Equity & Diversity

Having the Difficult Race-Bias Conversation

By Kate Stoltzfus — October 05, 2016 1 min read

In the first weeks of the school year, fatal police shootings of Tyre King, a 13-year-old black male student in Columbus, Ohio, and two black men—Keith Scott of Charlotte, N.C., and Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, Okla.—have once again raised deep concerns about the relationships between police officers and communities of color. Such events can be difficult to process and discuss for both students and educators, particularly those who experience or feel vulnerable to racial bias. Education Week Commentary asked professors, authors, and advocacy-group members to offer their guidance on how to frame and tackle sensitive classroom conversations about racial bias and policing.

“Don’t assume your students have thoughtful people to talk to about what is happening in our nation. ... Instead, think about all the elements that make a classroom work—leadership, compassion, and insight.” Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University

“Work ‘small'; it’s impossible to try to ‘cover’ all of the complexities surrounding this country’s past and present challenges around race and justice in one activity or class discussion.” Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Senior Vice President of Community and Member Relations, We Need Diverse Books

“Do some homework and then be ready to listen to and walk with your students through these injustices. You cannot and do not have to have all the answers—share your feelings with students as you affirm theirs.” Allyson Criner Brown, Associate Director, Teaching for Change

“Open dialogues about these issues are meaningless if those who facilitate these discussions lack empathy and genuine concern for those who are especially vulnerable to state-sanctioned violence.” Keisha N. Blain, Visiting Research Scholar in Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

“In this context, silence is undemocratic. Conversations that lead to community service, activism, writing, reflection, critical thinking, and coalition-building are ultimately democratic.” Cornelius Minor, Lead Staff Developer, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2016 edition of Education Week as Having the Difficult Race-Bias Conversation

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