, and thus, it is advisable to surround yourself with anti-racist associates. They will be of assistance through the challenging periods with moral support and advice at critical moments.
When you are overwhelmed with despair, remember that history will be kind to you.