Redesigning for an Anti-Racist Classroom Series - Step 0
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police, demonstrations have taken place across all 50 states and several US Territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Floyd and Taylor's names are added to the painfully long and growing list of BIPOC who have paid the highest price for America's inaction on police brutality.
Protestors are advocating for the dismantling of institutions that uphold white supremacy in the United States and demanding justice for George and Breonna (the police who killed Breonna Taylor still have not been charged after 116 days). While most of the focus has been on the defunding and disbanding of the police, we would be remiss as educators not to recognize the institutional racism that lives within and upholds the current education system in the United States.
This series is predicated on the belief that systemic racism exists, that white supremacy is the foundation of many institutions in our country, and that Black Lives Matter. As educators, our work is twofold: we must create equitable systems and build anti-racist classrooms, and we must simultaneously dismantle traditionally racist systems, structures, and mindsets. If you are not yet in a place where you believe that Black Lives Matter or that our education system is inherently racist, I would implore you to start with empathy. Read any of these books (consider purchasing from one of these book stores), reevaluate your perspective, and reflect on your impact on students -- Step 0.
The purpose of this blog series is to provide teachers with strategies and next steps to build anti-racist practices in their classrooms and schools, following the outline below.
1. Unpack your biases
4. De-center yourself
While the first two blog posts in this series focus on learning, both external and internal, the subsequent posts will provide tactical ways for teachers to change their practice. This isn’t meant to be another book club, but a resource with actionable ways for teachers to create change.
As a white woman, I consistently questioned whether or not I should be the one authoring this blog series--after all, there are a lot of white women who take up space in the world of education. I landed on “yes, you should write this” because:
I believe the burden of anti-racism belongs to white people and am aware of my privilege (through whiteness, through the position I hold among leaders in education, and in many other ways) and recognize the need for my action.
I’m at a place in my lifelong journey of doing this work where I can both reflect on and recognize mistakes I made in my past as a white educator that further perpetuated systemic racism in schools and I am comfortable acknowledging areas of growth that I continue to have.
This doesn’t mean that my voice, or the voices of white people, should be dominating the conversation around race in America. Instead, we can listen, learn, and use our voice to elevate Black voices and experiences. Most importantly, we need to hold each other accountable: in the conversations we have, in the actions we take, and in the things we write--which is what I hope to do here.
While all teachers would benefit from this learning, this is work that white teachers specifically must partake in. White people have had the privilege of opting out of conversations on race because being white doesn’t impact the way we live our daily lives. America is a place that was built by white people, for white people. The absolute bare minimum we can do is to begin learning about and having conversations around race.
I’m fairly certain I won’t get this 100% right 100% of the time, but the cost of silence is too high. As one protest sign read, “I’d rather make my White friends uncomfortable than bury my Black friends.” The first series in this blog will post on July 7th and will post every month. I hope you choose to opt-in.
About Katie Camp
Katie Camp is a Senior Design Principal on the Design and Implementation Team. She began her career in education as a 5th grade math and science teacher at Bodine Elementary School in Oklahoma City. While in Oklahoma, she also worked as a Content Specialist for Teach for America where she designed and delivered professional development for teachers and spent summers coaching new teachers. After 3 years in OKC, she moved to Boston where she worked as a Research Analyst on the Massachusetts Education Committee. Her legislative portfolio included school climate and safety, personalized learning, curriculum, assessments, at-risk students, English Learners, and student health. She worked as the lead analyst on 2 conference committees, where she led the revision of English Learner policy and civics curriculum in MA. Katie holds a B.A in History and Political Science from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Washington, D.C.