The racial injustice and subsequent events of the past several weeks have been mind-numbing. Hate makes no sense. The events since the George Floyd murder have forced a space for thinking much more deeply about inequity, racism and what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of unsolicited hatred. Our black and brown children must surely be traumatized. How is it that skin color elicits such emotion and behavior?

Even more perplexing is the notion that racism has been and continues to be built into our systems, institutions, policies and practices. I imagine that is hurtful. People are taught to hate. This begs the question - can hate be unlearned? Educator, Kelisa Wing, suggests that by tracing, facing and replacing our past behavior we can unlearn hate. 

When tracing the roots of racism, we must look at our nation's history and acknowledge and discuss with our students its ugly aspects, beginning with slavery.  

Facing racism includes examining our curricula - are all of our students and their history reflected in what we teach? Are we systematically eliminating people of color from our hiring, denying access to higher level courses or positions, providing high quality teaching in our schools situated in high poverty and those with high percentages of students of color? Are we willing to have uncomfortable conversations with our colleagues and our students to raise awareness? In the past two weeks, I have been part of such conversations. They were emotional and uncomfortable, but I learned a great deal about issues I thought I understood.  

Finally, how do we replace the negativity required of hate? Wing suggested building cultural consciousness, teaching students to listen for understanding, developing in our students and community members strategies to help understand polar opposite views of the same issue to eliminate the us vs. them mentality. We fear what we don't know. What we should know is this - as educators and leaders, it's our moral imperative to listen to understand, break down systemic racism and learn from each other. The preservation of our democracy will depend on the actions we take now to trace, face and replace.   

Posted by Kim Miller-Smith on 6/20/2020