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The Buffalo Massacre is exactly why we need to talk about racism with white students (opinion)

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The Buffalo Massacre is exactly why we need to talk about racism with white students (opinion)

The discussion by the school leadership of the shooting at the Buffalo grocery store, which I joined earlier this week, was both typical and frustrating. The principal and deans of a suburban high school, mostly white, have devised plans to support their handful of African-American students and faculty after these racial killings. When I, as a consultant, raised the question of what kind of programming they are planning for white students to understand the roots and prevention of such horrors, I was met with a blank stare.

At least they were willing to listen. Another suburban principal once told me clearly that he would not authorize any school meetings or events dedicated to the murder of Eric Garner by police, and because the principal did not want to touch on “politicized issues” and because the issue simply did not exist. “Relevant enough” for predominantly white students.

If white people – especially white educators – see racism as a problem that only affects blacks, indigenous people and other people of color, it is like dealing with drunk driving by talking only to pedestrians. Colored students really need support at such times, but it is also precisely those times when white students and adults are most in need of anti-racist education. Unfortunately, these days they are less likely to get it: 17 statesthrough open legislation or other means, have adopted vaguely worded policies that limit teacher discussion the history and current conditions of racism in the United States. Even in my famous progressive home state of Massachusetts, a student teacher in one of my graduate classes complained on behalf of her principal about “teaching nothing about the race that occurred after 1968.”

The problem with the “not past 1968” approach, which governs what most white people study in their education K-12 – and I am no exception – is that it creates a false story that racism in America has been perpetuated for a long time dead people and was resolved 50 years ago. Stopping the story on Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that schools with racial segregation were inherently unequal leaves the wrong impression. Not learning about the many court decisions, some of which were in 2012 perpetuated and accelerated school segregation too many white people today see the current “wild inequality” in educational opportunities as the product of only vague and impersonal economic forces, or worse, that inequality reflects communities of colors that somehow attach less importance to education. Ending history with the Civil Rights Act of 1968 keeps white people in the dark about how structures and established practices are now health care, hiring, criminal justiceand drug protection continue to massively put at a disadvantage colored people.

Because schools are increasingly limited in why they can teach, too many white people – such as the 18-year-old accused shooter from Buffalo – are being educated instead of racist social networks that promote conspiracy. ”replacement”And other racist propaganda showing white people as modern victims of discrimination.

If white educators perceive racism as a problem that only affects blacks, indigenous people and other people of color, it’s like talking only to pedestrians driving while intoxicated.

The shooting at Buffalo should become an association in schools to give white students a true education about modern racism and how it is not only perpetrated by armed men but also reinforced by the unconscious daily actions of many of us, ordinary white people. Teachers can draw on a large number of authors – Zaret Hamand, Patricia Devine, Robin Diangelo, Diane Goodman – who offer resources to identify and combat bias that many whites are unaware of and would like to correct if they knew.

For example, school administrators and teachers may conduct bias audit where they collect data on course placement patterns, school discipline, college recommendations and more to discover where white teachers with good intentions can subconsciously put black and brown students at a disadvantage in favor of whites. White students can learn how small, unintentional comments or gestures that can be easily avoided (“micro-aggression”) can help create an atmosphere of bias and advantage and determination not to make them. If we limit our definitions of racism to purely conscious and brutal actions like the Buffalo shooter, white educators like me risk maintaining the conditions that give rise to actions like his, as well as indulging in feelings of helplessness in preventing such actions.

We are not helpless, and the desire to change the landscape is not just a call to altruism. Well-researched resources such as Nicole Hannah-Jones Project 1619 (explicitly prohibited in some state curricula) can teach white students and faculty not only about the impact of structural racism on colored people, but also about how institutions such as slavery and Jim Crow have shaped and continue to shape injustice in our economic and democratic institutions from which white people also directly suffer. White students need to learn not only about color civil rights heroes, but also about whites who fought – and, like Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and Viola Luzo, sometimes gave their lives – for the abolition of racist systems that harm us all.

Such education makes the fight against racial injustice much more relevant and much less similar to the study of “foreign history” for no purpose other than to provoke guilt or sow discord. Every victory in civil rights was also to some extent an active decision of white people to legally and personally recognize the humanity of their compatriots and change their behavior to reflect this.

These are active anti-racist decisions that every new generation of white people must take to prevent horrors such as Buffalo, or the Atlanta shooting, or the assassination of Ahmaud Arberi. Educators must prioritize in teaching white students the knowledge and skills that allow them to make such decisions.

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