The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools and the San Mateo County Board of Education stand in solidarity with those experiencing racism and injustice and call upon educators to seek change on behalf of San Mateo County students. Read their statement and resolution condemning racism and injustice and utilize the following resources for educators and families.
- June 2, 2020 statement from San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee and San Mateo Board of Education President Hector Camacho, Jr.
- June 17, 2020 San Mateo County Board of Education Resolution Condemning Racism and Injustice and Reaffirming Equity Through Antiracist Actions and Commitments
Non-Racist or Anti-Racist
Most of us, says Marlon James, are non-racist. While that leaves us with a clear conscience, he argues, it does nothing to help fight injustice in the world.
Watch the video and understand the difference between nonracism and antiracism.
Source: The Guardian
Talking About Racism and Injustice
Check in with yourself first.
Caregivers who have been coping with ongoing stressors are stretched thin and in need of support. Are you numb? Are you overwhelmed? Before we focus on what we tell our kids, what do we tell ourselves? How are you staying well? And if you aren't well, and many of us aren't, how do you get help?
Create a safe space.
Talk to kids without distraction. Find out what they know and what they're worried about, and watch for signs of distress.
Listen to our children.
Listen deeply and support their actions. Don't just talk at them. Hear what solutions they're thinking about. We can support our children in leading without leaving them to clean up our messes. Many of our young people have shown the ability to tackle everything from climate change and gender equity to mass violence.
Important stuff, in small doses.
While I believe it's important to talk to our children about the bad things going on in the world, if we are so lucky and privileged, then we can dole out the information to them in safer doses. The images and sounds of pervasive and chronic mass and racialized violence take a toll on our kids. Pick one event, one short clip from a protest, a social media post that resonates, or a YouTube clip of Trevor Noah's response, and use that as a conversation starter.
Cultivate stories of resilience.
Let us not forget that we have been through terror and trauma before. Every family has a story of survival and of resilience. Let's cultivate those stories. Let's listen, and let's move into action with compassion and empathy. Pay attention to, create, and share narratives, images, and sounds of our joy and resilience.
Commit to action, any action.
Action can be a protest, a petition, stepping in, and stepping up. But actions can be quieter, too, such as active listening, especially for White allies, to friends, to an apt podcast or audiobook, to activists, to community leaders. Follow activists on Instagram and Twitter who will inform, challenge, and educate; talk about their posts together.
I am holding on desperately and painfully to hope that things will feel better soon. We have been down this path before and we can survive together. Talking with – and listening to – our kids will help.
For more information on talking with your kids about racism and violence. (Child Mind Institute)
Source: Child Mind Institute
Break the news.
When something happens that will get wide coverage, my first and most important suggestion is that you don’t delay telling your children about what’s happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells her. You don’t want her to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone.
Take your cues from your child.
Invite her to tell you anything she may have heard about the tragedy, and how she feels. Give her ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about upsetting details. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
It’s okay to let your child know if you’re sad, but if you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else. If, on the other hand, you remain calm, he is likely to grasp what’s important: that tragic events can upset our lives, even deeply, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.
Talking about death is always difficult, but a tragic accident or act of violence is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them. You can also assure him that this kind of tragedy is investigated carefully, to identify causes, and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.
Help children express their feelings.
In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember those she’s lost: draw pictures or tell stories about things you did together. If you’re religious, going to church or synagogue could be valuable.
Be developmentally appropriate.
Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this experience.
Diverse Book Finder offers recommendations about how to evaluate “diverse” and “multicultural” children’s books
Books About Racism and Social Justice
American Indians in Children’s Literature Blog
Anansesem - The Caribbean Children's Literature Ezine
The Brown Bookshelf
De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
Disability in KidLit
I'm Your Neighbor Books (featuring New Arrivals and New Americans)
Indigo’s Bookshelf: Voices of Native Youth
Latinxs in Kid Lit
Rich in Color
Kids might have more questions about racism than ever before. Start a fruitful conversation by streaming one (or all) of the movies listed here. (Common Sense Media)
Individual racism refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism in conscious and unconscious ways. The U.S. cultural narrative about racism typically focuses on individual racism and fails to recognize systemic racism. Examples include believing in the superiority of white people, not hiring a person of color because “something doesn’t feel right,” or telling a racist joke.
Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. These are public expressions of racism, often involving slurs, biases, or hateful words or actions.
Institutional racism occurs in an organization. These are discriminatory treatments, unfair policies, or biased practices based on race that result in inequitable outcomes for whites over people of color and extend considerably beyond prejudice. These institutional policies often never mention any racial group, but the intent is to create advantages. Example: A school system where students of color are more frequently distributed into the most crowded classrooms and underfunded schools and out of the higher-resourced schools.
Structural racism is the overarching system of racial bias across institutions and society. These systems give privileges to white people resulting in disadvantages to people of color. Example: Stereotypes of people of color as criminals in mainstream movies and media.
Bias a conscious or unconscious prejudice against an individual or group based on their identity.
Implicit bias (also referred to as unconscious bias) is the process of associating stereotypes or attitudes towards categories of people without conscious awareness - which can result in actions and decisions that are at odds with one’s intentions or explicit values. This can lead us to make biased and unfair decisions regarding who we hire for a job or select for a promotion, which classes we place students into and who we send out of the classroom for behavior infractions, and which treatment options we make available to patients.
Microaggression is a brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities—whether intentional or unintentional—which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults to people from marginalized groups.
When we choose to be antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. Being antiracist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it. In The Racial Healing Handbook, Dr. Anneliese A. Singh (2019) reminds us of the importance of being purposeful: “You need the intentional mindset of Yep, this racism thing is everyone’s problem-including mine, and I’m going to do something about it.”
Being antiracist is different for white people than it is for people of color. For white people, being antiracist evolves with their racial identity development. They must acknowledge and understand their privilege, work to change their internalized racism, and interrupt racism when they see it. For people of color, it means recognizing how race and racism have been internalized, and whether it has been applied to other people of color.
All racial groups struggle under white supremacy. People of color groups are not always united in solidarity. People of color can act by challenging internalized white supremacy and interrupting patterns of prejudice against other racial groups. For everyone, it is an ongoing practice and process.
A Questioning Frame of Mind
A commitment to being antiracist manifests in our choices. When we encounter interpersonal racism, whether obvious or covert, there are ways to respond and interrupt it. Asking questions is a powerful tool to seek clarity or offer a new perspective. Below are some suggestions to use in conversations when racist behavior occurs:
- Seek clarity: “Tell me more about __________.”
- Offer an alternative perspective: “Have you ever considered __________.”
- Speak your truth: “I don’t see it the way you do. I see it as __________.”
- Find common ground: “We don’t agree on __________ but we can agree on __________.”
- Give yourself the time and space you need: “Could we revisit the conversation about __________ tomorrow.”
- Set boundaries. “Please do not say __________ again to me or around me."
As you practice, take note of your responses and ask: How am I processing the experience? What body sensations do I have? What is my emotional reaction? Notice what triggers your response and how it manifests in your body.
Institutional racism is the policies and practices within institutions that benefit white people to the disadvantage of people of color. An example of institutional racism is how children of color are treated within the U.S. education system. On average, children of color are disciplined more harshly than their white peers. They are also less likely to be identified as gifted and have less access to quality teachers. Racism in schools can and does have severe consequences for students and our future.
Antiracist education is a theory of learning and action to help us do the important work of dismantling racism in schools. It explicitly highlights, critiques, and challenges institutional racism. It addresses how racist beliefs and ideologies structure one-on-one interactions and personal relationships. It also examines and challenges how institutions support and maintain disadvantages and advantages along racial lines.
Antiracist education, while considering class, race, and gender inequity, places race at the center of its analysis. Focusing on race exposes direct links to unequal power, a system of oppression and privilege, and institutional practices.
