Racist?

A person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.

In an effort to close the achievement gap, we are getting training on racial equity. So far the training has been a mish-mash of presenters, some more effective than others. So far, mine have all been district employees that have had some training from the consulting firm that was hired to help us out with this problem. We’ve been given these handy-dandy bookmarks to remind us about our “Courageous Conversations.”

Four Agreements: Stay ENGAGED, Experience DISCOMFORT, Speak your TRUTH, Expect/Accept NON-CLOSURE

Six Conditions: Focus on PERSONAL, local and immediate; ISOLATE race; Normalize SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION & multiple perspectives; Monitor agreements, conditions and ESTABLISH PARAMETERS; Use a “WORKING DEFINITION” for race; Examine the presence and role of “WHITENESS”

Years ago, we were told that we needed to be, in a sense, colorblind. Now we are told that we need to see color. I have always been interested in other cultures. I travel the world to learn about various places and people. I make a point to get to know my students. I’ve been invited to their homes for graduation parties, quincearenas, weddings, and various other celebrations. When I see a student, my first thought isn’t about their race. It’s about who they are as an individual and their distinct talents and needs.

I understand that it’s important to have a grasp of institutional racism and how I take for granted some things that I hadn’t realized. I am white. I can’t help that. I’ve grown up in a predominantly white culture. For the past 18 years, I’ve worked in a school that is not predominantly white. That’s what I like about it. I get to learn about cultures different from my own.

They tell me that the color of one’s skin seems to determine the success that one will have in our school district. They tell me that the socio-economic factors don’t matter. For example, comparing affluent white kids to affluent black kids, the white kids do better. And apparently the white kids do better than the Asian kids too. For some reason, I want to see that data. The ones that are at the bottom of the gap, what kind of supports do they have? What is their attendance record? Do they rely on the school for the majority of their meals? Have they bounced from school to school? Do they have supportive adults in their lives? There are so many possibilities as to why a student is doing poorly, that to narrow it down to the color of their skin seems an over-simplification. Maybe it’s just the logical person in me that can’t grasp it.

The thing that is most difficult about this “training” is that because I am a white lady, I am automatically labeled as racist. Do you have to call me a racist? I have done everything I can think of to NOT be the person in the definition at the top of this post. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time and haven’t written about it because I just don’t know how. But it is very disturbing to be assumed to be racist. I understand that I have had the benefit of white privilege. But does that make me racist? Isn’t there another word that could be used? The connotation of being racist is just so ugly. I see that according to the bookmark, I’ve supposedly agreed to experience discomfort. But did I agree to be a punching bag or a scape goat for the achievement gap? And this training seems to focus on just black/white issues. What about all of the others?

To me, this is a much bigger issue that can’t be broken down strictly by the color of one’s skin. There are so many factors that go into the success of a student. It seems trite to just say it’s a color thing. I can handle learning about what can be done to help narrow the gap. But do you have to call me a racist?

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