I’ve written over two hundred blog posts for Mr. Hill’s Musings, but I don’t think I’ve ever had less idea of what to write or less confidence in how to best express it. There’s no plan here. I doubt that I’ll offer any novel answers either (I barely understand the questions). These are just my reflections as I attempt to organise my own thoughts.
In various forms, to varying degrees and expressed in various ways, racism exists everywhere. This is a global issue, not an American issue. But racism has presented itself blatantly in the USA. Not just because everybody watched George Floyd being murdered by police, but with other victims that made the news, like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
But let’s remember that racism is present even when it isn’t discussed or captured. It’s an ongoing, non-stop and very real threat to black and brown communities in the US. And for every case of brutality and injustice that makes the news, there are countless others that don’t. The lack of accountability is staggering.
“Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s getting filmed.”
One of my heroes – and arguably one of the most intelligent people on TV – is Trevor Noah. If you haven’t watched this video yet, I strongly recommend it. I wasn’t going to post it here because of one swear word. Knowing that I am a role model for young people, this is a general rule that I have. But this topic is way more important – and including it will have a much more positive influence than leaving it out.
I’ve been thinking about this blog post all week and all the reasons why I shouldn’t write it. First, how can I write about racism, injustice and inequality from such a privileged position? As a white, straight man, I have no personal experience of this and it’s hard for me to fully understand and empathise. I’m trying though. And educating ourselves is an important first step.
Furthermore, on the few occasions that I have written about current affairs and certain issues, I’ve been criticised by a minority of people for the topics that I don’t write about. They have a point. I get it. Why do I write about this but not x, y or z? Does my blog suggest what I don’t care about, as well as what I do? For that reason, perhaps I should stay in my lane and write only about teaching and learning. I’m back at school with my students this week for the first time since January. I could have written a lovely blog post about that.
But however much I think about these reasons (and others) not to write, they’re always trumped by one quote. This is a quote that I’d never heard or read until this week. As an educator especially, it has really struck a chord with me.
“In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”
I guess that I’m like most people: quietly non-racist without even thinking about it. But I understand why the above quote has been mentioned so many times this week. I now feel the need to be vocally and actively anti-racist, starting on my blog, my platform. My voice is amplified here and reaches a highly influential audience: educators. I have a responsibility to speak up. Everyone should be – and needs to be – part of this fight.
First of all, let’s educate ourselves. Let’s make sure that we understand the roots of these issues and how they impact people every day. I’m a big movie fan and a strong believer in the power of stories. I’m going to make a conscious effort to read/watch content that builds my understanding and empathy (I welcome recommendations!). Furthermore, let’s stay engaged even after the protests end and the news moves on. I will stay connected with people and organisations that keep the conversations going.
As educators, let’s not shy away from these topics in class. I was trying to justify this by looking through PYP documentation about taking action and being internationally-minded. But we don’t need documentation to tell us this. Wherever you are and whatever you teach, we have a commitment to character education. These discussions are crucial so that we can all learn from them. Children learn to be racist from their environment and various role models. We must actively counter this by teaching empathy, open-mindedness, inclusivity and an appreciation for diversity.
I recently read Empower Our Girls by Adam Welcome and Lynmara Colón. That book offers excellent advice about gender equality. The advice can apply here too. Do our students have diverse role models? Do they have access to books with diverse heroes? Does our curriculum teach them about these issues? When we actively look for what’s missing in our schools, we can make changes. We can do so much better. Let’s have these honest conversations.
I also think we need to forgive. I’ve seen several people this week, including some celebrities, admitting to past mistakes. This also includes the NFL, admitting that they should have listened and acted when players were kneeling in peaceful protest. We need this honesty. We’ve all said/done things in our past that we’re not proud of. We should celebrate anyone who shows a commitment to learning, growing and being better.
I apologise sincerely if I have misspoken or misrepresented the issue. I’m no expert on this. But the fear of getting it wrong shouldn’t keep us quiet. As Meghan Markle said this week, “The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.” So speak up and make sure that you’re part of the solution, not part of the problem. Silence, I now realise, is part of the problem. Advocate loudly and peacefully – whatever that looks like for you – and be the change.
I believe that the world needs your voice, influence and teaching more than it needs your money. But you don’t need to choose one over the other. Especially if you feel helpless, consider donating to those who are already doing amazing work, or just explore the sites for your own education. Here are a few places to start:
To finish, I just want to state something clearly. I never even considered the need to say it before (some things should go without saying). But just in case you ever doubt it, whoever you are, I appreciate you and I’m here for you. You belong, you matter and your voice is always valued on this blog and in my PLN.