Call to Action: A Message to White Educators

An invitation to white educators and administrators to partner with us in the fight for racial justice.

Dear White Educators and Administrators:

We as white educators at Morningside Center invite you to partner with us in our fight for racial justice.

Morningside Center works with whole school communities, at the intersection of social emotional learning and racial justice. As a multiracial organization, we work collectively to build racial equity and literacy in our schools and communities.

It is difficult for white people to talk about race, racism, and white supremacist culture. Often our instinct is to call on our friends and loved ones of color to give us direction – to tell us what to say, what to do, and how to respond. But the emotional labor of challenging systemic racism and unlearning our biases already falls heavily on people of color. We as white people need to do our own work.

So even though we are a multicultural organization, we are taking this moment to speak as white people within Morningside Center to you, our white colleagues outside the organization. We do this even at the risk of making mistakes. Because the cost of our silence is too great. We can’t let our silence speak for us.

We know how hard you have worked over these past few months and how challenging it has been to take care of yourselves and your families, and to support your students during this pandemic. We know forced isolation is brutal and in complete contradiction to our basic human needs. We are so grateful to you and all our educator colleagues for stepping up in creative and generous ways over this period.

We also know that our Black, Native, Pan Asian, and Latinx students are experiencing a disproportionate amount of pain and grief from Covid-19, which has hit their communities the hardest. Asian American students and educators have faced harassment and even physical violence during this pandemic (see lesson Countering Biased Responses). We cannot underestimate the loss and stress that Covid-19 has created for all of these communities of color. 

This pandemic and the new wave of civil unrest make it even more critical that we, as white educators, step up our efforts to challenge racism in ourselves, our classrooms, our schools, and in education as an institution. It is our hope that if we take on this work collectively, we can all support one another as we build skills to navigate the courageous conversations we must have to make this transformation.

We also need to add our voices and expertise to the networks that are committed to anti-racism education that will help our young people see themselves in social movements of the past and offer historic and contemporary insights into structural racism.

A Path Forward

Our practice tells us that beginning now, we as white educators need to:

  • Create spaces where we can share and work together to undo the messages, confusion, and biases we carry as white people. This requires skilled and knowledgeable white facilitators.
  • Create healing spaces to acknowledge and face the hurt we’ve caused, whether or not we were aware that we caused it.
  • Develop our racial literacy.
  • Prepare ourselves to teach students the history of racism, help our young people see themselves in social movements of the past, and offer historic and contemporary insights into structural racism. 
  • Support the networks that are committed to anti-racism education.
  • Listen to, honor, and center the voices of our Black, Brown, and Indigenous colleagues right now, and give them the space to do the work and healing they need. We need to design schools to create affinity spaces so that Black educators and other educators of color can navigate the terrain independently as well as collectively, with us.

It is critical that we listen to our students, now and always. We need to hear their experiences of racism, and learn how they understand it. All young people experience or participate in racism from a very young age, whether or not they have identified it as such. In our experience, young people are ready and eager to grapple with race and racism. And we adults can learn to be good listeners without judgment or blame.

It’s also incredibly important that we as white people listen closely to our Black friends, colleagues, and to the movements representing Black people right now.

During this period, we need to recognize that our friends, students, loved ones, and colleagues of color are in pain – even if they haven’t shared that with us. Just as we as white people have been programmed not to talk about race, so too have people of color learned not to share their struggles with white friends or even self-proclaimed “allies.”

We fully appreciate the difficulty of engaging in conversations about race and racism. We have been taught as white people not to notice race. We’ve been taught that to talk openly and honestly about racial inequity is tantamount to racism.

Yet we now know that true liberation and healing is only possible for all of us when we commit to these courageous conversations.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be offering a range of tools and resources to support us all as we move forward. These might include:

  • lessons and guidelines posted in the TeachableMoment section of our website
  • reading materials and videos to support our own progress as white people who are working to unlearn and dismantle racism
  • webinars on whiteness, and what Robin DiAngelo calls “white fragility”
  • support and coaching for white educators who are facilitating or would like to facilitate restorative conversations around race

We’d love to hear from YOU about what YOU would want to learn or help this community explore.

Join us as we create spaces to understand, uproot, and heal from the legacy and impact of racism in this country.