My first presentation for NSBA and CUBE was a workshop titled “Racial Consciousness for Educational Leaders.” It called on educational leaders to strengthen their muscle on race. Let’s begin by acknowledging that race is a social construct. It is a human-made phenomenon. However, we don’t teach about race in our school systems. This is by design. Part of the work, I suggested, includes establishing a common language and leaning into our own racial identity.
My workshop was based on the five stages of racial and cultural identity development by researchers George Morten, Donald R. Atkinson, and Derald Wing Sue.
Education leaders (including superintendents and school board members) in Stage 1 are asleep. I see a direct connection between how they fund their educational efforts and how they justify achievement gaps. They don’t believe students of color have the capacity to learn like other children.
Stage 2 educational leaders confront an ugly truth. Racism is pervasive. The impact COVID-19 is having on disenfranchised communities is evident. People of color might be pushing for reform for a legitimate reason.
Stage 3 white educational leaders have the privilege to disengage and leave the fight. If they stay engaged, they are headed to being an anti-racist and a co-conspirator. They have significant power that can accelerate the work.
Stage 3 people of color educational leaders should stay the course. Push for policy changes. They are clear on the gaps in our system.
White educational leaders in Stage 4 truly understand how whiteness shows up in their day-to-day life. They realize as uncomfortable as they are, there are children who are even more uncomfortable.
For Stage 4 people of color, their thirst for knowing who they are and where they came from has been quenched. Their belly is full of their people’s history, and now they want to explore other people’s cultures and racialized experiences.
Stage 5 White educational leaders do “Woke Work.” They are the ones supporting and pushing for racial equity. They have been in the streets protesting, passing racial equity policies, or calling out systemic racism publicly. If you are a Stage 5 white person, you are not motivated by guilt. You are motivated by love and justice.
Stage 5 people of color know who they are, where they came from, and have learned how to stop negotiating their value system.
Recently, the president of the United States prohibited diversity training in federal agencies focusing on white privilege, critical race theory, and the origins of race. This is more evidence that key people with power in our country want to hide the counternarratives of our real history and design of the country.
Why is this president adamant about eliminating educational and professional opportunities? What is the message our students get when the leaders keep changing the rules for themselves and when funding is cut as more children of color are a growing majority? What do they think of us if we are not forcing our own educational systems to change?
This work is not easy, but it transforms lives. The haters will come. Use their “hateration” for your elevation to be the light our children need you to be. We should all hold each other accountable for providing receipts for positive social change. That means we use our positional and personal power to shift our school systems. We can do that by being visionary leaders, establishing smart district goals and working in collaboration with our superintendents to close achievement gaps.