I don't want my child in a class with those kids.
The colored kids are bothering my kid (Yes, this person actually said "colored").
Why are those kids so loud?
We let them come out here for an education, and they don't even appreciate it.
Ugh. The worst part is that the speakers of these statements would probably classify themselves as not prejudice and have sometimes hidden behind the fact that they are a "Christian Family" or that they have had those kids over to their houses for sleepovers to prove that they are no ignorant. Unfortunately, these statements solidify my feelings that we are living in a society that is still wrought with racial prejudice. Really, there's no denying it. Every day now, we have stories thrown in our faces by media that show evidence of police brutality toward black men and women. It's right in front of us, and it's everywhere (not just in St. Louis); however, one thing is missing in each article showing more of this problem: a solution.
What are we going to do to fix this?
As educators, we are given the charge of educating our kids. If a child comes to school telling you that his dad taught him to spell the word "people" P-E-E-P-U-L, you would gently correct that child and maybe show him how it's spelled in the dictionary. That's an easy one, though. What do we do, though, when we have a black student coming to us saying a white student referred to him as the N-word and has been calling him and his friends "monkeys"? We educate.
I had this occur very recently. The student who was being called names discussed what had happened, and I asked him if he was comfortable talking with the other student about what those statements meant to him. He agreed to talk to the student directly with me present, and we briefly ran through what he wanted to say. What transpired was one of the most moving conversations I have ever been a part of in my professional career. This young man stayed calm as he explained what it means to come here every day as a minority and why those words are not ok. It was articulate and beautiful, and I'm sitting here days later still getting chills over what was said. I left that conversation asking myself what else I could do to help educate. That was one student who got an "education," but what about the others who talk like this and tout their white privilege?
Our kids need a forum in which they can speak honestly about their challenges. They need to be heard to be understood, and through that sharing, respect can build. If we stifle these conversations, no learning can occur. As counselors, we can incorporate these opportunities in to our lessons, and we need to call this what it is. There is no room for the silly "warm fuzzy" and "cold prickly" statements. I am replacing anything that sounds like this safe approach to addressing hate speech with direct words and the message of If you exist, you are worth receiving respect. I want kids to think about what it means to be female, male, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, young-whatever they are, and share their perspective with peers. We may not be able to change their parents, but we can arm our children with real and reliable knowledge about others. They can choose to make up their own minds or follow their parents, but at least we can say we've done something. It's time we stop hiding. I am choosing to be transparent, I'm choosing to call things as I see them, I'm choosing to give our kids a voice, because all of my kids, regardless of background and appearance, deserve to learn about one another and to have their story heard.
I will be posting the lessons that I will begin implementing next school year. While these will be middle school lessons, they can be adapted to fit any level. I will also share my newsletter communications with parents on the topics to be discussed.