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Teachers Need Training: Why Our Educators Need to Learn How to Deal with Racism in the Classroom

A Guide from an Expert

Your job as an educator is to protect and teach the students in your class, including ones of color meaning—Latinos, Asians (generally from Asia), Native American students, and Black students. 

There have always been reports of teachers being racially biased towards students of color. Always reports of derogatory words being used by teachers and examples of the ways educators have disrespected students in the classroom. That’s easy to fix, teachers, don’t be racially biased towards your class. (Which is a whole different subject.)

What we don’t always focus on is what goes on behind the teacher’s desk in the sea of adolescents. The same seats the students of color work hard in, raise their hands in, and break statistics in and it’s there that they achieve their goals and become the type of person in the world that they are meant to be. In the same world that they are being drowned in words of hate, soaked in "You’re not good enough" and stressed out because they feel the constant need to address racial issues themselves. They shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to.

It’s there that we earn our respective grades, take notes that will help us for future exams, and interact with our peers. The same peers that shouted derogatory terms at me during lunch, the same kid that made comments about our Black hair in history, same kid who mocked my culture, yeah, that kid sits next to me in English. You have to sit there a let it continue because you may not feel like giving another “how to be a good person” speech.

My case has become very strong over the course of last year. I’ve perfected my response but I can feel the energy left in my body being boiled out of me.

We all know mental stress can equate to physical symptoms. My constant stress led to high blood pressure and the feeling of a construction site in your brain, pounding and pounding or commonly known as a headache.

A student makes a racially-insensitive comment to me approximately three times a week. Ten percent of the comments get addressed directly by teachers. I can’t remember the hundreds of things that have been said to me over the course of three school years but I can remember which teachers put the effort in to help.

It might be “awkward” or “uncomfortable” to address a racial situation. You may feel you don’t want to get involved. The truth is, you do need to get involved. It’s even more uncomfortable for the person of color. As a teacher, it’s your job. If a student is being mistreated you must step up. Being an ally is the first step. Letting them know you support them is the second and addressing the situation is the third.

If you hear a racial comment coming from the students, listen in. If someone is being ridiculed or attacked you should step in. It is not my job, as a dark-skinned girl attending a predominantly White high school to educate my peers. In fact, I shouldn’t have to go through that at all.

Shouldn’t school be a comfort zone for kids?

Shouldn’t we feel safe every day?

Shouldn’t we feel wanted?

That’s all the things the school system says they want but none of those are true.     

Many students who are racially attacked or experienced discrimination/racial bias don’t feel strong enough to advocate for themselves.

Don’t assume every kid is comfortable doing so.

Address the situation head-on. This means ask what is going on, this means observing the situation and get an understanding of what is happening.

It is never, ever the child’s duty to educate other children on race, especially in school.

Imagine if kids went to school and taught instead of learned, or their learning was disrupted because they were forced to handle difficult situations on their own?

It’s true, it’s reality, it’s my reality. My family and I don’t have to “imagine” because it’s part of our life. I can speak from experience. I don’t go to school to learn anymore, I go with the mindset of learning but it eventually tumbles into a constant lecture to others on ‘how to not be racist’ a common theme in my life. I have had 15 teachers in total the last year. In all the classes that a racist event took place—two of them addressed the situation. Out of my nine teachers the year prior to that— only two teachers were supportive and were able to defend me in racial situations.

When an event happens that I’m not comfortable with I have to report it then be called down repeatedly, losing class time. If teachers were more knowledgeable in how to address racial issues, it would be easier for everyone.

With a lack of colored educators in our high schools in North Jersey, all educators should be trained in how to deal with sensitive topics. The student is always in a worse position than you.

I have been followed in stores, had derogatory names shouted at me, and myself along with other colored students around America have to ‘take it’ or ‘deal with it’ all because our teachers do not have the proper training on racial bias and addressing situations.

One day a student sitting next to me in history had been racially insulting and culturally mocking me, and was using my culture against me for the ten minutes. I looked to my left and my teacher was listening to it happen. She didn’t say anything. When the student took it to another level, I walked out of the room and all of a sudden I was the “bad guy”. 

As non-colored educators, please realize you may not consider yourself racist but you are doing a disfavor to your students. The justice system is unjust and please help to balance it.

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