Schools are microcosms of American society, thus the education system in the United States reinforces the same systemic inequities found in society. From segregated schools after the abolition of slavery to state-sanctioned boarding schools for Native American children, schooling in the United States has a history of inequitable and destructive practices. The 1954 Brown v. Board decision mandated school desegregation, but many contested integrating Black, Brown, and White students. Additionally, housing policies such as redlining and school choice initiatives have resulted in schools becoming more segregated and with greater disparities in resources between schools.
In United States public schools, 80% of teachers are White. In contrast, more than half of the student body is comprised of people of color. Particularly if teachers have not considered their own racial identities, they risk further perpetuating inequities in their classrooms and in their teaching. Curricula also reinforces White culture and norms and historical accounts often whitewash the past.
This is a very brief history of racist practices in schooling in the United States. We must take a moment for self-reflection. How do we perpetuate systemic inequities in our own contexts? How might we do better?
Knowledge and understanding only becomes impactful when we use it by taking actionable steps. I would love to connect with like-minded music educators, build community together, and work toward creating tangible antiracist, decolonizing action plans we can use in our own contexts in our upcoming fall semesters and beyond. (link to Google Form)
Check Out These Resources:
This American Life: The Problem We All Live With
Education Talk Radio PreK-20: The Systemic Challenges in K12 Education During These Times of Social Unrest
Podcast Episodes Related to Education Complied by Dr. Molade Osibodu
The Score: White Fragility in Music Education
On the Web:
Education and Criminalization Do #BlackLivesMatter in Schools? - Subini Ancy Annamma, Ph. D.
Dear White Teachers: You Can't Love Your Black Students If You Don't Know Them - Bettina Love
10 Ways Well-Meaning White Teachers Bring Racism Into Our Schools
What White Colleagues Need to Understand - Clarice Brazas & Charlie McGeehan
Questions Academics Can Ask to Decolonize Their Classrooms – Shannon Morreira & Kathy Luckett
Education for Liberation Network: Repurposing Our Pedagogies June 2, 2020
Dinah, Put Down Your Horn: Blackface Minstrel Songs Don't Belong in Music Class - Dr. Katya Ermolaeva
Music Theory's White Racial Frame - Phil Ewell
Music Theory Examples by Women
Institute for Composer Diversity
Decolonizing the Music Room
Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom - Lisa Delpit
Educating Teachers for Diversity: Seeing with a Cultural Eye - Jacqueline Jordan Irvine
The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children - Gloria Ladson-Billings
We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom - Bettina Love
Feeling White: Whiteness, Emotionality, and Education - Cheryl Matias
Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World - Django Paris and H. Samy Alim
What's Race Got to Do With It? How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality - edited by Bree Picower & Edwin Mayorga
White Women's Work: Examining the Intersectionality of Teaching, Identity, and Race - edited by Stephen D. Hancock & Chezare Warren
References to Statistics:
National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Characteristics of public and private elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013314.pdf
National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in public schools. Retrieved from http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cge.asp
While a Ph. D. student, I enrolled in number of formative classes, but none more so than a course on race and education inequities. The course content challenged me. So did the instructor. I remember vividly one class discussion about racial inequities and the ways in which teachers perpetuated them. At some point in the class conversation, the instructor, in agreement with a students’ comment, rolled his eyes and said something like, “white women teachers and white women tears” with exasperation. I was shocked and I was hurt. I enrolled in the class to learn more about racial inequities and education. Wasn’t I absolved because I showed up? How was I the problem? What was his problem?
I realize now that was a pivotal moment in my journey toward better understanding race in the United States and racial inequities in education. As I began my career as an academic scholar, I was fortunate to have mentors like him and others who cared so deeply about and understood fully the importance of race equity work. They fiercely and lovingly held up the mirror for me to confront, reflect upon, and struggle with my complicity with whiteness. They did not hold my hand, for the work was mine to do with myself. The confrontation was ugly. It was lonely. It was difficult.
