In my last blog post, I suggested that by seeing the film, Fruitvale Station, you could be taking one step towards creating a more just and equitable society. Educating ourselves is an important starting point in this effort, and here are some more actions you can take to unravel systemic oppression and its offspring, bias and prejudice.
1. Learn, learn, learn: Continue educating yourself about issues of systemic oppression. If you work in schools, it’s essential to understand the school-to-prison pipeline, as that’s a forceful reflection of systemic oppression. Start with reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
2. Gather data in your classroom: In whole class or small group discussions notice patterns of participation. Who speaks more? Who never speaks? Do male voices dominate? Are English Learners silent? Spend a few weeks noticing and tracking this data.
3. Analyze the data: Disaggregate and examine all of your classroom data: Who is successful in your class? Who is praised and rewarded the most? Who has missed the most number of days? Are there any groups of students who are sent to the time out chair or the office more than others? Ask yourself hard questions and look for patterns that reflect those found in our society of who succeeds and who is marginalized.
4. Teach holistically: When teaching students about other groups who have been oppressed, don’t define those “others” by their oppression. There is more to being African American than slavery, more to being Jewish than the Holocaust; find those stories and representations that depict people in their full humanity and share those. Furthermore, go “beyond heroes and holidays” when teaching about other people. Mexican (and Mexican-American) history can be addressed at many points throughout the year, not just on Cinco de Mayo.
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