The Role of Educators in Today's America
By Andrea Angelika Pimentel
The fight of the Black Lives Matter movement continues daily in streets across the United States, as well as across the globe. It is imperative that the citizens of “great” America confront their racist institutions that have prevailed throughout history and continue to oppress Black people. The Black Lives Matter movement has once again gained attention, after years of being ignored, to spread knowledge through various resources which address the United States’ biggest problem: racism and ignorance of the masses. In order to achieve a nation that truly embraces and endorses equality, we must begin with education. The education system is one of the most valuable institutionalized sites that can foster either hatred, or tolerance and acceptance.
Moreover, the education system is one that privileges white students. Oftentimes, students of color have to work harder with fewer resources and support in order to be accepted to a higher education institution. Yet, even when they attend a college or university campus, these students still face discrimination. Students of color often have to push more for their voices to be heard by their institution, while the white student population do not have to fight to have their voices heard and are able to focus more directly on their studies.
E veryday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School written by Mica Pollock tackles the discussion of how to approach teaching in schools. She addresses the fact that, although Americans hate to admit it, it is ingrained in the minds of the general public that racial groups have different intellectual abilities. This stems from centuries of social and natural scientists defending biological racism, which proposes that Black people are inferior to white people. In turn, biological racism claims that white people are smarter and more capable than Black people. In response to this, Pollock focuses on a core principle of everyday antiracism “race categories are not biological or genetic realities. They are categories that humans made up.” Therefore, it is important to teach this fact in schools to give rise to educational equality.
Pollock emphasizes that the role of educators in America is to talk about racism in order to help equalize opportunities for students across racial lines. The first step is to simply ask oneself: “which of our everyday acts move specific students or student populations toward educational opportunity, and which acts move them farther away from it?” The purpose of this first step is to recognize any biases and to ensure that the educator is building up all of their students and setting them up for success in the real world. The second step is to acknowledge the subpopulations of their school and address the resources that they need, rather than focusing on the success of a group of students who have higher access to these resources. Pollock suggests that educators must analyze the needs of individual students, which might seem difficult, but this task helps to dismantle the achievement gap. The third step is to inform the youth, through an engaging and productive conversation, about the causes of racial disparities. As more people become informed about racism, more actions will be taken in efforts to the fight for justice.
However, it is not just the job of an educator to address racism in their own classroom. Every person has the opportunity to learn history and what they can do to help make change in their own communities. One does not need to hold credentials to bring light to the oppression of Black people; they can learn through education and deconstruct the institutions that uphold racist ideals. Once enlightened, it is the duty of the educator to inform their peers and family members about inherent racist assumptions. Through this process, we can work to lessen the achievement gap and reach educational equity.
Pollock, Mica. Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School. New York: New Press, 2008.
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