Updated: Apr 7
Written by: Jenora Ledbetter- President & Founder, The Self Care Network LLC
It’s Back-To-School season! Millions of students have climbed on the big yellow school bus, walked down school hallways, and sat in class ready to begin the 2022-2023 school year. These students will be given loads of lectures, homework, and assignments to help them become knowledgeable, and help prepare them for the “real world.”
The problem is that some students might not be given comprehensive and factual information, while others may be quietly offered partial information and fragments of truth.There are events taking place at this moment in time that are hindering students from acquiring authentic, historical information in their classroom.
There is a massive wave of “Racial Panic,” ever since Donald Trump issued his executive order banning diversity training on September 22, 2020. Misrepresented idealogies surrounding critical race theory are set upon the belief that discussing and educating students about the history of slavery and racial oppression in schools is ”continuing” racism and teaching European students to hate themselves. There is also a fear that bringing up the “past,” will continue to hold our country back.
The term critical race theory is defined as a cross-disciplinary examination, by social and civil-rights scholars and activists, to explore how laws, social and political movements, and media is shaped by social conceptions of race and ethnicity.
There is a lot of controversy regarding critical race theory, with many saying that the idea behind it does not “exist,” and if acknowledged at all, that it is based on lies intended to misguide people and “make children hate America”. However critical race theory provides a detailed account of our history, and provides a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy. Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.
Kimberlie Crenshaw-a critical race theorist professor with the UCLA and Columbia University- says “Let's pay attention to what has happened in this country, and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes, so that we may become that country that we say we are. Critical race theory is not anti-patriotic; in fact, it is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because we believe in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment. We believe in the promises of equality and we know that we cannot get there if we can’t confront and talk honestly about inequality.”
There is much discussion regarding the difficulty that teachers may face when discussing race, diversity, and equality in the classroom-especially in classrooms filled with students from different backgrounds. One theory is that the discussion of critical race theory might strike self-loathing and guilt in some of the students when analyzing prior historical affairs. Another big concern regarding the teachers is the uncertainty and the pressure that could come along with having discussion with students, and whether or not those teachers will have the proper training, materials, and resources to do so.
Any apprehension surrounding the discussion and education of critical race theory is valid. Martha Gaakmat, an experienced educator and the Executive Director of Gaakmat Counseling, says, “Teachers are human, especially as they are trying to figure out how to teach about race and racism.” However; instead of allowing fear and fear of failure to cause a complete cease of these discussions, we should instead put our motive into preparing and putting a plan in motion, so that we may make these things happen efficiently.
There is a famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that states- “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This quote by Martin Luther King Jr is being misconstrued and many people that stand averse to critical race theory have distorted this quote to defend their argument against beginning and continuing education on race and inequality not only with students in the classroom, but in general. Martin Luther King Jr, years later after his “I Have a Dream” speech said, “I must confess that the dream that I had that day has turned into a nightmare, and I have come to see that we have more difficult days ahead and some of the old optimism was a little superficial and now it must be tempered with solid realism.” In a book published that same year, Martin Luther King Jr wrote-“The majority of White Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the African Americans. They believe that American Society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony…unfortunately, this is a fantasy of self deception and comfortable vanity.”
The conversations surrounding race and how we can improve upon equality and diversity in classrooms are fundamental. Here at The Self Care Network LLC, we consistently strive to educate on matters like these, and provide professional counseling and direction on how these beneficial techniques can be carried out in our daily lives and routines. Our goal is to supply guidance with these essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills, in order to create a more conjunctive environment for all to feel safe, welcome, and heard.
Here are some methods that can help build and execute having racially and culturally inclusive classrooms:
Creating an individual, one-on-one bond with each student
This allows for students to gain trust and develop a solid foundation which can help with communication, engagement, and learning.
Creating, Allowing, and Maintaining Consistent Communication.
Open and honest communication also helps gain trust and opens doors for students and teachers to be able to share relatable experiences which helps encourage connection and learning.
Acknowledging and attempting to understand every students background.
It is important to make a point of allowing students to feel seen and heard when sharing their experiences and cultural differences and respecting them.
Utilize Cultural Sensitivity
When speaking with your students about their culture and background, it is important to listen thoroughly to learn about certain topics or activities that may be sensitive for them.
Incorporate DEI in lesson plans.
It is important to use variation when planning activities for the classroom to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are all being utilized and practiced.
Giving students flexibility and freedom and allowing them to incorporate their own stories and experiences.
Allowing your students this time during school to have freedom and openly share their challenges and experiences will open new doors for their minds to be more creative and open minded, especially when engaging with other students and people.