One of the early formulations of antiracist education was developed by social science researchers, Carol Tator and Frances Henry (1994), in Canada. It lists nine key traits.
- Examining the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of racial prejudice and discrimination in Canada.
- Exploring the influence of race and culture on one's own personal and professional attitudes and behavior.
- Identifying and counteracting bias and stereotyping in learning materials.
- Dealing with racial tensions and conflicts.
- Identifying appropriate anti-racist resources to incorporate into the curriculum in different subject areas.
- Developing new approaches to teaching children using varying cognitive approaches to diverse learning styles.
- Identifying appropriate assessment and placement procedures and practices.
- Assessing the hidden curriculum and making it more inclusive and reflective of all students' experiences.
- Ensuring that personnel policies and practices are consistent with equity goals and that they provide managers with the knowledge and skills to implement equity programs.
Reference: OWL Purdue
Source: Teaching Tolerance
White privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.
White privilege is—perhaps most notably in this era of uncivil discourse—a concept that has fallen victim to its own connotations. The two-word term packs a double whammy that inspires pushback. 1) The word white creates discomfort among those who are not used to being defined or described by their race. And 2) the word privilege, especially for poor and rural white people, sounds like a word that doesn’t belong to them—like a word that suggests they have never struggled.
This defensiveness derails the conversation, which means, unfortunately, that defining white privilege must often begin with defining what it’s not. Otherwise, only the choir listens; the people you actually want to reach check out.
- White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled. Many white people do not enjoy the privileges that come with relative affluence, such as food security. Many do not experience the privileges that come with access, such as nearby hospitals.
- And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there.
Source: Teaching Tolerance
Don’t take it personally or use discomfort as an excuse to disengage.
Feelings of guilt or defensiveness are common responses, but ultimately, they’re counterproductive. Rather than centering your own feelings of discomfort, center the feelings of people of color in evaluating what to do with this information. If your instinct is telling you it’s more comfortable to retreat or reassure yourself that you are not racist, think instead, What actions can I take to help?
Learn when to listen, when to amplify and when to speak up.
When people of color speak to their experiences of oppression, it’s important for white people not to dominate the conversation or question those experiences. You can use your privilege to amplify those voices. Share the work and perspectives of people of color on social media. Credit colleagues of color for ideas. This not only helps marginalized people reach that audience but also helps spread their message from the source, rather than through the lens of a white person.
That said, there are also times when white people should speak up. It’s not fair to burden people of color by making them always take the lead on anti-bias work or intervening when something offensive is said or done. If you hear racist remarks, speak up. If you see opportunities to educate fellow white people about race, do so. As an ally, your privilege can be a tool to reach people who may be more likely to listen to you or relate to your journey in understanding your own relationship to race and white privilege.
Just as you should not always expect people of color to take the lead on speaking out against racism, you also shouldn’t expect them to educate you on racism. While it’s OK to ask questions of those who have expressed a willingness to answer them, you have the power to educate yourself. Seek out books and articles on the topic written by people of color. Critically evaluate documentaries that surround topics like slavery, race, the U.S. prison system and more. We have more access to information created by people of color than ever before. Take advantage of it, and avoid burdening friends or coworkers of color with constant questions about their experiences.
Educate fellow white people.
Share what you’ve learned. Push through discomfort and demand courageous conversations in your circles. Do not let peers get away with problematic remarks without making a serious effort to engage them.
Risk your unearned benefits to benefit others.
You have most likely seen a viral video featuring Joy DeGruy talking about her biracial sister-in-law using her white skin privilege to question why Joy was receiving undue scrutiny from a cashier. She risks her comfort and her easy transactions with the store to point out this unfairness and ultimately receives support from witnesses and management.
There are other ways to do this in our daily lives. It can be as simple as intervening if you see a boss or fellow educator treating someone differently because of their racial identity. It can mean advocating for a coworker to receive equal pay or opportunities. It can mean being an active witness when you see people of color confronted by law enforcement or harassed by bigots and letting them know you are there to support them and record the interaction if necessary. And it most certainly can mean engaging directly in anti-bias work, such as instilling more inclusive practices at your school or business or working with people committed to allyship and anti-racist activism, such as SURJ.
