What happened in El Paso: 22 Days of Anti-Racist Teaching Resources
If you read the title of this post and it made you uncomfortable, you’re not alone.
Teachers have a lot of reasons for being uncomfortable with talking about racism.
But part of understanding anti-racism is about recognizing our discomfort and working through it.
I’m still learning, myself, and I am not an expert in any way.
But I felt that this had to be shared, so I am sharing it.
This is a long post, but it’s an important one, so please, stick with me.
It’s been two months since August 3; since the shooting in El Paso took place about 4 minutes from my home. As the details of the shooter came out on that terrifying day, we learned that it was racially motivated.
The shooter drove from Allen, Texas (10 hours away) to kill as many Mexicans as possible in the hopes of deterring immigration from countries to the south.
That’s why he chose El Paso, a border city which, at any time, is full of people from both sides of the border. That’s why he chose Wal-Mart, a busy store with a parking lot full of Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua license plates.
He actually entered the store first to scope it out and make sure there were enough Latinx people inside. He stopped and ate at McDonald’s with a view of the front doors, watching the diverse people of my community walk in and out.
And then he went back out and armed himself, shooting people in their cars in the parking lot before he entered the store again. He killed 22 people (hence the 22 days of this anti-racist campaign) and injured 26 more.
My city is still reeling; billboards and t-shirts with the El Paso Strong motto are everywhere as we try to come together after this tragedy and remind each other of what we know about El Paso: immigration has made our city great.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about white supremacy and our educational system.
The shooter is only 21 years old. He graduated from a Texas school district a few years ago, which means he sat in our classrooms, learning about Texas and United States history; learning how to read, and think mathematically. He learned about how to communicate his ideas effectively and how conduct experiments.
But did he learn about racism? Think about your own classroom: What kinds of dialogue do you have about race with your students? This is not an attack. This is an honest opportunity to reflect.
Three reasons teachers are hesitant to talk about race:
1. They feel like acknowledging and talking about racism is “creating” racial tension. It’s not. It’s just pointing out what’s true. Race exists. Kids see it in themselves and others and have ideas about what it means (studies show this). The way people react to race has consequences for all of us.
3. They’re not sure how kids will react.
The best tip I can give you for this one is to start with literature. Read and observe. When kids make comments or react to racial issues being depicted in the book, don’t shut down the conversation. If you’ve prepared yourself, you’ll be able to guide the conversations to help kids grow. That’s why every day for the next 22 days, teachers will be recommending anti-racist literature to use in your classrooms.
It’s a common thing to hear, “I’m not a racist.” But what does that actually mean?
Does it mean we don’t say racial slurs? Does it mean we don’t believe people should be judged based on their race? Does it mean we wish the world worked differently, and racism wasn’t a problem we face on a daily basis?
Maybe it means all of those things.
But here’s the problem with being non-racist: it stops at what we believe. It fails to make change in the world.
1. You acknowledge that race exists. Being “colorblind” is not real; it’s actually really harmful to kids and perpetuates the idea that race doesn’t impact life or society (which it does). You can read more about that here from Teaching Tolerance.
3. You do something. This can look like acknowledging when you see racism in action, being an upstander instead of a bystander, and identifying places in your own life and work that reflect racist practices so you can change them.
1. Click the link to this Google Doc and bookmark it. This calendar lists the 22 posts that will be
shared, starting today and running till October 25. Every day, a new link will be activated.
3. Commit to addressing racism in the classroom. Don’t be afraid; just be ready. The next 22 days will help you be prepared to have conversations about this topic.
So, in summary: It’s time to talk racism, and we’re going to help you do it.
It won’t change unless we change it.
The Conscious Kid
Toolkit: Confronting White Nationalism in Schools