What are we doing to create safety for BIPOC students?
I saw this today on Twitter and it made me stop and think about what educators need to be looking for and listening for to create a more equitable classroom. It made me think about as an educator, I may never know or understand the harms that happen with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) students within my classroom and it is not for me to understand, it is for me to do better. So, my advice to educators then is if you have a BIPOC student come to you, speak up, and let you know harm is happening, it is your job to STOP the harm. We have to understand how hard it is for BIPOC students to speak up against the harm being done. Sometimes it is hard to articulate the harm, hard to put words to what is harmful. But they know how it feels at their core. This is the critical moment for you as an educator to:
· Create space
You must do the work in acknowledging their voice and making it clear that you hear them, that you see them, and you will do your best to do better.
This is a critical moment in time for us to be the change needed for the next generation. This generation of young people are demanding that we talk about racism and its harms. The social movement that has been happening over the last few years is demanding it from us not only as educators but as a society as well.
It is not okay for the bar to be so low that a successful day for a BIPOC student is getting through the day without having a racist slur hurled at them, or being able to survive a class with a racist educator that’s always talking down to them. We as an educational system need to move the bar so that BIPOC students can feel seen, heard, and acknowledged within all educational spaces. This means being seen in the curriculum, being seen in books, and being seen in the hallways. We also need BIPOC educators in the classrooms, administrators, and all throughout the school system. This will help support the change needed because of the multiple lenses used will support all learners.
Through my lens as an Indigenous educator I believe the key to help and support all learners in education is relationships. The system tells us to be professional and to work at a distance from our students. I believe this is what is harming us, the colonial system of separation. As Dr Sara Davidson tells us learning emerges from strong relationships in her work Potlatch as Pedagogy. This needs to be at the center of our work in education to support the shift in gaze from colonial to decolonial with using relationship as our core value. Dr Marie Battiste lays the foundation of this work in her book Decolonizing Education: Nurturing the Learning Spirit. Using the term nurturing gives us an understanding that time, relationship, and connections will be what helps us change the colonial education system to a decolonial education. We know that the western colonial education system is made for white, middle class, heterosexual, able bodied people and those that do not fit into that model, BIPOC students are being pushed out because the system was not made for them. I believe that it is our job to change this narrative, that the students at the top who are successful are just smarter, because I believe that is a lie. I believe that all students are brilliant and if they are not succeeding it is because the system is doing its job of pushing them out. I also believe that educators are not prepared to challenge the oppressive system because a majority of them are white, middle class, able bodied, heterosexual people and the system works for them. Now is the time for change. Create the space for BIPOC students to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. Create the space for BIPOC people to be in the roles of educators, Admin, and all school staff. If we don’t the long-term effects of our racist system on BIPOC students, is for them to continue to think that they are damaged and not able to succeed because the system they are in reenforces that on a daily basis. So rather than changing the system, the system continues to push out these students that don't fit into the colonial western view of education.
It is our jobs to look at this racist hierarchy and question it, push back against the one size fits all education, and start to find other ways of acknowledging:
What is success?
What is knowledge?
What are we doing as educators to create whole human beings?