This is our first step, white friends. It is not easy to look in the mirror, but we have to move past ideas that we live in a post-racist society and are colorblind, inclusive, and not ourselves racist. We may not engage in racial hate crimes, but if we live in the United States, we participate in a deeply embedded racist system every day. We must move past our fragility and emotionality because we are responsible for dismantling white supremacy. It’s our job to make change.
I share below resources that have helped me in my work to unpack my whiteness and more fully recognize the ways in which I participate in systemic racism. Regardless of where you are on your journey, I hope some of these resources are helpful to you. This list is not intended to be all encompassing, but hopefully it will be a part of a journey of further discovery. Additionally, please note that this is not a journey we will ever fully complete regardless of how much we read. So, we don’t need to binge consume content, but rather we can strive to continually engage with material as we learn and grow. As teacher educator Dr. Alyssa Hadley Dunn noted on social media recently, “We cannot ‘checklist’ our way to ending our own white supremacy. We cannot book club our way to equity. We cannot ‘toolkit’ our way to racial justice.” It is a practice we must engage in every day.
Check Out These Resources:
On the Web:
The Danger of a Single Story – Chmamanda Ngozi Adichie
Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus
Talking About Race – Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Whiteness – Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Being Antiracist- Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Why Talk About Whiteness? – Emily Chiariello (Teaching Tolerance)
What is White Privilege, Really? – Cory Collins (Teaching Tolerance)
What’s My Complicity? Talking White Fragility with Robin DiAngelo – Adrienne Van Der Valk & Anya Malley (Teaching Tolerance)
White Anti-Racism: Living the Legacy – Teaching Tolerance
The Conscious Kid
A note on book links: These links take you to the author's professional webpages so that you can make choices about where you would like to purchase the book and to connect you directly to the scholar and their body of work.
White Rage – Carol Anderson
Racism without Racists – Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates
White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
Me and White Supremacy - Layla F. Saad
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, protests erupted in cities throughout the United States as our collective consciousness turned again to shine a light on the brutal, visible impacts of racism in America.
This past week, I discussed with my white friends and colleagues systemic racism, our embedded relationships with whiteness, our performative displays of white fragility, how best to hold ourselves accountable, and have committed to the work of developing antiracist action steps moving forward in our own contexts and communities. Exploring possibilities for change, growth, and social advancement can unveil unpleasant truths about ourselves and our society. It is not easy work, but forward momentum also is invigorating.
Yet, there remain many ways in which we, as white people, still need to grow to reach any goals toward racial justice. #BlackoutTuesday, originally an activism campaign initiated by two women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, meant to hold the music industry accountable for its exploitation of Black music artists came at the same time as #amplifymelanatedvoices, an initiative from Alishia McCullough and Jessica Wilson, called for social media influencers to decenter white voices and instead cite black and brown people, particularly on matters of social justice. Subsequently, a number of white people posted black squares on their social media accounts with a sentence about how they will be silent and listen.
White friends, we’ve got to unpack this one. If the goal was to raise awareness that Black lives do, indeed, matter and white people need to listen more to people of color, why did we take up space with our black squares and then not direct those scrolling by our feeds to the voice of any person of color? Rather than listen to black and brown voices, did we instead amplify our own existences? Hasn’t our silence been the problem? Did we post to direct attention toward Black voices or did we post to absolve ourselves of our white guilt from our participation in racists systems? Perhaps we didn’t fully think this through and this was not our intent, but the impact matters.
We can do better than posting black squares on Instagram.
We can do better than performative allyship.
In upcoming blog posts, I’m going to explore issues of race, education, and music education. Then, I am going to get to work envisioning and creating a more just and equitable future in my classes, school, and beyond.
Will you join me?
Check Out These Resources:
#BlackoutTuesday – Zoe Haylock
#AmplifyMelanatedVoices- Layla Ilchi
Who Are the Black Squares and Cutesy Illustrations Really For? – Rebecca Jennings
Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead) – Holiday Phillips
How to Be A Good White Ally, According to Activists – Emily Stewart
The Guide to Allyship – Amelie Lamont
9 Reasons Why Acting in Solidarity for Racial Justice is Preferable to ‘Allyship’ – Jaime Grant