To be frank, I’m tired.
Just this week, I saw George Floyd, get murdered by police and within the past 3 weeks, both Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have been murdered at the hands of people in authority. As a black woman, these deaths have weighed heavily on my heart. After experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, it made me further reflect on the lives of the many black persons around the world facing racial injustice, which threatens their lives every day.
In one of my previous articles, I wrote about the demographics of my current school. I teach one black student, and I am one of two black teachers in the school. The emotional toll that I experience is unique to my non-black co-workers and weighs heavy on me. My own mental health has made it difficult to carry out my lessons after witnessing another these brutal deaths of Arbery, Floyd, and Taylor. Now add the questionable death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young black woman in Toronto, has affected me in a way that can make doing my day job and interacting with my colleagues harder.
When I woke up the morning after George Floyd’s death, I didn’t get any messages from my co-workers, see any notices from my school, or hear any comments from my students about the incident. While these things aren’t mandatory and my school is based in a different country, it was startling. When I worked in the United States, my students would often want to spend the entire class period to talk about these incidents and discuss the racial biases and injustices that black persons face every day. I recognize that persons deal with trauma and triggering events differently, but I can’t help but think about the distance (both literal and figurative) that my school feels from incidents like this. As an educator, my responsibility is to bring these discussions into my classroom. At the same time, it’s hard to think about the fact that this responsibility may fall solely on my shoulders, as one of the only black teachers in the school.
As I’m still new to Canada, I’m continuously learning about the history of Canada’s racial inequities and as such, I’m continuing to reflect on how to address the experiences of black people across North America (and the world) in my class. These are difficult times right now due to COVID-19 & racial tensions, but a word of advice to non-black teachers and to school administrators: check on your black coworkers & black staff. See how they’re doing and research how you can support them during this time. It’s already difficult to be black in North America and then to witness these heinous crimes, makes it worse. As we’re approaching the end of the semester, non-black staff and school administrators need to do the following:
Ask yourself what specific programs do you have in place to support your black staff, and black students, especially during these times? (This applies to schools across North America and outside of this region).
How do you check your own privilege and distance from the violence towards black persons?
How do you include black voices in your school programs etc.?
How can you improve your hiring practices to include more persons of color on your staff?
How can you be the best ally to your black co-workers as possible?
How are you integrating social justice curriculum or culturally responsive lessons within your classrooms to ensure that your students are engaging with racial inequities?
How do you address incidents based on hate and discrimination within your school and/or districts and what message does this communicate to your student population?
How do you remain consistent with your messages about justice throughout the school year and not just only when major incidents occur?
What are you doing in your personal lives to support and stand in solidarity with the black community?
Schools should be inclusive and it’s important that schools support their black students and staff to ensure they feel safe within their institution.
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