LISTEN


So far in 2020, the world has experienced not only a deadly global pandemic drastically changing every facet of our lives, but also rioting and protesting that come near to mimicking those of the Civil Rights Movement, proving that we have a lot more work to do. 


However, as unbelievable and shocking as these events are, they aren’t firsts for us, by far. The world experienced the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, and the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968, and although we think we have come far as a society, recent riots over the death of George Floyd and others across the nation, show we haven’t come far enough. 


We are now living in a time where trust is at an all-time low. We struggle to trust those in the grocery store not wearing a mask. We think, Are they going to make me sick? Could I then get my family sick? We struggle to trust those in power to lead us and keep us informed with accurate information and to recommend courses of action. 


And now, cities are burning. Anger, frustration, and sorrow run in our veins. There is outrage at the lack of care for human life (recently, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor). BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) have asked, pleaded even, for people to listen, and their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 

FIRST WE NEED TO LISTEN!


How do we as teachers respond to the voices? Not addressing these issues in the classroom is doing students a grave disservice. We must address them because this is what they are reading about and talking about when not in class. 


You’ve likely heard or even said, “I can’t wait until things go back to normal.” For many, that may be true. But first, let’s review: the “normal” before the pandemic and rioting was not working. It was not sustainable. It was not acceptable. 


Change is uncomfortable. Looking at and learning about this country’s past, especially the ugliest parts, is uncomfortable, which is what it’s supposed to be. 


History textbooks tend to gloss over (or whitewash), and sometimes skip over entirely, these ugly parts of our past, such as the Tulsa Race Riots, the slaying of Emmett Till, and pretty much anything involving Native and Indigenous Peoples.



And it’s not just the South that has a sordid history with systemic racism, bigotry, and discrimination. It’s prevalent everywhere, even in the Midwest, supposedly with the friendliest demeanor and neighborly decorum. 


If we have learned anything from history, it’s that history repeats itself. And will continue to do so until we educate ourselves, and our youth, and never cease to do so to ensure these happenings will be erased from our inevitable future. 


So how do we do that, exactly? 


One way is to ensure that representation in the content taught in all subjects is more equal. Students need to read more about the contributions of black scientists, historians, generals, public servants, mathematicians, artists, writers, composers, engineers, musicians, chefs, etc. And not just black individuals, but people who are BIPOC. 


It is not an easy task, addressing the conflicts our students see and experience every day. But it’s important and necessary work. 


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