The recent murders of six Asian women in Georgia and ongoing attacks on Asians in the US have left many in the BPS and BTU communities in search of resources, supports, and learning opportunities to better understand the nature and historical context of anti-Asian racism. Families and school community concerns are especially heightened as students physically return to school buildings and feel an urgency to address and fight this form of hate within classrooms and hallways. However, the lack of understanding and resources (within schools and Central Office) that address these events as well as the lived and historical experiences of Asian Americans, reveals the invisibility experienced by Asian Americans in BPS on a daily basis. The need for these resources has always been there, yet it is this crisis moment that reveals just how few resources on Asian American experiences and history are available to our teachers, students and schools.
A number of BTU members–Asian and non Asian– have reached out to inform us that after raising the need for these resources or learning opportunities, school administrators have turned and asked these teachers to create and provide training to their colleagues. This situation lays bare the structural problems in BPS to systematically address racism, specifically anti-Asian racism. We believe that educators play a critical role in creating a positive racial climate and culture at their schools. However, this responsibility should not fall to teachers alone. There is a power and resource difference at play when school administrators ask individual teachers or groups of teachers to lead PDs on race without also providing adequate resources, supports, and compensation. No staff should face the false choice to either develop and lead PD for the school, or have the school go without a PD on an important issue.
Agreeing to lead a PD for colleagues about anti-racism may seem like being a “team player.” However, it is concerning when educators of color are pressured, intentionally or not, to lead these efforts. Just because one may have been traumatized does not give someone expertise or responsibility to teach others about it. It can do more harm than good when anti-racism trainings are led by well-intended people who have little or no formal training themselves on this topic. If a teacher raised the issue of needing training around sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace, it would be unacceptable to ask that teacher to then lead a PD about sexism and harassment in the workplace for the staff who havd engaged in the harassing behavior. The school admin needs to bring in people who have expertise and experience–and pay them to do a series of training–rather than task the person who brought it up with developing a training.
For those educators who do want to engage in and lead this type of work, there should be structures and training in place that ground them in its principles with trusted and knowledgeable experts so that they may build capacity for the long term with their colleagues. This learning and capacity building will likely be different for whit educators and educators of color. With anti-racist work, white teachers in particular should follow the lead of, and elevate the voices, experiences and expertise of anti-racist trainers and scholars from various communities of color, and leverage social capital to advocate for adequate funding and resources to support them.
This is a real chance to demand that BPS deal with this gap in a systemic way by pushing for school administrators and Central Office to partner and pay race scholars and anti-racist training experts (who specialize in specific anti-racism training in specific communities: i.e. anti-Asian racism is different from anti-indigenous racism is different from anti-Black racism) who are trusted by the community and who already study and do this work in schools to do long term work with the district and teachers, rather than passing that responsibility onto concerned and conscientious educators who already have a full plate of responsibilities. Anti-racism work isn’t just asking a speaker to come in and share a few words during a highly publicized event, or providing a list links for teachers to “explore” from outside organizations, or creating more affinity groups led by people who have never led any before. It is real work that needs real long-term commitment and real funding. Learning might be sparked by crisis, but cannot only happen in times of crisis.