One of our struggles as educators is grappling with the messages we received in our trainings and realizing that what may sound innocent and wonderful is actually problematic and needs to change.
How many of these statements, or versions of these statements, have you made?
- “I was taught to treat everyone the same.”
- “I don’t see color.”
- “I don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.”
- “Race doesn’t have any meaning to me.”
- “Focusing on race is what divides us.”
- “If people are respectful to me, I am respectful to them, regardless of race.”
- “Children today are so much more open.”
- “I work in a very diverse environment.”
- “I have people of color in my family/married a person of color/have children of color.”
- “I went to a very diverse school/lived in a very diverse neighborhood.”
- “My parents were not racist and they taught me to not be racist.”
In chapter five, Robin Diangelo uses these and many more statements to illustrate how we tend to make excuses in an effort to remove ourselves from the discussion. We do not perceive ourselves as being bad people. Anyone who commits a racist act must be a bad person.
But when we remove ourselves from the discussion, change cannot happen. We cannot work at improving ourselves and moving along that continuum. We cannot better understand our children, their families, and their needs. We cannot work toward dismantling racism within the education system to better serve all who enter it.
We don’t often realize how problematic our actions may be, because we perform them with the best intentions. My eyes have really been opened through several discussions in my general Montessori Teachers group, let alone the ones in the Montessori Social Justice Group.
For example, one educator recently shared some colorful pictures of women in poorer countries doing their daily work with their children in tow. She found the expressions of devotion between mother and child to be beautiful.
Someone pointed out how photos like these are known as “poverty porn” and try to minimize the struggles that these women go through on a daily basis. An excellent and respectful conversation ensued.
This is what it’s all about. Remove those statements from your thoughts. Participate in the discussions. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. You’ll end up being a better person and better educator for it.
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