In response to the Isthmus article “A Rotten Year,” our students of color are not the reason why our schools are rotting, it is white supremacy culture. This year was rotten, but not for lack of excellence in our schools; this year was rotten because a long dormant undercurrent of white supremacy broke through our defenses this year, flooding our communities with fear and distrust. If it felt like a rotten year for teachers, it is because teachers are finally being called out on their covert and overt participation in white supremacy culture. This was a year characterized by personal failings, not faulty district policy. Instead of blaming students and their behaviors, we need to think about what we are doing to rebuild the trust that has been broken between our mostly white school staff and our many students and families of color.
Instead of centering ourselves, our focus should be on how rotten this year was for our Black students who were personally traumatized by racism. How rotten it was and has been for their sense of self, school community, their families and their home community. Our students and families clearly do not have a homeplace at school. It is our duty as educators to decenter whiteness to ensure that all students feel a sense of belonging and mattering within our schools. As Dr. Maisha Winn says in Justice on Both Sides, “That is, to practice restorative justice, one must not only be committed to seeing the full humanity of others but also be open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right.”
Teaching is an adaptive profession. Schools need to adapt in an ongoing way to meet the needs of our students. If we are venting at the expense of students, then this article is both detrimental to our community and not providing any solutions. We need to move forward in an action-oriented way with anti-racism at the forefront of our practices.
Educators Actively Working Toward Anti-racism is a group of mostly white teachers in Madison working toward greater equity. We are not naming individual members because they have received threats in the past. The opinions expressed here are those of that organization, and not necessarily those of Madison365, its staff, funders or board of directors.