This past week I participated in a three-day workshop from The Race Institute. We were tasked with looking at our own racial identities because as educators, it is our job to help students build and develop their own positive racial identities. We cannot do this until we hold a mirror to ourselves and understand what we bring to the classroom. I had never participated in conversations like the ones we were having over these three days. I have had plenty of conversations around cultural responsiveness and teaching for equity, I have been reading and participating in webinars. I am comfortable talking about curriculum and creating learning environments with mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. But I had never before spoken about how my racial identity was formed nor how I learned about other people’s racial identities. The format and the conversations were both new, unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable. Clearly people are having these conversations; I am just late to the party. I’ve been making my way there but had not arrived yet. I realized that I have a lot to learn and that thankfully, I love to learn, and will keep learning and growing to be a better teacher, colleague, friend, ally, and advocate.
One of the things I learned about from the workshop is the New York Times #1619Project.
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
I admit I had not heard of the project before so during a lunch break I turned to Twitter and searched the hashtag.
Following the links, I came to several resources including readings, the 1619 curriculum guides, reading guides, lesson plans for all grades like this one, The Idea of America, and more for you to begin exploring this with your students.
I also saw a tweet about an opportunity to hear from the creator of the project. Tomorrow, November 13 from 1:00-2:15, there is the possibility to be part of a group call about the project between Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times correspondent (and author of the lesson linked above) who is the person “who sparked the idea for the project” and Jake Silverstein, the magazine editor-in-chief. The two will discuss the project and answer questions.
During today’s searching I also read this article, 1619-2019: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration. The article speaks about the effects of slavery, the myths we tell ourselves, and how as a country, we need to stop looking away because what we see is too uncomfortable. It is from this article that I found the quote that is also the title of this post.
“An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.” Looking away isn’t an option. Not for any of us. Every citizen, every politician, and even every company must do its part to look at the truth without flinching. In that way, together, we’ll continue the fight for a more just and equitable country.
My learning journey is only getting started. I am happy to have some company.