Race

I’m white.

This does not include “Low Confidence Regions.”

Don’t get much whiter. That “Europe West” includes a lot of German.

I’m not a white-supremacist however. I consider myself a no-supremacist. Everyone should be treated as equals. No, I’m not saying I always live up to that principle. My life has been a long evolution to this point, and I hope to continue to evolve to the day I die.

As a teacher I am acutely aware of race. I cannot consciously treat any student differently due to race, gender, gender/sexual identity, religion, political views, or any other diverse quality. But that hasn’t stopped people from thinking that I have done so, and that really hurts.

Every year there are students whose behavior is challenging. Many are white like me. Some aren’t. I always have a lot of students who cause me no trouble whatsoever. Many are white like me. Some aren’t.

When I’m dealing with disruptive behavior in class, it always feels different if the student is African-American. I can feel my anxiety level rising, my chest tightening, or queasiness. It’s because I’ve had trouble once before. While there was no direct accusation, the insinuation that I was treating a student differently because of who he was, was very real. The fact was, the student and his white buddies were very disruptive and disrespectful, and I treated them no differently.

More than a decade ago, our district was sued by some African-American families. The accusation was systemic racism. As a result of the settlement, all staff had annual diversity training, and the district hired a person to head up an office to work on equity.

I hadn’t known of the lawsuit until after it was settled. But some time later I learned that I had had at least one student from a family involved in the suit. I had gone to one of his pee wee football games. He was in my class the year I had Olympic Gold Medalist “Sugar” Ray Seales visit my class. I think I still have a picture of the student holding the gold medal somewhere.

I was not one of the teachers who had to testify in the lawsuit. Nobody ever talked to me or interviewed me about it. I had a good relationship with the family. I have good relationships with most families. But I still feel anxious when dealing with negative behavior of students who are African-American.

About Michael Brown

I am a public school teacher in the state of Washington. I enjoy writing, bird-watching, working in the garden, photography, and spending time with my family. View all posts by Michael Brown

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