If You Are Silent...
White Allies in Black Spaces
At my job I am tasked with being the “school culture leader.” This means that I plan events, measure data pertaining to the school climate, and be the authority on all things school (and Black) culture. I don’t mind; my heart lies in education and even more so Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and school culture.
My school — well, my kids — are 100% Black. The teaching staff is roughly 70% white. This is not surprising to me; for my entire career I’ve been in majority black spaces with majority white adults.
What does surprise me, though, is that as I scroll through my social media feeds I see coworkers that are usually quite boisterous online particularly silent.
I do a lot of work around Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) for my job, and just last week I presented a professional development on Bias in the workplace/education. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Coworkers exclaimed their thanks for my transparency and made pledges to check their own biases for the sake of themselves and the work. During the session we had difficult conversations, challenged presumptions, did role-plays and held each other accountable. But this weekend, when all of this “training” could have been put to use, I see barely nothing.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that my 1 hour session forever changed the ideas, opinions, beliefs, and daily happenings of those with whom I work. I also don’t believe that my coworkers are blatantly racist. But that is also why not seeing most of them be active in the conversation on social media bothers me.
I live in Milwaukee, and although it may seem like what happened in Virginia does not effect us here, it does. The same time last year our city experienced riots and looting after the police shooting of a 23 year old black man, and my staff participated in a circle discussion to talk about how police brutality impacts us and our scholars. But after the black tears and the white guilt, the conversation came to a halt and the action never began.
All weekend long I’ve struggled with how to approach the staff and students about this situation (as the authority on culture and CRP it’s a part of my job description)and how to move toward action.
It became evident that if I want to move my school toward a truly culturally aware community, we must go beyond conversation. We can’t stop at our feelings. We can’t say that we are developing leaders if we do not help them be come socially aware. We cannot call ourselves educators if we do not face the fact that our kids are not safe outside of our walls and the walls of their homes. We cannot sit idly by.
So, tomorrow I’m going to go into work and begin the work. I would not be doing my job if I did not help my coworkers find their voices or call out their lack of belief in equity. I am not being who I wish to be if I don’t graduate black scholars who love their black selves and are ready to lead this world.