This is an honest letter about things you can do to be more culturally sensitive to your Black students and coworkers. Here we are fighting for our lives, trying to stay healthy during a pandemic and being faced with the unjust reality of America. This is America, the America that your Black co-workers and students face on a daily basis. As if it’s not hard enough for us (by us, I mean Black people) to cope with the daily combat of being Black, we also have to cope with constant microaggressions, and insensitive behaviors demonstrated by our White counterparts. Here are a few behaviors that I have witnessed from White educators that need to stop. Again, these are my recommendations, and if you choose to continue with this type of behavior, then know that Black people will just file you away with the rest of the racists.
STOP REFERRING TO YOURSELF AS “KAREN”
The term “Karen” is a mocking slang term for an entitled, irritable, middle-aged White woman that typically uses their voices to repeatedly make irrelevant claims against Black people. Insider does a good job of breaking down its origin. The use of this term by White women is not only culturally insensitive but it’s pretty sick. The person that made this comment is an educator and they assured me that this was not their intent. Please remember that the impact of an offensive statement is always stronger than its intent.
STOP REMINDING US THAT ALL LIVES MATTER
I mean, do you really think that we don’t think the lives of others matter? Or is this yet again another moment of insecurity and entitlement? Trust me, if the world believed that Black lives mattered we definitely wouldn’t have to remind anyone. Statements like these are insensitive and gaslighting. By choosing to express the obvious in a time like this you are sending the message that you don’t value the lives of your Black colleagues and students.
STOP BEING SILENT
Speak up! When you see, hear, or even commit some form of racial faux pas acknowledge it, or call it out. By doing so you are creating a safe space for your Black colleagues and students. By using your voice you are not only invoking change but you are letting people know that this type of behavior is not ok. We need allies that are willing to speak up on our behalf. Not saying anything is saying you are okay with it.
START CHECKING ON US
So there is this thing called Urban Trauma and all of your Black colleagues, students, and friends suffer from it. We’ve all had some personal experiences with racism. During times like this when there is protesting or another Black person has lost their life at the hands of the police, it is extremely traumatic and exhausting for us. This Refinery article explains it well. You wouldn’t know because we put on our best smile and continue to do our jobs, and work overtime at not acknowledging the pain, and weariness that lingers in the backgrounds of our minds. Please don’t ask us to explain anything to you there’s Google for that…but simply offer a word of encouragement or just ask us if we are okay.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
Seeing as though we all are locked out of our classrooms and away from our schools. There are still ways you can show your support. Check out these options below.
- Donate to Black Lives Matter: You can find the main donation page here.
- Get involved with your local BLM chapter: The full list is here.
- Donate to a bail fund: Some Twitter users are crowd-sourcing lists of local organizations that help bail out protesters who get arrested. Thread here.
- Support the National Police Accountability Project: This group, a project of the National Lawyers Guild, helps people find legal counsel. More info here.
- Sign a petition: Civil rights group Color of Change launched a petition asking that all the officers involved in Floyd’s death are brought to justice. Find it here.
- Or another petition: The “Justice for George Floyd” petition on Change.org already has 8.5 million supporters. That sends a big message. Find it here.
Tasia is a public school district administrator from the north shore of IL. She enjoys blogging and creating resources that make a teacher’s life easier. She moonlights as an adjunct professor and is an EdTech enthusiast. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Diversity and Equity. You can find her at Great Minds TEACH Alike where her motto is “Keeping you in the KNOW, so your students will GROW”!