Sunday, July 6, 2014

How can I help?

There was a lot of discussion about racism this weekend on my Twitter feed. It made me uncomfortable, so I tried to avoid it. After all, I wasn't the one being racist. But then I remembered something I learned through the Institute for Healing Racism: anyone who has reaped the benefits of white privilege cannot help but hold onto some racism. And like addiction, healing from that racism is a lifelong effort; it cannot be  cured after a couple of workshops.

I also learned that it is not enough to simply act non-racist. Ongoing healing requires a commitment to being anti-racists - to calling out and fighting racism whenever and wherever it is encountered. The movie 42, a dramatic telling of the story of Jackie Robinson, provides a good example. [Warning - spoilers!] Several of Jackie's teammates go from acting like racists (signing a petition stating they will not play with a black man) to non-racists (at least keeping their racism to themselves while others verbally attack Jackie) to anti-racists (who call out the racism and literally stand with Jackie to show solidarity).
Being anti-racists can be tricky, though. Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, is attacking racism head-on by signing Jackie. However, because Rickey is acting from a position of power and privilege, he appears to be using Jackie, not working with him (remembering this is a movie's portrayal of actual events). Is this still an example of racism, however unintentional it might be?

I watched 42 last night, and along with everything else, it caused me to do some soul-searching. What can I do to address the racism that is going on right now, especially in education? One of the reasons the whole racism discussion makes me uncomfortable is that I do not have the answer to this question. And the fact that I expect to know how to make someone else's life better suggests I might also be thinking that I know best - from a place of power and privilege.

I do not want to think that I have to have the solution to be a part of the solution. Consequently, I am asking my friends and colleagues who did not grow up with white privilege to help me by telling me what I can do to help and support them through the racism they are experiencing. I have heard people of color describe the process of teaching people like me about the racism they face as exhausting and I do not want to contribute to that. But if there is something to do, something to read, something to think about, I want to go back to being anti-racist and helping myself and my community to heal from this evil.

1 comment:

  1. I am a student research assistant at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. Technology has created exciting ways to connect with others and form professional learning networks. As a part of an active member of a social media community made up of teachers, I wanted to contact you to ask you to participate in a study our research group is conducting.

    Research shows that face-to-face professional networks provide much needed professional and personal support to teachers. You and the community you belong to are providing these types of support using social media. We are interested in learning more about your experiences using social media to connect with other teachers and your opinions about online professional networks.

    The purpose of our study is to learn how professional learning networks created through social media are similar or different than face-to-face networks and what you feel are advantages of using social media to connect with other teachers. Our hope is that the results of this study will inform how professional networks for teachers are designed in the future. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to me at I will send you a link to a short online survey and will set up time for a short skype interview.

    If you have any questions you would like to ask about the study, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Kaitlyn Rudy
    Research Assistant
    Department of Mathematical Sciences
    Montana Tech of the University of Montana