A generation that either is free of or fights against discrimination can’t devise without anti-racist school culture. Experiencing discriminatory behaviour at school can seed a lasting feeling of despair, fear, and isolation in a child that might impair their ability to participate in, fight for and demand a dignified full and productive life. And so, it’s pre-eminent that we raise awareness, that a person’s race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, or any other status, should not deprive them of their right to equity, as early as at school; all in the triumph of inclusiveness and empowerment. We have written this article in recognition of Zero Discrimination Day; we’re suggesting what school authorities can do to carry through an anti-racist school culture.
Inclusiveness in hiring
Students who have experienced discrimination are often not receptive to help or consolation, because of the obvious; someone treated them unfairly and now they have trust issues. Spectating that the authorities implement an inclusive culture in all its activities, i.e., workforce recruitment, convinces a child that the help offered by the school is, in fact, genuine and not superficial; that the authorities truly empathise with the child that has been treated unfairly.
Children care about how people pronounce their name and how well those people understand their accent/language because they are sensitive. And that is why teachers need to be discreet about their students’ feelings. People go into the profession of teaching primarily because they deeply care about children. This makes it difficult or even absurd for them to admit that they can still harm their students unconsciously; this might be mere obliviousness or the result of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, etc., that has been ingrained in our brains through generations. An effective way of addressing this possible bias in teachers without offending them is by enrolling them in programmes that teach tolerance and diversity as part of induction; awareness of the amount of responsibility that comes with their profession should be at its core.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
People often avoid talking about white supremacy, anything related to injustice for that matter, because it overwhelms them. But it’s still important to talk about everything that’s wrong with the world on a day-to-day basis; we can’t expect change without awareness. To effectuate thorough awareness, students should be encouraged to be curious and ask questions. Dexterity in racial literacy, cultural responsiveness, and current affairs, is essential for teachers who will answer these uncomfortable questions. Activities can include, teaching black history beyond Black History Month, open discussions and debates on what zero discrimination means to each student, replacing vague policies with a defined culture of respect, etc.
Healing, love, and fun.
Ensuring that students have a fulfilling experience beyond one that results from being a responsible student and human encourages students’ participation in anti-racist policies. There is a range of policies and activities that a school can carry in this regard; perhaps invest in a mental health facility within school premises where victims of racial violence can get help. Other activities can include organizing events such as Multicultural Week, representing and celebrating multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds in hallway displays, encouraging students to share stories in class about tolerance and inclusiveness, etc.; the basis is to build empathy and diversity.
At the end of the day, we can’t fight against racism and disregard the predicament of classism, sexism, homophobia, etc. All forms of oppression are connected and can be annihilated only through an elaborate culture of respect and unity; the fight is against all violations of human rights.