Last month, I had the opportunity to take part in racial equity training hosted by IPS in partnership with the Racial Equity Institute. This two-day training equips businesses and organizations with the tools needed to understand structural racism and its cultural and historic roots.
I was blown away by the wealth of knowledge I received. I am not an IPS employee, but I can see how this training is crucial for individuals in the education field. I appreciated how the training explored the history of our nation in a linear fashion by highlighting how various historical events impacted people of color.
The context of a story matters. If history is a story, then it helps to study historical events in a cohesive and linear manner. We started with the arrival of the settlers from England and enslaved Africans. Then, we followed the history of people of color to modern times. It was easy to see how structural racism works.
Many Americans view racism as something that is personal. We think of an individual who joins a hate group or calls another person a racial slur. It could easily be said that that person is a bad apple without acknowledging the systems that have truly caused racial disparities in America.
One example from the training that comes to mind is the G.I. Bill, which provided employment opportunities, education, and money for housing for military veterans following WWII. The bill’s language did not specifically exclude Black veterans, but it was structured in a way that limited its impact for Black people who served. After WWII, the racial wealth gap in America grew even wider because Black recipients did not have access to the homes and jobs that white soldiers were able to access. The training explored how every avenue of American infrastructure was impacted by structural racism, including the medical field, the housing market, and our school systems.
I would love to see training of this nature offered to young people.
Our youngest minds:
I recently had the opportunity to read “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. It tackles the history of America in linear fashion as well and includes a wealth of knowledge in accessible language that middle school students can read.
In the same manner that “Stamped” was an adaptation of “Stamped From The Beginning,” I’d love to see training of this nature “adapted” for youth.
Even though many children may not see the world through a racial lens, from a young age, students of color are being racialized by the adults around them. Studies show that adults view Black children as older when asked to guess their age, and they don’t often receive the benefit of the doubt in disciplinary situations. We’ve seen the impact of this in the case of Tamar Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was killed by police when his toy gun was mistaken for the real gun.
I’d like to think that’s it’s rare for a young person to be called a racial slur by a teacher a school, but that doesn’t mean they are not being racialized at school. Giving students the language and tools to understand and talk about racism would be powerful. Students of color would be able to articulate their feelings when it happens to them, and white students will have a better understanding of their peers.
I know educators have a lot on their hands, but I truly believe age-appropriate training on race would benefit children. While the training was great, I did think that the adults who might benefit from the training the most would be the least likely to sign up for it. Children, on the other hand, are often eager to make their world a better place. Adults often have their worldviews set in stone, but children are teachable. If we want an equitable society, it will start with them.