"If you care so much about Black lives, why do you teach white kids?"
It may sound crazy but I am so grateful I was asked this question the other day. I stayed up thinking about the perfectly crafted answer, which ultimately led to a response revolving around me wanting white children to grow up believing Black Lives Matter, are valued, and are worthy. However, as I sit here today I need to go into further detail as to why I teach white children. I need more people to hear what I have to say. Black children do not need white women to be their saviors. There are tremendous amounts of damage being done by white women who uphold this belief. However, teaching white children social justice could save lives. Allow me to elaborate…
This past October upon completing center time, all my students made their way over to the carpet for our favorite part of the day, Social Studies. This day was important. While other teachers around the country, and some even within my school, were teaching 'in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue’, my kindergarteners and I were learning about Indigenous People’s Day. If we continue white washing history, white children will continue growing up racist. As soon as I brought a picture up on our Smart Board to go along with our lesson on Indigenous People’s Day, one of my students proclaimed how mean and scary Indians were. Instead of running away from this comment we discussed why he felt that way and continued the lesson by honoring and leaning true history about Indigenous people. Children by the age of 5 already carry with them implicit biases, so it is our duty to teach accurate history. It is a necessity to inform children of the inequalities of BIPOC, but we also must teach of the joy and successes.
I want you to think about what your education painted a picture of for a moment. Was it of predominately white men being portrayed as the hero? Was Thanksgiving a joyous occasion full of laughs and food? Was Christopher Columbus a man who discovered America and not one who raped and murdered? At the odd moment you learned about Black people in history, what was portrayed? For me, it was about their pain and trauma that they had to overcome, but never about their joy. Children need to see Black joy. Children need to be taught about Black success and triumphs, not just their tribulations. I teach white children because I want to offer them these experiences. I want them going into the world believing with their whole being that Black lives are important. I want them understanding systemic racism and how they can challenge our systems. I want them to know why it’s important to use their privilege and stand up for what is right even when it is uncomfortable to do so. Because our discomfort is nothing in comparison to death. White feelings can get hurt if it means we are saving lives. And please know that by no means am I an expert when it comes to teaching social justice. I have, however, made major changes since I started teaching and will continue to push forward to ensure I am providing my students with the tools necessary to make a difference. I’m hoping that they’ll have the courage to speak up at the dinner table. I wish for them to continue a journey of not only unpacking their privilege but turning that privilege into action. I wish for a better future and a better future means that white people need to recognize the ways in which they uphold white supremacy and then fight to dismantle it. Although I have included accurate history lessons in my daily work as a kindergarten teacher and a ton of books from Black authors there are many areas I wish to improve; especially when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Children need to feel seen and heard in our classrooms. It is important that children at an early age have people in their lives that they feel safe with. As teachers one of our primary goals should be to create an inclusive environment in which children don’t have to question whether they are accepted.
In thinking about the ongoing changes, I wish to make in my classroom, my school, and my district, Kind Cotton has teamed up with three unbelievable humans to bring you our latest tee, Teach Children Social Justice.
Derrick, Tamara, Shelby, and I believe not only in empowering other educators to teach social justice, but we want to give parents the tools to have these conversations at home. $5 from each tee will provide families with a box from Little Justice Leaders!
Each family box may include a book, a game, or an activity, and it will be packed with lots of information to learn from. Help us to create a more culturally responsive world for the future! Thank you to everyone who has been behind this so far. As always, we love and appreciate each one of you.