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Monday, July 11, 2016

Racial Prejudice and Hatred: A Call to Action

When I opened my professional FaceBook account today, I read post after post by Chris Lehmann about issues related to racial prejudice and hatred. Chris has made it his mission to teach educators about how to teach in more dynamic, inclusive, open, fair, and just ways. He has partnered with educators from multiple locales, cultures, economic classes, and schools to build formidable conversations, action, and change. His own school, The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, is a hub of diversity and top-notch education. I have visited his school a number of times and have always been impressed and educated by the wonderful teaching and learning that happens there.

As I read about the Dallas police shootings this weekend and deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I am wondering what more I can do as an educator and individual to help create a better, more harmonious world--a world where all of our students, public officials, and citizens are safe from violence and are freely invited to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Where do I start?

I started by writing to my school district leadership to ask what more can we do to create inclusive schools where students are well aware of our country's history related to racial hared and prejudice as well as the opportunity that exists for greater harmony, community, and success for all students. In my letter, I noted our current successful practices in this regard including the fact that almost all educators in the system are educated about racial prejudice, inclusivity, and diversity, and that educators are working to create more culturally proficient teaching programs and ways to bridge the opportunity gap.

The video below fostered good conversation amongst faculty and students last year.

Questions and Perspective
I have many questions and perspectives related to these incidents. Issues I want to explore and learn about more.
  • Racial Prejudice and Hatred: I think we can heed the work of Elie Wiesel in this regard and not let the stories of prejudice and hatred die--we must honestly remember the atrocities that existed and still exist, and work together to make meaningful change. 
  • Institutional Crime and Negligence: I can't help to liken police brutality to the sex scandal in the church. The church let the sex scandal persist--they covered it up. Not all clergymen were abusers, and there were and still are many good priests. Yet they allowed institutional crime and negligence to persist. We note similar dysfunction with regard to law enforcement. While so many officers we know are caring, dedicated individuals, there are others who act with malice, fear, or contempt. Every institution whether it be a hospital, school, law enforcement agency, church, or the military has to constantly monitor, update, and evolve to do better. As public officials and servants, we have to be mindful of right action, education, and service to all, and we have to help one another to live up to the highest degree of professionalism and humanity.
  • Lone Wolves: In so many of our mass killings, the perpetrator is a lone wolf--a broken or deranged individual who espouses his/her hate and/or mental illness by killing many. It is unconscionable that our leaders do not work towards disallowing these individuals to own assault weapons as well as working for greater mental health support in our country. How can we identify these lone wolves earlier? What are the warning signs? Where can people turn if they think a friend, neighbor, or family member might erupt in this way? 
  • Community: How do we contribute to stronger, more loving, and peaceful communities? What can we do on our own and together to create a better America? I know there is more that we can do in this regard.

Learning from Diverse Voices, Perspectives, and Efforts
Further, our ECET2-MA2016 team is reaching out to educators throughout the Massachusetts to spend a day looking deeply at ways that we can better teach ALL students. Jose Vilson and Meenoo Rami have agreed to join us at this event to start the conversation. We welcome all interested Massachusetts educators to join us by making a presentation or attending the event. If you're interested, please follow this link.

I am reading the many posts shared by educators to educate myself. Here are some links shared that you might be interested in. I will likely add more in the days to come.

The problem of racial prejudice and hatred belongs to everyone. It is an issue that we can all work to change in our country. It starts with our words and continues with our actions.

Similarly the problems related to institutional crime and negligence is one that we all have to look at and think about. We need to work together as public employees to ensure that we are doing our work with care, respect, and the best possible intent, and then we have to work to protect one another too so that we can do our work well without fear or reprisal or harm. By updating and improving our own work and the work of our systems, organizations, and institutions, we will make positive change.

How will you act? What ideas do you have? I want to know.