White students in America have the privilege of not worrying about race.
As students return to schools across the country, the differences will be scrutinized and whispered about even more this year due to (what I dub) the “insane summer of statements.” The contrasts are as black and white as they come – actually black, white, AND brown.
And instead of enjoying the rainbow of diversity – the national conversation of our origins has turned into a maelstrom of prejudice, inequality, disparity, and good old racism.
The current 24/7 news cycle is packed with those declaring, “they are” and “are not” racists. This distinction seems to depend on your color. No – not black, white, or brown – but red, blue, or purple.
TO HEAR THE TRUTH ABOUT RACISM
What is not up for debate is that hate hurts – literally and figuratively. The network talking heads are vested in their anchor positions and seem to offer no additional insight. So if you want to hear the truth, then speak with the real talking heads sitting in classroom desks coast to coast.
“By age two, a child notices color differences. Over the next two years, the child begins to identify with his or her own racial group and the racial differences. At that point they form preference patterns on the basis of the prevailing attitude within the group and not by contact with a racially different group,” said South Florida based Mental Health Counselor Lori Moldovan IMH.
So, what role can schools play in combating racism? As children grow up racist, the schools still have a chance to reeducate them. Some exemplary schools are training students to create a climate of anti-racist peer pressure. And in a growing number of schools, new curricula promoting racial and ethnic awareness through multicultural education are trying to turn diversity into opportunity.
Well-meaning white parents often try to make race a non-issue. But, this colorblind approach can backfire because it ignores the discrimination that people of color face out in the world. White people have the luxury of not thinking about race, while minorities are constantly made aware of their skin color.
I WISH I WAS WHITE
A black seventh-grader once whispered to me, “I’m reminded white students are better than black students. Whites can learn more, know more, and get help more. I wish I was white but I am not. I’m tired of feeling like less of a student because of my color.”
HATE THRIVES IN THE DARK INTERNET
Incidents like this and extremist hate speech is echoed in the dark corners of the Internet. This changes our reality and shapes our children’s future. This reality may not be new, but it’s fueled more than ever and challenges parents to find ways to talk with their children about what they’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing online and off. Obviously, parents are the earliest and most powerful source of racial attitudes (positive or negative), while peers run a close second.
Communities across the nation are feeling pain, sadness, grief, outrage, and frustration stemming from feeling powerless over the tragic events fueled by hate.
RACISM RUINS EVERYTHING
When racial slurs, stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice permeate a school, everyone is affected, but particularly students from historically oppressed racial groups. The deleterious effects of racism include over-punitive discipline, achievement gaps, racial tensions, and inequitable funding. Eradicating racism is essential to ensuring that all students receive a quality education that leads to graduation and lifelong success.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom”
This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Consulting. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project. Lori Moldovan IMH can be reached at 786-747-2855. She frequently works with adolescents dealing with anxiety, depression and substance issues.