A Responsibility and Commitment
We, at The Brave Files, are passionate about social justice and the fight for equality. This work and the learning involved is ever-growing and evolving.
We are far from perfect and without question, there is always more to do. One thing we commit to is not shying away from conversations, even (or especially) difficult ones. In addition, we embrace and welcome the opportunity to engage in conversation about topics that bring about awareness.
THERE IS GROWTH IN DISCOMFORT.
This week Heather talks with educator and activist, Zach Wright. Their conversation was prompted after Heather read the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, PhD. One she finished the book, Heather sought out others to discuss it with to continue her ongoing education and understanding of what racism in America truly is and how we can work to create change.
First, this book is a must-read. It not only dives deeply into racism in America, but it also discusses the extreme harm done when we try to ignore it. In other words, “colorblindness” is detrimental to the fight against racism. Acting as if we’re all the same only adds shame to the narrative. Overall, we need to talk about race. We highly encourage you to get your own copy of the book and start the conversation within your community.
The Statistics Are Staggering
Zach is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education. He spent 15 years teaching in classrooms – ages preschool through high school. Over the last nine years, he's taught 11th and 12th grade English is West Philadelphia. .
It comes as no surprise that white men in schools are generally funneled into disciplinary roles. And, shockingly, as a teacher in the public school system, Zach has never had a white student. Certainly, this creates issues across schools that are predominantly black and brown.
ZACH’S HIGHEST PRIORITY AS AN EDUCATOR IS CREATING A SAFE SPACE OF LIBERATION, AS OPPOSED TO OPPRESSION, FOR HIS STUDENTS.
Only 2% of educators in the United States are black males. This statistic is not only shocking but also impacts schools predominantly made up of students of color. Zach mentioned the important role of Black Male Educators Convening, so we encourage you to learn more about these events and how they mold the future of our education system.
STUDENTS OF COLOR DESERVE TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS THAT LOOK LIKE THEM! PEOPLE THE STUDENTS CAN SEE THEMSELVES IN AND ASPIRE TO EMULATE.
It should be noted, as a white teacher in an all black and brown classroom, Zach is constantly learning. He knows there is always more work to do. Heather and Zach agree that, as white people, they are constantly making mistakes. The key is to be aware and continue working towards change.
Awareness Is The First Step
In the book, White Fragility, racism is broken down in ways many of us have never heard before. Undoubtedly, we are a racist society. It begins with prejudice. Overall, this consists of the thoughts we have of people we do not know. Discrimination is when prejudice takes action. Consequently, racism occurs when you add power to that discrimination.
It is important to realize that you can make mistakes and assumptions but still be a good person. You can do the work to improve. Admitting that racism exists and that you play a role in it does not make you bad, it makes you honest and willing to look the beast in the eyes and say “I will do more. I will do better.”
In addition to the internal changes we are called to make, Heather and Zach encourage you to stand up for racial injustices. It is not enough to simply change your thinking. In truth, we need to do things differently.
This is a powerful interview and it's one we hope will inspire you to learn more and have deep conversations about. The work starts with talking to one another.
Other Resources Mentioned in Zach's Interview
The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein – An overview of how race plays out across the areas in which we live.
More about Zach
Zach has authored many wonderful articles that are worth reading:
Connect with Zach
Zach invites and encourages discussion about race. Truly, facing discomfort head-on is how we do better as a whole.
You can connect with Zach on Twitter.