Giving Compass' Take:
- After the George Floyd protests and insurrection at the Capitol, students in rural Arkansas mobilized against white supremacy to take charge of the political moment.
- How are educators empowering and supporting students through civics education?
- Learn how you can promote schools' mental health services for Black students.
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Nearly one year after the violent murder of George Floyd in broad daylight, the police officer charged with his death has been found guilty, and our country — and classrooms — are once again talking about Black lives.
My former high school students in rural Arkansas now teach at the schools they attended during their childhoods, in the same political conditions of Blackness in which I taught them in my civics class in 2014, as they tried to process the Ferguson, Missouri, police killing of Mike Brown, a man they had never met but who looked like them.
They are helping their own students mourn Floyd in the same way.
As Christina Sharpe, author of “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being,” would say, my former students are educating the next generation of Black people within the climate of white supremacy, just as I educated them.
Sharpe argues that “slavery was not singular; it was, rather, a singularity — a weather event or phenomenon. … Emancipation did not make free Black life free; it continues to hold us in that singularity.” White supremacy in all of its weather patterns — slavery, segregation, redlining and mass incarceration — has been the gray cloud that menacingly hovers over Black children and the adults who seek to protect and educate them.
When they teach about these needless deaths and the insurrection at the Capitol within the singularity, they are teaching students how to respond to this nation’s most vexing question: How do Black people live and love in the West, a civilization that did not have their living and loving in mind when white people created it through the triangle trade and slavery?
My former students have answered that question in myriad ways. In 2020, when the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others rocked the nation, they joined the nation’s Black Lives Matter movement and led a protest march in downtown Helena.
They formed an organization, Helena West-Helena 4 Change, to gather support and exercise their First Amendment right to assemble. They challenged the conditions that exist in our town that could easily lead to another killing of a George Floyd — or a Breonna Taylor, or a Sandra Bland, or a Mike Brown — on our streets.
Educators and leaders need to contend with the revenant echoes that our Black students hear in their communities by letting them know that the insurrection is a new permutation of American heritage — a new weather pattern of the singularity. Providing instruction not just on history, but on the urgency of the political moment we live in, will ultimately empower students to change the world on their own terms.
Read the full article about mobilizing Black students by [u'Hal Harris', u'hechingerreport'] at The Hechinger Report