Talking about January 6th

What kind of week it has been…

I am neither the first nor the last person to feel this way. It is difficult for me to put into words the emotional rollercoaster this past week has been.

The week started with the anxiety of teaching from the school building for the first time in 10 months. Then came Wednesday when this roller coaster really picked up speed. In the afternoon, when the news of the riot at the Capitol came out, I was in shock…at a loss of words. I could not process or understand what was happening. All the hate in the videos and pictures being reported was not sinking in.

Next came the feeling of double standards. Would we have reacted the same way if people in front of the Capitol were a different color or have a different religion? Did the law enforcement not remember the way they reacted to Black Lives Matter protests just a few months back? Wasn’t this so much worse?

A few hours later came the understanding of how this riot should not be called a protest…should not be compared to a protest. It was an attempt by an angry mob to inflict harm and spread hatred because they did not like or agree with what the majority wanted.

All of this happened while I was worrying about how to process this with my students the next day…how would my students of color respond? How would I explain to my students that a riot is different from a protest and that this was a riot? Would I be able to find the strength to be vulnerable enough to let them know that I am grieving with them…for the attack is on the democratic values of this country and this country belongs to ALL of us. How could I make sure that we talk about not just the political nature of this attack but also its racial and anti-Semitic ramifications? How could we use this lesson to unite us instead of divide?

When Thursday came,  as always, my students gave me hope…hope in their understanding…hope in their empathy…hope in their willingness to lead…hope in their hope…

We, as a community talked, processed, vented and healed bit by bit.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and emotionally drained, but one thing kept nagging me…

People in front of the Capitol building that day were mostly white(as far as I could see in the news), and most of them must have gone to schools and had some education.Did this mean we, as a society, are failing our children? How is it that with so much focus on diversity and anti racist practices in schools there could be so much hate and segregation? 

This weekend I did some  research into education resources pertaining to teaching students about race and race relations in this country. What I found is disappointing but not surprising. In the past decade we, as educators focussed so much on how to teach students of color that we forgot to talk much about how to teach our white students that they are part of the problem and that they can and should be part of the solution. We have numerous books, videos, articles and classes on how to teach/interact with students of color but what about our white students? How do we explain to them the idea of white privilege without turning them against people of color? 

Understanding our own biases and learning to become an ally is a journey every educator and every person should take, but how do I convince my students that ALL of them need to start on that journey sooner rather than later?

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