Saying, “I am not racist” is not enough pt 2

This is the second of 2 posts about anti-black racism and being anti-racist. Here is a link to Saying “I am not racist” is not enough pt 1.

We are now witnessing some of the most significant events in recent history and they are direct responses to the overtly racist actions of those whose jobs are to protect the community. This is by no means the first time, nor will it be the last – regrettably. The death of George Floyd and other recent national news events have many ideological battle lines being drawn in the fight against racism.

I am hoping that these incidents will not be in vain if they can be used as the origins of how white people see themselves as complicit in perpetuating the racism that has led up to this point through their long and loud silences and that a genuine change can begin to end anti-black racism. Hence these posts.

Years ago, Desmond Tutu shared:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. “

These words circle in my head right now as I consider how my actions as an educator, or perhaps more accurately, my inactions as an educator have allowed racism to continue without truly being aware of it? Seeing the streets filled with protesters seeking a change to a broken system has given me much to reflect on from the comfort and safety of my home far away. I am watching in fear as I see a system threatening to turn violently against them and at the racists who are using these tragedies as a tool to sew further seeds of their hatred and intolerance.

The events of the past week have amplified hundreds of years of inequality, inequity, and injustice in the social contracts of western society. Trevor Noah shared this so eloquently, that when the contracts that society pretends to adhere and uphold are continually broken, then what is keeping all of us from lashing out against the systems that are not honouring them as well? The only way I know how to answer this beyond changing my own actions is through education.

That got me looking for ideas on how to invite and be open to change. Here’s what I have gleaned from countless educators and activists so far that I am ready to do right now;

  1. Take a stand. Start by getting off of the fence. Stop saying “I am not racist”.
  2. Be prepared to be uncomfortable, to be called out, and to be challenged.
  3. Take stock of my past.
    Reflect on what needs to be done better to make a difference to stop anti-black racism.
  4. Excuse myself from having a saviour complex.
    Offering support not salvation.
  5. Ask and reflect about what are some of my privileges?
  6. Let my classroom resources reflect culturally relevant anti-racist convictions
  7. Let conversations with students turn into listening sessions where ideas and understandings can be turned into growth and deeper knowledge.
  8. Think about how I can leverage my privilege and position as a white male cisgendered educator to effect change.

I am sure there are more things to add to this list as I go forward, but I also need to be mindful of making choices and decisions that can be achievable without feeling overwhelmed or giving up the moment when things get tough. I am ready to apologize for mistakes I have made, am making, and will make. Relying on others is going to be a big part of my growth. Acknowledging that there is so much more to learn will play a huge part in going forward.

Consider the straight forward advice in this recent social media post from Mireille Cassandra Harper as a perfect place to ponder and equip for the journey to allyship.

We have the means to be on the side that helps change history. As educators, we can use our privilege of being agents of societal change and good citizenship to help change the values of students/society to be truly anti-racist. It will come with discomfort, change, and fresh perspectives that may not match past experiences. However, as change occurs, it will also come with a community capable of seeing everyone within it included, respected, and valued.

Accepting that meaningful change will not happen overnight is something else for me to work past, but I know that these are my first public steps to do so. I want all educators to understand the urgency that I share in this post and encourage you to be part of making this the change that needs to take place. It starts with saying, “I am anti-racist!”

Huge thanks to Ms E Ng for her genuine, supportive, and critical feedback in the writing of these posts.

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Updated: May 31, 2020 — 8:19 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

1 Comment

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  1. Micheline Farmer says:

    Eloquently and powerfully written. I grieve for the recent actions of law enforcement and while we are currently focusing on anti-black racism, let me remind you that our Chinese community has also been under attack recently and that anti-racism should not focus on “Black Lives” only. As an educator I have seen that over time an acceptance of students with special needs has resulted from years of focus and action against discrimination. Change is possible and I agree that if acceptance and tolerance is not being taught in homes and families, it is our responsibility to ensure all citizens are treated equally starting in our classrooms.

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