Opinion
Education Opinion

#DONTSHOOT Because Discrimination Is Killing Children Worldwide

By Jessica Shyu — August 23, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Education didn't save Mike Brown. Racism killed him."

All week, those words written by my Teach For America colleague, Brittany Packnett, rang in my ears. Read her powerful reflections about racism, love and protesting in Ferguson.

In fact, education doesn’t save children from preventable diseases in India. Education isn’t saving people from being slaughtered in Syria. Education didn’t save college students on Tiannenman Square.

Racism, discrimination, hatred, fear killed them. What’s allowing them to keep going on is apathy. Silence. Disengagement. Denial.

When I worked in China, I was cautious with what I said and did. I was a guest and needed to respect the country’s rules - for my own sake as well as my organization’s. This meant not stepping in when witnessing police beating a homeless man in the streets and not raising my voice to big and small issues of inequity, free speech and corruption. I slowly silenced myself. Became apathetic. Disengaged. And at times, in denial to all the things that I believed were wrong.

This past week, I’ve been most struck by the lack of discussion about Ferguson among most of my family and friends. I’m floored by the degree of denial that racism was involved in Michael’s death. I’m sad by our own denial of being racist.

But mostly, I’m frustrated by my own repressive silence about these human rights issues in my daily life. Beyond re-posting articles on Ferguson on Facebook and discussing issues with like-minded friends at work, I haven’t engaged in hard conversations about the role racism plays in our lives. I haven’t taken a public stand about the fact that the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha Martin, Eric Garner and so many more unnamed and around the world are unnecessary, wrong and rooted in racism that is real, everywhere and affects me and my beloved friends, family, students and colleagues in America and worldwide right now.

When we don’t take a public stand and do something about it, we create a silence that allows apathy to flourish. This is the perfect breeding ground for the racism, discrimination, hatred and fear that is killing our children around the world.

Education didn't save Michael Brown. Racism killed him. There seems to be only one solution - end racism." -- Brittany Packnett

Fortunately, good educators know all about taking a stand and doing something about it. After reading the latest news updates everyday on Ferguson, Israel and Syria, I find myself turning to Education Week and education blogs to be reinvigorated by the outpouring of lessons, resources and love from colleagues everywhere who are doing something to end racism, no matter what their role is in education.

I’ve been inspired by the teaching resources on Teaching Tolerance and LA Network for how to teach children of all colors how to stand up against prejudice and injustice. I’m moved by the discussions on this sites by teachers around the country about how they’re approaching it with their own students.

I’m reoriented by the wise What Do We Teach When Kids Are Dying? #MichaelBrown">reflections and teaching guide on the blog Practical Theory, written by veteran teacher and principal, Chris Lehmann, as he reminds us that there is no such thing as “passive anti-racism”.

I’m energized by the North Carolina teacher who raised more than $139,000 for the food banks in St. Louis so that kids in Ferguson have food to eat while school openings are delayed.

I’m grounded by Teach For America colleagues and so many others like Brittany and DeRay McKesson, our CEO Matt Kramer and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein as they participate peacefully in Ferguson and share their reflections to the world.

I’m humbled by teachers in Ferguson who came out to clean up the streets after days of clashes.

Most of all, I’m finally feeling brave enough to take a stand after all these time of being far too silent and thinking that simply working in education was enough.

For me, this means I’m taking a stand to support myself, and the teachers, teacher coaches and kids I get to work with in understanding their identities, racism, discrimination and the power to act. This means having opening up conversations with my family about this. And finding ways to take part more in anti-racism work to show that as a middle-class Asian American woman, this matters.

This isn’t just a Ferguson problem. This is a global problem that affects us in rural New Mexico, the mountains of China and the bustling city of Mexico City. And unless we start here, people will continue dying unnecessarily all around the world.

The opinions expressed in Lessons From China are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP