Calling all teachers, parents, and students. We must all come together and get tough and loud in the fight against racism. We can start with our schools, a place where children and teenagers gather every day to learn. Learning about race starts in the home and grows in the school. Our schools need to be beacons of light and hope that one day we can end racism. But in order to do that, we must not shy away from hard conversations and we must not remain silent on something that matters so much. We must demand answers from our schools and pressure them to change. Here are 10 questions we can ask our schools and school districts.
1. How many black administration, teachers and coaches are employed at the school?
Our black students need to see black figures of authority. Our white students need to learn from them. No student should graduate high school without ever having a black principal, teacher, or coach.
2. What are you actively doing to recruit and hire highly effective teachers of color?
Just like the army and other professions get out there to recruit for positions, schools and districts alike need to get out there and find teachers of color.
3. How do you teach the subject of racism?
Is racism just addressed in history class when teachers lecture on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement? If so, racism needs to be addressed in all classes throughout the year. Pressure schools to invite black leaders and speakers to come to talk to students. Encourage schools to have seminars that address racism.
4. Do you read and discuss black literature throughout the school year or only during Black History Month?
Black history is human history. It isn’t just reserved for one month. Confining black authors, filmmakers, poets, artists to just one month sends the message that black history isn’t as important. Black history is human history.
5. How do you handle discipline? Are black students suspended more than white students? If so, why?
Ask schools to show you the numbers. Have discussions. Refuse to believe that black students have worse behavior than white students.
6. How do you train your teachers on racism? Are your white teachers equipped to teach black children?
Teachers should be required to read literature, go to trainings, and attend seminars every year throughout the year.
7. What procedures are in place for when a student or teacher of color is faced with racism from a white teacher or student?
These need to be clear and enforced.
8. Do you support and encourage people of color to have their own space without white people?
Are there clubs? Time at lunch for them to gather? People of color need these spaces. Give it to them.
“It wasn’t until I was in PoC-only spaces that I realized how much of myself I had cut off to fit into white culture, so being in PoC spaces allows me to reclaim those forgotten parts of myself.” one person of color in Shambhala told Kelsey Blackwell, author ofWhy People of Color Need Spaces Without White People
9. Are you focused on equity or equality?
There’s a difference. It’s not everyone gets the same access. It’s how are you ensuring that people of color get what they need to be on the same playing field as everyone else. Sometimes, that means giving people of color more.
10. What is your standardized testing like?
Standardized testing has long been rooted in racism. It isn’t equitable. How can we get rid of it or fix it, so it is?
I am sure there are more questions to ask. This is just an abbreviated list. Start here and ask your school today. Be part of the solution, not the problem.