*Some of these steps were adapted from suggestions in Emily Chiariello’s “Why Talk About Whiteness?”
Reference: Teaching Tolerance
Discussing the Derek Chauvin Verdict with Students
On April 20, 2021, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three counts of murder and manslaughter. Almost a year before, while on duty, Chauvin killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes. Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s trial amplified the demands for justice and healing in response to racial bias in policing, the disproportionate use of excessive force against Black Americans, and more broadly, the history of racial injustice in the United States. Below are resources for discussing the trial, verdict, and related events with your students:
- Discussion Protocols
- How to Talk with Young People about the Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Verdict (Anti-Defamation League)
- Lessons Database (UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project)
- Teaching Strategies (UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project)
- Lesson: Processing The Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial (Mikva Challenge)
- Lesson: Accountability, Justice, and Healing after Derek Chauvin's Trial (Facing History)
Source: Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
1. Set Up a Safe and Respectful Classroom Environment
In order to set the stage and tone for productive discussions around race and racism, make sure that you develop ground rules as a class that promote safety, inclusiveness and respect. Help to establish trust in the classroom by doing group building activities and find ways for students to talk and get to know each other in different configurations (pairings, small groups, whole class, etc.). Teach and encourage students to disagree respectfully, ask questions, share their own feelings and listen to the feelings of others. Use ADL’s Creating An Anti-Bias Learning Environment for additional strategies.
2. Consider the Racial Composition of Your Classroom
Be mindful of the racial composition of your classroom and consider who is in the room when engaging in conversations about race. You might think differently about how to approach this topic if there are few, many or no students of color. If you don’t have any students of color in your classroom, find ways to include other voices by using social media, videos, books and articles or organize a Skype panel discussion to get diverse voices in the room. At the same time, do not assume students of color want to share their experiences or are knowledgeable and skilled in talking about race. Further, do not place those students in the position of being the “authority” or main possessor of knowledge about race.
3. Define Terms
It is important to spend some time defining terms. Students need to be aware of the terminology around race and bias, including the distinctions between certain words. For example, there is a difference between prejudice, bias, stereotypes and discrimination and knowing what makes each of those unique is an important foundation for having constructive conversations on race and racism. Similarly, it is critical to understand how implicit bias manifests itself differently than overt forms of discrimination which were more prevalent in the past. Microaggressions is another term that is used frequently but not necessarily widely understood. Bias and prejudice displayed in interpersonal interactions is different than those which are structural in nature. Use ADL’s glossary of education terms to help guide your work with students to understand the language of bias.
4. Connect the Past to the Present
Racism in the United States has a long and appalling past. From slavery to Jim Crow and segregation, there is a lot to teach about race and racism. When you discuss current incidents of racism and injustice, it is often helpful to ground the discussions in an historical context. Where relevant, provide historical background to connect the past to the present. For example, the murder of nine parishioners at a Charleston church necessitates a history lesson about the Confederate flag because the perpetrator was associated with white supremacy ideology and the Confederate flag; a public conversation about the flag’s meaning and historical connection to slavery took place following the incident. This can provide a positive motivation for reluctant history students to learn about the past as a way to more deeply understand the present.
5. Understand Perspective
Perspective is a person’s individual way of regarding situations and facts, their point of view. Help students understand that one’s perspective is shaped by their own racial background as well as other aspects of their identity, their peers, family, life experiences, what they are exposed to in the media, etc. Understanding that people have different perspectives on incidents and situations is helpful in deconstructing that one person may see the same situation differently than someone else. This is especially important to understand with racial situations because white people and people of color may not see the situation in the same light; within racial groups there will also be diversity of perspective.
