As a parent of children of color, I need to be heard. I’m tired of being dismissed by White defensiveness and the overwhelming White fear of being called a racist. I am in need of having a real conversation about my child, a conversation that not only openly and honestly acknowledges both my child’s successes and struggles but also addresses your biases and mental models when it comes to your students of color and their racial experience.
I need you to acknowledge that my Black daughter, who loves science, may not be engaged in your class because she is expected to learn mostly about the contributions of White scientists without any significant time spent on the contributions of scientists of color. I know it’s fun and easy to share the fact that a Black scientist invented the Super Soaker but what about the more serious science?
In order to envision herself as a scientist, my daughter needs you to acknowledge the fact that a Black scientist invented one of the most significant lifesaving tools in medicine today, the large scale blood bank. She also needs to know about the various contributions that Indigenous Peoples of America made to modern medicine (as our family, like many, has indigenous roots).
I need you to acknowledge the fact that my Black son may not be engaged because the vast majority of time spent in most of his history class is on White history. Yet, this country has a history that involves several races, cultures and ethnicities.
It’s time to break away from the idea of Black History Month and realize that Black history is United States history. Though celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inspiring leadership and the bravery of Rosa Parks is comfortable for you, my son needs you to dive into the uncomfortable as well; the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, spend real time on hard facts like the genocide of the Indigenous Peoples who lived here before the conquering of North America by Columbus, how land was seized during the Mexican American War, and the history of immigration and the true purpose of Angel Island.
My son needs you to discuss, in depth, about what happened during the Tulsa Race Riots and Black Wall Street. My son needs to understand how our veteran soldiers of color who fought in WWI and WWII were treated. And, that the benefits they received upon their return from war were nonexistent compared to their White counterparts. And, furthermore how this catapulted our country into a polarization of wealth between races that few people are aware of or understand. Then, my son needs you to take this a step further and allow the class as a whole to consider the true history of the United States and how its devaluation of people of color as a system and a government has contributed to movements like Black Lives Matter.
I need you to acknowledge that my Black daughter may be bored or disengaged in your English class because she feels invisible and unrepresented by the erasure of her true racial and cultural existence in mainstream literature. And, that she may not feel inspired to read because the overwhelming majority of the books she has access to in the classroom and the school’s media center were written through the lens of White authors who celebrate mostly White characters, White narratives and White notions about people of color.
I need you to acknowledge that my Black son does not need Special Education Services and open your mind to the reality that he is actually gifted. It is not a fluke that his test scores support his enrollment in High Performance Math classes. He needs you to inspire and provide enrichment opportunities for him in class rather than remove him from class.
I need you to consider, truly consider, all of this without minimizing the lived experience of my children, getting defensive, or removing me (their parent) from the equation.
Most of all, I need you to act! Work with me! I’m not out to get you. I’m one of you! I’m just not willing to be silent anymore!
As a White parent of Black children, my racial experience has shifted significantly. Though, as part of the dominant culture, I will never fully understand what it means to be marginalized by my race, I now see what you may not because I watch my family live it every day.
My children need you to wake up! Put the defensiveness on the back burner! Get engaged, be vulnerable, and have the courage to openly reflect on your practice. Enter this conversation with a willingness to accept perspectives that have been erased in our classrooms and in our lives for too long.
Racism is real! The problem is urgent. And, the only way we work through this as a country is if our White educators start admitting their racial bias in discipline and instruction, identify the epidemic of erasure that infects our curriculum and work with our families and communities toward the inclusivity of truth and immediate change.
A far past frustrated White parent of Black children and a humbled White educator.