I No Longer Want to Be Just A Witness

I have been thinking a lot about the inherent racism that my life is seeped in lately.  Mostly because I do not face racism.  Sexism yes, but racism, no.  Mostly because I see the news and I am dumbfounded, saddened, and outraged.  Mostly because I am a witness to how my students are treated outside of our school and the lives that they have.  I am merely a witness but I don’t want to just witness anymore.  I want to stop being a part of the problem and become part of the solution.   But I don’t know how.

So when I see an infographic like this from The Sentencing Project

Lifetime Likelihood Race

Or when I hear a Podcast like this “The Problem We All Live With” from This American Life and I shout at the radio at the injustice of it all, I cannot help but wonder; what can I do?  Or more importantly, what can we do as educators?  What can I do as a white educator who does not live this every single moment of my life?  What will change in our classrooms so that we all become part of the solution rather than a continuation of the problem?  How do we stop racism from flourishing rather than disappearing?

What do we do?  Because we have to do something.  And it has to be more than what we are doing now.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

4 thoughts on “I No Longer Want to Be Just A Witness

  1. I am also saddened by those statistics and I think it’s an important conversation. I think we teach tolerance to our students as fervently as we can every day. I know it often doesn’t feel like we have them long, but we do. We can make an impact in our lessons and actions. We are powerless in changing the views of strangers, politicians and maybe even their parents, but I don’t think we can discount the huge influence we have in their lives as teachers, as mentors. I just blogged about teaching empathy-I think that’s a very important skill. Thinking about how these words you say will impact the feelings of others. Maybe a small step, but maybe also an important one.

  2. Pernille, I too want to do more. I am a librarian and work hard to be inclusive with my collection policies and teach my students about empathy & the history of racism. I also know that I have a lot of work to do though. I still find myself avoiding some difficult discussions with adults in my life. It’s hard to interrupt when it’s an elder or when it’s a colleague, but we have to stop letting things slide. Here is a post with a lot of good ideas for interrupting racism: http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-14399-how-to-be-an-interrupter.html I’m going to try to do more and more of these things in my private and teaching life.

  3. Have you read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Courageous Conversations about Race” by Glenn Singleton and Curtis Linton, and “The Trouble with Black Boys…And other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education” by Pedro Noguera?

    I have found that these are excellent places for educators to start who truly want to do more about the systematic and systemic racism within which we live and from which many of us (myself included) benefit from.

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