Border Crossers is meeting a critical need for racial justice work in classrooms, schools, and communities across the country–from New York City to Dallas, Texas.
Racial inequities manifest in myriad ways throughout the U.S. educational system. Since the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, racial segregation continues to plague schools across the country. In fact, a 2014 study found that New York state has the most segregated schools in the nation, while Dallas ranks second among the most segregated urban public school systems. To illustrate, a recent report published by the Century Foundation found that in one out of every six pre-K classrooms in New York City, at least 90% of the preschoolers share the same race or ethnicity. Furthermore, school segregation impacts the distribution of funding and resources. Nationwide, schools spend about $334 more on white students than on students of color.
Our schools are plagued with monoculturalism. The teaching workforce in the U.S. does not reflect the growing diversity of the children and families they serve. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that in New York and Texas, the urban teaching workforce is 59% and 54% white, respectively. In New York City, fewer than one in four children is white (35.5% are Latino, 25% are Black, 11% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.5% are two or more races, and less than 1% are American Indian or Alaska Native). And in Dallas, only 14.5% of children are white (while 57.8% are Latino, 24% are Black, 2% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 1.4% are more than one race, and less than 1% are American Indian or Alaska Native). Most educational policies and practices are constructed by this largely white, middle-class, female teaching body and exclude other perspectives–a process that has harmful consequences for all students. The impact of these policies and practices can be seen in racial disparities in graduation rates, representation in special education, punitive discipline rates, and performance on standardized tests. For example, Black preschoolers are about three times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.
Children see and experience this racial inequality. Young children recognize racial differences and internalize implicit racial bias, well before they enter Kindergarten. Research consistently shows that taking a “colorblind” or “colormute” approach does not yield race-neutral opinions in children. In fact, national studies show that effective teaching and student engagement requires intimate knowledge of students’ increasingly diverse backgrounds and their life contexts, yet most teachers report feeling ill-equipped discussing race and culture, and few school systems provide ongoing professional development in this area. Resistance or denial can undermine the development of a culturally responsive school culture and climate, whereas “being explicit about the impact of racism in schools and society and developing an antiracist school culture in which people of color feel a sense of belonging and empowerment will lead to better outcomes for students of color.”
As we continue to witness the tragic deaths of black and brown people at the hands of systemic racism in the criminal justice system, educators, schools and parents across the country are crying out for help. Border Crossers provides educators with training to address these issues with children using a racial justice analysis, and build learning environments grounded in racial equity, justice and dignity for all students.