The Hechinger Report
On a rainy Saturday morning this spring, 40 teachers and school administrators sat on folding chairs in the basement of a Brooklyn school for an all-day workshop on how to talk about race in the classroom. Organized by Border Crossers, a nonprofit group that trains teachers, administrators and parents how to explore race and racism, the event was led by trainers Ana Duque and Ben Howort, both former teachers.
“I do this work because, as a former kindergarten through third-grade teacher, and as a parent, I learned that when children have the language to explain race and racism, good things can happen,” Duque told the group. “There’s something about race that’s so fundamentally uncomfortable in our culture — especially when it intercepts with conversations about class and privilege.”
The teachers came from every New York City borough and from places as far-flung as Oregon and Washington, D.C. They were milling around a classroom at Columbia University’s Teachers College when facilitator Natalia Ortiz projected a sentence onto the board and instructed them to fill in the blank.
“When I talk about race and racism…,” it read. After a moment of hesitation, the teachers jumped right in.
Noah Garcia, a teacher in Brooklyn’s District 15, leads professional development on race and equity at her school. She said she found it harder to talk to her white colleagues about race than with her students. For Hector Alvarez, assistant education director at Greater Brunswick Charter School in New Jersey, status as a native Spanish speaker complicates discussions about race — vocabulary commonly used to speak on the subject in his culture might be deemed offensive in the American context. Another educator said that her fellow white colleagues stopped being friendly to her after she tried to start conversations about race. “When you’re socially excluded, that will get you to shut up,” she said.
NYC Patch article