The First Step in Being Anti-Racist
Layla Sutton

 

As a teacher at St. George’s, there are many things that are profoundly different at school this year. Whether it be the physical distancing, the mask wearing, the red and blue days or hand washing, I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I have to take a step back and take a breath.

There’s that word. Breath.

It’s hard to think about breathing in 2020. Not only are we combating a virus that affects the respiratory system, we were reminded yet again about how precious breath is after the death of George Floyd. Although we all had to face the fact that racism is a more rampant and more deadly problem than any virus we have been faced with in our lifetime, we now have even more names to add to a growing list of people of color that have died wrongfully this year.

It’s not enough to use our breath just to say their names. It’s not enough to post this blog. Here at StG, we are learning how to be anti-racist. 

Many people would hear the term anti-racist and think, “Well, I’m not racist, so therefore I’m anti-racist, right?” After spending several hours of professional development before the school year started on this exact topic with an excellent group called Overcoming Racism, we know now that being anti-racist takes an incredible amount of work.

Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by challenging and changing systems, organizations, practices, policies, guidelines and attitudes. This reorganizes the power structure so that it is redistributed and shared equitably among the masses. As a teacher, this means our curricula, policies and procedures need to reflect exactly that. In the past the easiest way out in the wake of tragedy was to point fingers. We have heard all of the targets for blame in our lifetime-- from the government, the police and even the specific officers involved. Although the parties responsible should ALWAYS be held accountable, we are learning that it’s bigger than that, and that’s where the work begins. We need to analyze the entire system and actively work on breaking it down and rebuilding. The world of education is a deeply impactful societal structure, and we are ready and prepared to ensure that we start here at our school, at St. George’s, with being a part of the solution and not the problem. 

As I sit in meetings reviewing our COVID-19 protocols and procedures, I am so proud to be a part of a school that is leading the way in public safety. However, not only are we leading the way with safety, we are leading the way with implementing technology. Even better, though, is that with the insurmountable amount of work and planning that all of this takes, we have still made time to work on how we can be a part of the solution in our country. 

Of course, we think of St. George’s as a community. Although we are all on a personal journey, we want to do this together. 2020 has been a year of discomfort for all of us, but we know that discomfort is a sign of growth. The JEDI team (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) is consistently reading, sharing and discussing, and we would like to extend the vast information collected and opportunities to learn and grow with us to YOU.

Interested in engaging with the JEDI team? Email Tamara Claverie at tamara.claverie@stgnola.org.

 

We hope you'll read more about Overcoming Racism, an organization dedicated to race and equity trainings--especially for educators-- via their website: overcomingracism.com.

 

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