The Voices We Need to Hear: Are We Listening?

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June 16, 2020

I acknowledge that mine is probably not the voice Michigan teachers and students need to hear in this moment.
But white silence, and especially the silence of white teachers, is not acceptable, either. So since I have been given this platform, I will use it to make sure every teacher and every student knows where I stand.
Teaching is, and always has been, inherently political — not partisan, as some would try to make it seem, but political — and teachers make decisions every day that impact our students’ learning in political ways.
Students are watching us; they see the decisions we make about the books they are asked to read and the history we choose to present. They notice the people, ideas and events we present as “important,” and those we choose to leave out, intentionally or not. And they see when we choose not to talk about current events like the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others because “it’s too political.” Guess what — NOT talking about them is a political choice, as well.
My district — and many others — often say that, in education, “all means all.” And I do believe it is every educator’s responsibility to show up and stand up for all of our students. 
But right now our black students need us to be better. They need us to do the work and to show up for them. They need us to see them and hear them and say — out loud — that yes, Black Lives Matter. Because all can never mean all until the lives, experiences and bodies of our black students matter.
So as a white person and educator who can never understand the experience of living as a black person in this country, I promise to continue to read and to learn. I promise to listen more than I speak and speak when my voice is helpful to ensure that alongside our calls for diversity and equity, we also seek justice for our students and communities.
I would like to use the rest of this space to amplify messages and voices I have been following and reading for the past few years in my own journey to be anti-racist. I hope you find them helpful.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram), author of “How to Be an Antiracist”  
Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fagility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”
  • I read this first because it came recommended, and I didn’t know where to begin. I just knew I had to begin.
Michael Harriot, @michaelharriot, has taught me so much history I didn’t know, and added context to the history I thought I knew.  
Bettina Love’s “We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom” speaks directly to the heart of what it means to be a teacher.
Season 2 of the podcast “Scene on Radio” called “Seeing White,” helped me see the deep through-lines from the roots of racism to what is happening in America today.
The “1619 Project” podcast is an oral telling of the project itself. You can also read it here. This series helped me to see the deep history of how racist thinking and racist policies infect every part of our country’s governance, education, healthcare, city planning and, of course, policing.
Paul Gorski’s work at the Equity Literacy Institute should be required teacher PD, but let’s just start with this piece titled “Avoiding Racial Equity Detours.” You will see yourself, your school, and your district in these “detours,” and it will blow your mind. Paul solidified for me so much of what I couldn’t figure out how to name.
I discovered Val Brown, @ValeriaBrownEDU, on Twitter, and I have become a little obsessed with her wisdom, humor and deep understanding of what needs to change in our schools. The chat #ClearTheAir (@ClearTheAirEDU) is where I have learned what to read, what questions we need to be asking and how to find allies in this work. Full honesty — I’m not great at jumping into the chats, but the books they have discussed have made me better. One example: “The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other” by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, which I’m planning to re-read before school starts.
There are countless other pieces and people I could add, but this is the work we can all do. To close, this piece by Courtney Ariel for Sojourners sums up a lot of my own learning, and would be a good place to start if you are just leaning into this work: “For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies.”
Black Lives Matter, my friends. Our students need to hear us say the words.

About Cara Lougheed: I am a white, straight, cis-gender, non-disabled, married, middle class woman with 21 years of classroom experience in a suburban public school district in occupied Anishinabewaki land. My pronouns are she/her/hers. Anything you find here is based on my perspective, but I acknowledge that perspective has been limited by my experiences, choices, biases (implicit & not), and the unearned privilege I have had in my life. I hope to learn and grow from my colleagues across the state as your Michigan Teacher of the Year.
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