Teaching Racial Justice in the face of white supremacy

Watching white supremacists and extremists breach Capitol Hill on Wednesday, January 6,2021,  I wavered between disbelief and feeling like all of this was so predictable. After all, 4 years of a regime that leaned into racism, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia, violence and fascism, emboldened white extremists. Even the Department of Homeland Security under Donald Trump flagged the rise in far-right white extremism as the biggest threat to American safety.

But on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, there was also a swell of democracy in Georgia. It was Black women and organizers, like Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate, LaTosha Brown, co founder of Black Voter Matters, current Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Errin Haines, editor-at-large of The 19th, and many more, who mobilized countless hours and built coalitions across racial and ethnic lines to flip the state.

Not once, twice. First, to secure the presidential win for Joe Biden in November 2020. And to deliver, two democratic seats for Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff.

In the weeks leading up to the runoff election in Georgia, SFSU alumni, hood nominee for the Sociology Hood Award in 2019, Samir Shrestha joined volunteers from Seed the Vote in the Bay Area and Asian American Fund in Georgia to knock on doors and talk potential voters. Samir, a Nepali immigrant who has been involved in Bay Area organizations, contributed to mobilizing the Asian American vote in Georgia since they are the largest growing racial and ethnic group in the state. With a record turnout in Asian American and Black votes, led by organizers in coalition, many people of color found solidarity among one another, and most importantly, political power in one another.

My point is that as educators, we must use the glaring contradictions to expose the systemic problems in our country:

1. How Donald Trump deploys preferential narrative to his supporters

2. The use of police and armed force

3. The language circulated in the media

So that we can spark our students’ critical thinking and, perhaps, action towards social and racial justice. We can pose the problems to our students regarding these contradictions:

1. Why are the violent rioters who support Trump called “protestors” instead of “terrorists”?

2. Why did the police presence in preparation for  Black Lives Matters protests so different from the footage of police taking selfies with rioters inside Capitol Hill?

3. Why is “looting” such a big part of the narrative when it comes to largely peaceful protests and not to this violent mob?

This is not only an opportunity to point out what’s wrong with the US right now.

It’s a time to teach about what people are doing right, with hopes that our students, like Samir, will throw their weight into creating a country we all deserve.

Some resources I have found helpful as I set up spaces and exercises for my Winter 2021 session are below. There are explicit ways that white educators of students of color can engage the ongoing political and racial strife in this country.

·  Resources for Teachers on the Days After the Attack on the US Capitol

·  History Repeats Itself in DC, The Legacy of Racial Violence Continues by SJSU Professor Faustina DuCros

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