Black History Month is just around the corner. I’ve seen the posting of new books and the sharing of activities and TPT lessons on notable Black people. I know that some go all out with their bulletin boards and their quotes of the day. Some really push hard for Black people to be “celebrated” during the month of February. Many give themselves a lot of credit for their efforts in February but I wonder what happens the other 11 months of the year? Years ago, I wrote about my thoughts on the “Cultural Months” that are “celebrated”. I guess as the month where I’m supposed to be “celebrated” approaches, I’m reminded again why these months don’t sit well with me. In this post, I once again ask for a few considerations to be made.
Black Teachers Exist in Schools Too
I know that a lot of what we do in education centers around students. This is imperative. At the same time, I think that it sometimes gets lost on some that within the school setting, Black teachers exist too. We’re real. We face the same challenges and impacts that are presented to staff in meetings when it comes to anti-Black racism. Just because we are adults, doesn’t mean that we are somehow beyond or above any of it. When working to seek more equitable outcomes for students, it should not be lost on anyone that teachers are looking for the same equitable treatment. Please keep this in mind when you are speaking with Black colleagues and wanting to “pick their brains” for activities this month. We’re Black every month and I honestly think that many would be shocked with what we have to contend with year-round.
As teachers, we’ve all heard about impact versus intent. We’ve also heard that words matter. This month, while you are trying your best, please know that there will be moments of discomfort for Black people navigating spaces that were not meant for them, particularly at a time when they are supposed to be “celebrated”. If a colleague feels safe enough to speak up about something that is said or written that is problematic, listen. Learn. I know that it’s uncomfortable to hear that we’ve made a mistake but doubling down on words, concepts or ideas that are anti-Black is more uncomfortable for the person who spoke up. When someone shares with you something that is problematic, remember that it’s not all about you. Take steps to grow, move on and change.
Recently, I had the chance to revisit the notion of Black excellence with my friend, judy. It’s one that I have often struggled with because I find it implies that as Black people, we have to be excellent to be noted and/or celebrated. Me just sitting and being as a Black woman somehow isn’t enough when it seems as though the demand isn’t nearly the same for others. As you celebrate this month and the excellence that is Blackness, I ask you to consider and reflect on those you choose to share. Why do you share their stories? What is it about their story or existence that makes them worthy of note? While you’re doing that consider your Black colleagues. Are they as excellent in your eyes? Why or why not?
I’m certain that some of what I have said here as truth for myself can be the truth of others who struggle with being seen within education spaces. While it’s great that we celebrate the diverse identities that exist within our school communities during special months of the year, it’s imperative that we do more throughout the other months of the year. See your colleagues. Realize the impact of your words. Value existence as excellence.