BH&H – Institutionalized Racism

Today we engaged in some great dialogue as a small group analyzing “Education as a Critical Practice” in the Beyond Heroes and Holidays reading.  For the lesson itself, I enjoyed the set-up and it’s ability to engage everyone in the dialogue and give them a voice and a chance to respond (this was so culturally relevant for me as a Tlingit where our words and responses are always balanced between Ravens and Eagles, and even acknowledged and responded to while we are speaking).

The quotes we each chose all related to the same themes and powerful statements the author was making about institutionalized racism and socialization of individual blame and how to guide students through a critical analysis of how to understand its role in their own lives.  This article was written towards educating college students in social services and its value for educators to read to understand that we are social service providers.

I felt like we all agreed with the article and its perspectives, as well as the need to speak up and have this conversations that critique our institutions – to quit negotiated our agendas and to be proactive and start pushing them forward as a group.  That being one of the only ways to make change at the macro level collaboratively and effectively.  It was nice to share these view points, but we also acknowledged how easy, and acceptable, it is for people to back away/tip-toe/butter down and blame down when trying to critically analyze and remove the racism embedded in education.  It can be so frustrating that you want to give up or just go with the status quo, we have to realize that the system, and socialization, is designed to perpetuate these feelings and help those in power maintain their status quo.

As someone who has worked for a social services employer (Federally recognized tribe) within the school system I appreciated the empowerment and the idea to continue the work of building alliances across the systems and services we provide to make institutional change.  This couldn’t be more true and something I have actively sought out in my job… and it’s so exciting to think about actually moving towards “big picture” change – however slow it might be.

5 thoughts on “BH&H – Institutionalized Racism”

  1. It may be a year-by-year process but little steps are still progression–there is hope! I agree with everything you had to add in your blog and those in power should also be uncomfortable and challenged. I always enjoy your comments in class, too!

  2. Mischa,
    You are so right. As educators involved in challenging racism, we can use our own experience to bring compassion, love, and respect to our work with our students.

  3. Hi Mischa,

    I was just wondering if you could give me an example of the sort of “institutional change” you’d like to see. What’s one very concrete way, from your experience, that you see the school system as broken and discriminatory? And what can be done to replace it?

  4. Too slow… progress on this issue and many more always seem to be too slow to me. The Human bureaucracy… I think getting vulnerable for many white people which usually ends up being defensive it the door through which people transform.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Mischa.

    The thing that you are describing, (when educators/administrators resort to giving up or victim-blaming) can be an example of “White Fragility”. Because White people in America are protected in the racist system we live in, even the smallest bit of racial stress can turn people towards anger, fear, and guilt. Like you mentioned, none of this is productive, and in fact, can often lead to perpetuating oppression. This may be even more frustrating for People-of-Color because for us, the frustration that White people may feel in being confronted of their racism, does not even compare to the suffering we endure on a daily basis.

    For me, the first step would be learn how to be humble. I think that being proactive is great, and collaborating is great, but without humbling ourselves to genuinely listen to one another’s stories, and more importantly, the stories of those we are serving, the direction we are headed in may stray from focus.

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