How to Teach High School Students about Racism

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Anti-Racism

George Zimmerman was found not-guilty of murdering an unarmed child with a concealed gun. My African-American baby is asleep in her room, and writing about educational technology is not working for me today.

Despite the Cheerios uproar, the death of Travon Martin and countless examples of persistent racism, many Americans seem to think that racism is not a problem.

It is.

Perhaps you need a list of facts. Have these on hand next time you encounter a “Racism Denier.”

-A 2012 AP Poll explored explicit racist attitudes. “The poll asked respondents how well certain words, such as “friendly,” ”hardworking,” ”violent” and “lazy,” described blacks, whites and Hispanics. Of the white people tested, 59% presented anti-black, pro-white world views.

-According to the Children’s Defense Fund 2008 report, 20.7% of Hispanic children and 12.7% of black children lack health care, as compared to 7.5% of white children. When I taught in a predominantly black NYC public school, the children frequently had basic health needs that were not met. They were often in dental pain and lacked needed glasses. There was one child who was “tongue-tied.” A small scrap of skin connected his tongue to the roof of his mouth and prevented him from correctly developing the ability to speak. If a family has decent medical care, this is noticed at birth and taken care of before it impairs a child’s development. He did not have his tongue freed until he was 10 and the damage was irreparable.

-Asthma in children is more likely to result in death among black children than in white children. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, ‘The rate for blacks aged 0–14 years was almost eight times greater than for whites in that age group. The rate for blacks aged 65–74 years was only approximately three times higher than for whites in that age group. Apparently, white people have more of a constitutional right to breath than their black brothers and sisters.

-A recent study found that 880,000 “ excess” deaths could have been averted between 1991 and 2000 if African Americans had the same access to health care as white people do. David Williams, of Harvard’s School of Public Health, points out that this is the equivalent of a Boeing 767 being shot out of the sky and killing everyone on board, every day, 365 days a year. And all of the passengers are black .

 As a community of online teachers, how can we address this situation?

Teach, Teach, Teach

We mustn’t be afraid of the complicated and divisive issues. That means, in our online teaching, we must address issues of social injustice. It doesn’t matter what demographic your students are: they need to understand what is happening and why.

Here are some resources for teaching about race and racism: I have organized the resources by topics.

Yes, Racism Exists: “Racism by Numbers” is an excellent resource if your students are Racism Deniers. It elucidates in clear and careful details, the statistics that make it clear that racism is still present in society. The date focuses on children, and describes how children are victims of poor healthcare and schools, a flawed criminal justice system and environmental hazards. This book is available in a hard copy.

Racism Today: Racial Equity Learning.org, is a growing collection of learning modules created by World Trust in collaboration with other leading racial justice organizations. The project seeks to bridge the gap between inspiration and democratic action that supports racial equity.  The module content is available on line, but is a bit pricey.

The History of Racism: Rethinking Schools has been making excellent race and social justice materials for the last 20 years. On their site, you can find numerous resources for creating curricula that explore the past honestly and create the possibility of a hopeful future. Many of their publications are available both in a hard and an online format. I have based my history curriculum around “Rethinking Columbus” and “A People’s History for The Classroom.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a Teaching Tolerance Curriculum with activities to help students understand the racial history of the US as well as create a more inclusive and kind future.

Understanding Diversity: The Diversity Council has a series of lessons to promote and understand cultural and racial diversity. There are separate lists for elementary, middle and high school.

I looked everywhere for anti-racist pro-diversity curricula that were created specifically for use in the online classroom. I couldn’t find any, but if you know of one, please let us know (in comments below)!

We are talking about the future. But we are also talking about my child, and many other children, who are asleep in their beds, without the slightest notion that they will be judged by their skin. Don’t be afraid to directly infuse your teaching, online or otherwise, with social justice. Our babies need you. We have to create a world in which they have a fair chance.

I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school called "Shine." I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at www.s-h-i-n-e.org.

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