6. Think Critically About the Media
Encourage students to be critical viewers of media, including print, television, internet, video, social media and other digital spaces. Assist them in analyzing media portrayals of racial incidents in the news by thinking critically about what they read, hear and see. This includes exposing them to a wide variety of sources that illustrate different perspectives and opinions along the political spectrum. In addition to traditional media, blogs and social media are good sources for this. Encourage students to ask questions that go beyond the surface: How do I know what I know? What is the perspective of the person writing or speaking? What influences their point of view? What are their biases? What don’t I see? Use video clips and excerpts in class to show students how media can perpetuate stereotypes and racism. In addition, reflect on the implicit messages you convey to young people about race by what’s on the walls and bulletin boards in your classroom, the books you assign and read together, the people and holidays that you talk about.
7. Talk About Structural Racism and White Privilege
White privilege, the unearned and often unrecognized advantages, benefits or rights conferred upon people in a dominant group, is an important piece of the puzzle when talking about racism. The flip side of white privilege is structural racism which oppresses and marginalizes people of color through societal institutions like education, law enforcement, voting, employment and other systems. Reflecting upon what white privilege means helps students understand how some people receive unearned privilege while others are disadvantaged based simply by their race. Addressing white privilege and structural racism are advanced skills. Therefore, it is critical that teachers have done their own individual reflection and possess the background and skills to discuss it with students so it doesn’t backfire or lead to defensiveness. Think carefully about your comfort with the topic and do not address it unless you feel comfortable and skilled in doing so. Consider using a new MTV documentary film called White People to facilitate the discussion.
8. Encourage Empathy
Compassion and empathy go a long way in helping students understand race and racism. Provide opportunities for students to hear the thoughts and feelings of people most impacted by racism through in-person conversations/interviews, narratives, videos, photos and recordings. Have students reflect on these experiences and focus especially on the feelings of others. In this way, you help students be sensitive to what people are going through in these situations and promote empathy. Allow and help students express their range of emotions (anger, rage, frustration, sadness, hopelessness) about what’s happening as well as listen with compassion to the feelings of others.
9. Inspire Hope and Activism
When we uncover bias, discrimination and injustice with students, it’s important we don’t leave them with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair. It can easily happen when you consider the monumental task of making the world more equitable and just. At the same time, we don’t want to fill their heads with false or empty hope. It is useful to convey a sense of "critical hope" that sustains positive expectations and inspires action and activism. One way to do this is by teaching about small and large efforts of social change movements and how they brought about progress throughout history. Provide examples of social justice triumphs won through the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary and extraordinary people. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Help your students exemplify that sentiment.
A wave of protests demanding an end to racial injustice have taken hold of towns and cities across the United States and the world. Backed by experts, these protestors have directly connected racial injustice to police violence, economic disparity, and environmental and health inequalities (many which are now linked to the disproportionate negative impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color).
The direct links between environmental issues and racial issues have long been areas of research and activism focused around the concept of environmental injustice, as described by one of the major founders of the environmental justice movement, Dr. Robert Bullard, “Whether by conscious design or institutional neglect, communities of color in urban ghettos, in rural 'poverty pockets,' or on economically impoverished Native-American reservations face some of the worst environmental devastation in the nation.”
The environmental justice movement is about shifting this paradigm to focus on environmental justice, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people (regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or age) in the process of improving and maintaining a clean and healthful environment. Environmental justice starts with improving the lives of those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution, and or those who are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change." (EPA, 2020)
The concept of climate justice builds further on this topic, exploring how Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American communities disproportionately shoulder the burden and impacts of the Climate Emergency (caused by human enhanced global warming).
- Environmental Justice Definitions and History WebQuest: This resource provides definitions and a historical overview to the environmental justice movement. It is a great starting point for teachers and students looking to gain more background knowledge about the movement.
- Environmental Justice Topics and Issues WebQuest: This resource seeks to demonstrate the intersectionality of issues related to social justice, the environment, and health.
- Environmental Justice Case Study Activities: This activity guide includes both mini and full length case studies, as well as a case study analysis protocol and activities.
- Environmental and Social Justice Annual Calendar: This annual calendar, updated for 2020-21 includes important annual environmental and social justice awareness days.