It’s been over 100 years since the Great Migration when over six million African-Americans moved north and west from the southern United States in an effort to escape the domestic terror they faced on a daily basis at the hands of KKK lynch mobs. Now, even after having the country’s first African-American president, this country has taken a huge step backward by electing Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
The heinous results of the election of 2016 and what they reveal about the dreadful state of this country have reignited in me the fire to teach …a fire that sadly was dwindling.
If, like me, other teachers of color were also considering leaving the classroom, Trump’s election as president is the impetus for us hanging in there for at least another four years! Our children need us.
There are so many subliminal messages being thrown from so many angles that there is a lot of material available to teach our students how to make inferences in life. People are texts which need to be read, annotated, objectively summarized, and analyzed regularly if our children are to successfully navigate this new America.
Every teacher of color, I’m imploring you, I’m sending out this edict — and yes, I’m educational royalty, by my own appointment — to flood the educational system with our presence! Teachers! Principals! Assistant Principals! Coaches! The time is now for us to teach the babies — all the babies — knowledge worth knowing. That’s how I’m fighting back against the Trump Effect! Many of us are teaching children who will be of voting age in the next election. The influence we have on their thinking is far-reaching! Let’s hone in on it. After feeling numb, I’m now at a new stage of acknowledging the severity of the new president-elect. I’m fighting back the gravity of this situation with strategy, not happenstance.
As a teacher of color, the funds of knowledge that I bring to the classroom are often devalued and under-appreciated. Many of the same prejudices that I endure as a Black woman in America, I face as a teacher of color and so I counter this with an infusion of culturally relevant pedagogy and my insistence that Black history is American history. Do you want to know what my students are currently studying? The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas juxtaposed with The 13th, a documentary written, directed, and produced by Ava DuVernay, that explores the direct correlation between race, politics, and mass incarceration in America.
The enduring understandings are twofold: 1 – Putting present-day events into a historical context best prepares us for the future; 2 – We can learn about the present and plan for the future when we understand our past from multiple, varied perspectives. This is the trajectory of the cultural-relevant pedagogy that I’m teaching my students.
It is our individual and collective struggles as a people that resonates with our students and helps us connect with them beyond academic content. We get it. Students who are segregated (voluntarily or otherwise) in predominantly White schools need to have the experience of having a teacher of color. Students in urban schools need to have the best and the brightest teachers of color to help guide them through the inherent challenges of the ‘hood.
Only when all students are exposed to the rich knowledge that teachers of color have to impart will America’s classrooms have a chance at being great.