Educators and leaders need not fear the topic of race and racism in the classroom. Here are a few tips to ensure diversity is built into your classroom, school or organization's culture.
During class discussion, explore the interracial issues and challenges in your school community and in your adjoining neighborhoods. Create a process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write a Pledge Against Racism for your school. Have the complete pledge printed up in a large format. Encourage the administration at your school to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have students say it together on a special day.
Attract Allies. Organize an ongoing group.
Begin with a group that gets together once a month to discuss the general climate at your school and surrounding neighborhoods. Create a space where people can share their stories without comment. Once the group has created a climate of trust, consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address problems and issues.
Build Bridges. Reach out to other schools.
Begin a “Bridge-School” Activity. Much of our ignorance about race comes from having very little contact or experience with persons who are different from ourselves. Consider developing an ongoing “bridge-activity” with another school in your area that is quite different from your own particular school. Beyond athletic events, we seldom enjoy connections with communities different from ours. Consider collaborating with another school in a joint service project in a neighborhood or invite members from another school to a discussion about diversity and how to build bridges among different communities.
Imagine and create through the arts
Present an Art Exhibit. Consider the underrepresented students and groups in your school. Seek to celebrate a particular group with paintings, videos, artifacts or decorations from that particular culture. Have a special opening event for this exhibit and communicate the positive values and richness of the culture on display. Another attractive form is the creation of a community mural.
Plan and create a Heritage Photography Event
Consider exploring the rich variety of ethnic identities and histories of your student body through the gathering and assembly of students’ family photographs of great grandparents, grandparents and parents. Design the assignment around the theme of immigration to America and the journeys of previous generations, The Family Tree could also be a fruitful model for gathering photographs and the students’ account of these images. Photographs could be copied and scanned and developed
into an attractive display or presentation. Dignity and beauty is the guide for this project.
Invite a storyteller from a “different” ethnic group
Stories can unlock hearts. Professional storytellers can promote thought, reflection, and action about race and diversity. The stories told — personal, funny, tragic and hopeful — evoke stories in the listeners (students) and can move participants towards commitment and action. For information about storytellers who work well with with student audiences go to home page RaceBridgesStudio.com and send an email.
Invite a Speaker from the wider world with expertise about class and racial divisions
Invite a speaker to your school who is from a completely different racial and ethic background to encourage/challenge students and faculty to see the world from a different perspective. A panel of speakers could enrich this idea. Events in the world prompts us to consider a Muslim speaker and a theme that uncovers stereotypes of Muslims and Islam. Segregation in housing and in education could also be a fruitful theme.
Celebrate the Justice Seekers and Doers: the famous and the little known.
Create a special focus on the men and women who have fought and struggled for justice and equality in the history of the United States and/or throughout global history. Remember to include heroes of all ethnicities and those who crossed “color lines” to act as allies to people of another race.
Plan a visit to two “ethnic” museums in your area. Celebrate differences and commonalities.
Develop and plan a day-trip for students to two cultural institutions that represent two cultures in your school community. Focus these visits on the contributions of these groups and their part in the richness of American culture.
Get serious about the long-term diversity plan in your classroom/school
There are many resources out there to help teachers talk about these sensitive and important issues. A few of these are :
- Explore all of our many free classroom lessons and videos on RaceBridgesStudio.com.
- Teaching Tolerance offers a wide array of free resources : www.tolerance.org
- National Conference for Community and Justice : www.nccj.org
- A two-level curriculum Kaleidoscope: Valuing Differences & Creating Inclusion : www.susanohalloran.com