Tag Archives: privilege

Tired: Celebrating Diversity / Wired: Antiracist Education

www.emilymeadows.org

@msmeadowstweets

Talking about racism can be awfully uncomfortable, particularly for white people since we so rarely have to think about race in our daily lives, and we certainly do not consider ourselves part of the problem. Racist people use nasty slurs, they dress up in blackface/white hoods/swastikas, they refuse to be friends with people of color (POC). I don’t do any of those things, so I’m not racist… Right?

If we view ourselves through the lens of a Racist / Not Racist binary, most of us will confidently partition ourselves as Not Racist. But what if the options were Racist or Antiracist? What evidence can you provide that you are the latter?

Simply avoiding racial slurs, or “celebrating diversity” is insufficient. To be antiracist, we must actively seek out racism and correct it. If you benefit from racial privilege, it is incumbent upon you to fix it. As international educators, we have a magnificent opportunity (see: responsibility) to promote antiracism by teaching racial justice in schools.

But aren’t children too young to learn about race? No. Children of color learn about race early on – they have no option otherwise. White kids can and should learn about race (and racial justice), too.

Talking about racism seems awkward – what about celebrating diversity? It’s super awkward (and dangerous) for POC to live with systemic racism. If the most uncomfortable race-related incident that’s happened to you is having to acknowledge racism (or being called a racist), then you can count yourself amongst the privileged. With that privilege comes the responsibility to uncover racism and correct it. Bonus points if you teach your students to do the same.

Keep in mind that most racism is not as overt as the recent, highly-publicized events in the United States, so I am not suggesting we show young children the video of George Floyd’s killing. Covert racism is far more common and insidious – it does not look like what we think of as white supremacy, and takes a trained eye to spot. Think: racist school mascots, treating children of color as older than they are, denying children of color the opportunities that come from learning from a teacher that looks like them, prioritizing white voices in curriculum, and perpetuating the myth of the bootstrap theory.

I don’t live in the United States, and racism isn’t an issue where I work. It can be more comfortable to decry racism happening far away, as it allows us to believe that we are not part of the problem. However, racism exists everywhere, including at your school. In fact, that’s the racism you are likely best positioned to confront and influence.

Others have written about this before me and better than me (see resource bank below), but I use this particular platform to ensure that international educators understand that we are not exempt from confronting institutional racism.

But I’m just a math/science/PE/etc. teacher. What can I do? Racism is baked into schools – our curriculum, our policies, our hiring preferences, the overwhelmingly white voices we feature as experts and leaders, students’ hierarchical social experiences – it’s everywhere. Regardless of your role in the school, there is no shortage of material to examine under an antiracist lens, and to correct.

Antiracism resources to get you started:  

Culturally-Responsive Curriculum Scorecard

Tool For Selecting Anti-Biased Texts

Social Justice Standards

Antiracist Resources for Young Children

List of Anti-Racism Articles, Books, Movies, Podcasts, and More

What White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Anti-Racism Resources Curated for Language Arts Teachers

The Invisible Knapsack of Privilege Part II: Heterosexual & Cisgender Privilege

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Almost three decades ago, Peggy McIntosh published her now-legendary piece on White Privilege[1]. McIntosh likened white privilege to an invisible knapsack of advantages that white people carry with them, listing a selection from the abundance of everyday rights withheld from people of colour. This post is the second of two parts, in honour of McIntosh’s birthday this month. The first addresses the ethnic privilege I carried as a student growing up in international schools. This piece considers a few of the many ways that I benefitted from my invisible knapsack of heterosexual and cisgender privilege as a student in international schools:

  1. I was free from concern that a teacher or classmate would misgender me.
  2. I never had to worry that a teacher would deadname me while taking attendance.
  3. The standardized tests that pre-entered our personal information always checked the box that corresponded with my gender identity.
  4. I could be certain that both anatomy and relationships similar to mine would be discussed in sexual education lessons.
  5. I could enjoy the playground and other common campus spaces without worry that I would be the target of verbal or physical harassment because of my sexual orientation or gender identity.
  6. I didn’t have to come out to anybody.
  7. I could attend dances and school functions with my boyfriend, unquestioned.
  8. I could audition for a part in a play or try out for an athletic team without being asked to discuss my gender.
  9. I was able to use the school bathroom that corresponded with my gender identity.
  10. I was never assigned entire reading lists with characters and plots that completely ignored or invalidated romantic relationships like mine.

How do you see heterosexual and cisgender privilege playing out in international schools today?

[1] McIntosh, P. (1998). Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In P.S. Rothenberg (Ed.), Race, class, and gender in the United States, p. 165-169. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

The Invisible Knapsack of Privilege Part I: Ethnic Privilege

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Almost three decades ago, Peggy McIntosh published her now-legendary piece on White Privilege[1]. McIntosh likened white privilege to an invisible knapsack of advantages that white people carry with them, revealing a selection of everyday rights withheld from people of colour. For example: #34) I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking. Or #41) If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem. A few of McIntosh’s items in the knapsack have to do explicitly with school: #8) I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race, and #44) I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race. Unfortunately, the concept of the invisible knapsack is as relevant today as it was in 1988. This post is the first of two parts, in honour of McIntosh’s birthday this month.

I grew up in international schools. I am white, and carry a number of other privileges: U.S. nationality, English as a first language, cisgender, heterosexual, socio-economic status, typically-developing[2], to name a few; the road to my academic goals has been paved with advantages. In the spirit of cultural humility, I am reflecting on some of the ways that I benefitted from my invisible knapsack of ethnic privilege as a student in international schools:

  1. I could wear clothing from my home country without being referred to as ‘ethnic’ or ‘exotic’.
  2. If my parents missed a meeting or arrived late for a school function, I could be sure that it would not be attributed to their cultural background.
  3. Regardless of the demographics of the host country, I could count on seeing my race represented in school leadership figures.
  4. I did not have to explain the contents of my lunch box to anybody.
  5. If I had difficulty understanding an academic concept, I could be sure that my teacher would not attribute this to a work ethic stereotypically associated with my heritage.
  6. I never had to explain where my country was located, what language we speak there, or what it is like where I come from.
  7. I could speak my first language to anybody on campus and assume they would understand or try to understand me.
  8. I was never labeled solely by my nationality (i.e. the American kid).
  9. When I auditioned for school theatre productions, I could be sure that most people had already seen the leading parts played by somebody of my race.
  10. A wide selection of books at the library reflected and validated people who resembled me.

How do you address ethnic privilege in international schools today?

[1] McIntosh, P. (1988). Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In P.S. Rothenberg (Ed.), Race, class, and gender in the United States, p. 165-169. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

[2] This two-part post will not address the privilege that comes with being typically-developing in international schools, as this type of exclusion is often overt rather than ‘invisible’.