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This past week has been a combination of frustrating and strange. For the past month, there have been continuous protests asking for justice for unarmed Black people who have been wrongfully murdered by the police in the United States namely George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, among many many others. One of the main demands of these protests is the defunding of the police so as to reallocate to other areas such as education, mental health organizations, and community-based groups, which would be better able to help those who require support in Black & Brown communities across North America. There needs to be real justice for Black & Brown folks who have been slain at the hands of police officers and those wrongly tried and grossly mistreated by the criminal justice system. The frustration and strangeness of this week come from several acts carried out by TV streaming services, and actors etc. There has been the removal of “master” from “master bedroom” descriptions by a Texas realtor, there have been multiple white voice actors who are stepping down from their roles voicing Black characters, and Hulu has pulled a Golden Girls episode over blackface concerns.

While amplifying black voices is important, and blackface is an egregiously racist act, these decisions seem to be performative. Where is the real change? Where is the real justice for Black Americans who are being killed by the police?

[bctt tweet=”Given requests to make real structural change in terms of race within your school, what has your administration actually done to address these demands?” username=””]

These incidents made me reflect on how change might look within our schools. Given requests to make real structural change in terms of race within your school, what has your administration actually done to address these demands? I’m sure that some of you may have received emails from your schools in which the administration or the school district has stated how important Black lives are to them, and that they are taking a stand against racism. Although some of your schools may have put out a statement, it might be difficult to actually see how they’re ‘walking the walk.’ I worry that schools may follow the trend of these major corporations, and make cosmetic changes within their schools e.g. they might put on more events during Black History Month, or include different kinds of food from all over the world on their lunch menu, or organize two-day long diversity training but then they’ll stop there. They won’t actually address the racial disparities within their schools. So, before you applaud your school for making change, think for a second about whether the changes your school may have been making will actually make real change for Black and non-Black educators of color, and Black & non-Black students of color.

On a previous article published by The Educator’s Room, I mentioned some examples of real change that can occur within in schools, let’s re-examine and add more, shall we?

  • Schools in North America, particularly in the United States have a school-to-prison pipeline and it mostly affects Black students. If your school is “taking a stand” against racism then what are concrete ways in which your administration, school, and school district are addressing the Zero Tolerance policy in schools, and racist discipline practices in your school?
  • What is your school doing to addressing the presence of police in the school and how they interact with students of color?
  • How does the school address any racist behaviors from staff, and other students? Are there real consequences?
  • How are the real and complete histories of Black & Brown students taught in mainstream classrooms?
  • What are the hiring practices of the school? What is the racial majority in terms of those who have positions of power in the school, and district?
  • How does the school actually support their Black students? What are the safe spaces provided for these students?

So, even those you got those e-mails a couple of weeks ago, hold them accountable for how they’re actually addressing racial injustices in their school. Be sure to continue to examine the policies and practices within your school and district to see whether a real change has been made or whether it’s just cosmetic and nothing more than a performative gesture.

Racial injustice

Jheanell Lumsden is a young, black educator who hails from Jamaica but is currently working in Toronto,...

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