Hello Educators. I welcome you to another week of increased awareness, dedicated action, and renewed hope for change that is lasting and transformational. Last week when I hit “send” on my blog post entitled, How Do You Raise a Racist, I had no idea what it would elicit in terms of a response. My appreciation goes out to everyone who read the post and shared it in hopes that we would continue to encourage reflective discourse around the topic of race and racism in this country. If you are a parent or caregiver and wondering how to support your children around this topic, be sure to take a moment and watch the recent CASEL CARES webinar entitled, Owning Your Power to Raise Kids Who Challenge Racism, that I had the opportunity to co-host with my colleague Dr. Deborah Rivas-Drake.
The time is now for change and reverting to what we deemed as normal in a few short moments after the immediate sentiment passes is not an option. Based on the feedback last week's post acquired, it is clear that what people may desire is a space to continue the conversation, to ask questions, be vulnerable with their current understanding while being pushed to interrogate and disrupt long-standing ideas that support racism. I am considering ways to open this conversation further and welcome your ideas on next steps we can take.
I’d like to take the time today to address what seems to be a common thread among the feedback I acquired. There seems to be a fear permeating that may inhibit many from engaging in the conversation and taking the necessary actions required to dismantle racism. Is this true for you? Some questions that have come up are…” what if I get it wrong?” “What if say something and inadvertently offend someone?” “What if I say something racist?” “Maybe I just need to keep learning before I say or do anything…”.
The hesitation to act for fear of getting it wrong may be one of the biggest hindrances to real change.
Our dominant culture so values the idea of perfection that we fail to realize that it doesn’t exist. Just to clear the air, let me say…you won’t always get it right. You may very likely say the wrong thing.
What matters most is that you set your posture as a learner who is willing to receive feedback and do the work to course-correct and adjust internally and present differently in the next encounter.
Stamping out racism is both systemic and personal work. For many of us, the systemic aspect of it may seem too large and out of reach but we all have access to our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions and if we are committed to doing our part, let’s start there.
I challenge us to be the types of students we want the children we educate to be. Be reflective, be inquisitive, think critically, engage in productive struggle, take risks, embrace the rigor of this work. We ask our students to engage in this level of work daily. Life is presenting us with the opportunity to take our turn and model in this moment. This is the heart of the work of humanity and it is essential to ending racism.
My sister, Brege, shared an ancient African proverb with me that elevates the power of self-awareness and the work that we must all embrace to end racism. It is the work of everyone. It is as follows…
Know Thy Self
A person who knows not And knows not that they know not Is foolish – disregard them
A person who knows not And knows that they know not Is simple – teach them
A person who knows not And believes that they know Is dangerous – avoid them
A person who knows And knows not that they know Is asleep – awaken them
A person who knows And knows that they know Is wise – follow them
All of these persons reside in you Know Thy Self
And to Maat be true
Maat is a principle of harmony and it beckons us to join the many layers of our makeup that define who we are at any given moment. There are aspects of our lives where we wise and can lead many but there are also aspects where we are downright, asleep, and everything in between. Your power lies in the recognition and acceptance of where you are. Give yourself the space of grace and self-compassion as you open up and move into action as it relates to racism.
In an earlier post, I wrote about the space that exists between intention and impact and the opportunity it presents for introspection and personal transformation. You will get it wrong. You will make mistakes and when people let you know that you messed up or that the impact didn’t quite align with your intention; you have just encountered the gift of feedback that can greatly shorten the learning curve you have. It won’t feel good in the moment but every misstep presents an opportunity for growth if you treat it as such. A mistake is just that, a take that didn’t work. Take a step back, analyze, practice some self-compassion, and get back in again.
Right now, emotions are still high and it may seem like they will never simmer but they will. It is the reality of the ebb and flow of the human condition. This, however, is the perfect time to decide on the action you will take to be a part of the solution. Don’t wait for the news feed to die down. What are you committing to do to stamp out racism? Maybe your focus will be increasing your understanding of systemic racism in our country. You may want to set aside time to begin having conversations with your children regarding race and racism and ensure that they have the understanding they need to mitigate this construct. Start a book study around any number of books that build understanding around race, racism, and anti-racism.
This week I would encourage us all to find an action that we will take and to find someone in our lives to hold us accountable. Tell them the action that you’re committed to taking and ask them to check in with you in 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months from now.
To be awakened means to spring into being, arise, originate; to wake up; to stir up or rouse to activity (Online Etymology Dictionary). Every aspect of this definition will occur at different times in this work. At times there will be discomfort, as there is when someone is roused from a deep sleep. Let’s seize this opportunity to affect change in a way that will write a new book in history.
I appreciate you. I stand with you; and I remain hopeful in the power of our collective humanity.
Let’s stay connected. If you would like to stay a part of this conversation; be sure to subscribe by clicking this link and submitting your email address on our page where it says…”never miss a thread.” As a reminder, if you have ideas on how you would like this to become more of an interactive conversation or you just want to share how this is resonating for you, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop ideas into the comment section.
In Solidarity and Love,