Teach black students they can change communities – they don’t have to escape

Jul 11, 2015 by

The ‘do well so you can leave this place’ narrative is common across America. Teachers must address racism more candidly to stop young people wanting to go

When my students and I found out about the shooting of nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina, our breath was pulled from our lungs, our minds spun with disillusionment, and our hearts filled with rage and despair. We wanted to escape.

My students are black and brown, living in communities that have been subjected to generations of underinvestment and discrimination. As a teaching artist in Boston public schools and a former high school English teacher just outside Washington DC, I’ve seen how the violence against people of color in the past year has left many in fear that their lives are in perpetual danger.

As it happened, we did escape. The news came on the eve of a long-planned school trip to France. Hours later, when we met at the airport, we hugged one another and exchanged words – a reminder that we mattered, if not to the rest of the world, then at least to each other.

When we arrived in Paris, I was reminded of the American writer James Baldwin. His departure from Harlem in 1948, aged 24, with only $40 (£25) in his pocket was an attempt to escape the pernicious racism of the US. This decision, he claims, saved his life. “It wasn’t so much a matter of choosing France – it was a matter of getting out of America,” he said in a 1984 interview with the Paris Review. “My luck was running out. I was going to go to jail; I was going to kill somebody or be killed.”

Source: Teach black students they can change communities – they don’t have to escape | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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