Shledon Eakins:

What's up folks. Dr. Eakins is here with another episode on the Leading Equity Podcast. Today's going to be a little different. We're going to do some Q&A. So if you have questions, feel free to shoot me an email, [email protected], and I will try to take some time every so often to do some Q&A just to give my thoughts. These are just my thoughts, all right? I don't consider myself the end all be all, but I just like to share my thoughts and opinions on things. Before we get into the question and answer time, I do want to remind you that this coming Friday, the Annihilating Racial Injustice In Schools online course will be open. So you can enroll in the course now. This is asynchronous. Okay. So there is no meeting time or any of those kinds of things.

               The course will be available. And the way I'm going to provide this course is I'm going to drip out a module every single week. Okay? So each week there will be a new module that will start at the beginning of each week. And there's a total of 10 modules. Again, Annihilating Racial Injustice In Schools. If you're looking forward to your summer PD, this is the course that you need. All right? And not only that, you'll get a PD certificate at the end of the course. You do not want to miss this. There's 10 modules, how to be an anti-racist, anti-racism and anti-biased practices, framing brave conversations about race and ethnicity, the dangers of performative wokeness, do black lives matter?, multicultural education in predominantly white spaces, teaching privilege and power to students, cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation, dealing with racial slurs in schools and colorism. Those are the 10 modules. Again,, or you can follow the link in the show notes. It's all there for you.

               Also, if you're looking for keynotes, if you're looking for training for this coming school year, feel free to reach out to me, [email protected] And the last plug that I will send out, and then we'll get into the Q&A time is the student advocacy room is still available. We have filled most of the spots, but I have a few more spots available for the advocacy room and affinity space for student voices if you are looking to get some student work done. Right? You recognize that the work that we do as educators and the work that we do in our own professional development doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to change the experiences of our students. Sometimes our students still need some additional support and a place to go when they need some help with engaging in conversations with their peers, even adults. And we have the advocacy room, which is a student affinity that's available for you as well. We are still doing 20% off of the services. So again, feel free to reach out, link in the show notes.

               Welcome to the Leading Equity Podcast. My name is Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins. And for over a decade, I've helped educators become better advocates for their students. What is an advocate? An advocate is someone who recognizes that we don't live in a just society. Advocates aren't comfortable with the status quo and are willing to speak up on behalf of others. No matter where you are in your journey towards ensuring all of your students are equipped with the resources they need to thrive, I'm here to help you build your knowledge and confidence to ensure equity at your school.

               All right, so let's get into the Q&A time. Now this was not a particular email that was sent to me, word for word, but I have gotten this question quite a few times over the past few days. Okay? Now I am recording this Monday, June 21st. And if you're familiar with timeline, if you live in the United States, President Biden just passed the Juneteenth as a federal holiday. And I've got a lot of people have reached out to me and asked me some questions in regards to what are my thoughts on Juneteenth becoming a national holiday, federal holiday. And here's my response. And again, these are just my opinions. These are just my opinions. I grew up in Houston, Texas. I was very aware of Juneteenth. And if you're not familiar with Juneteenth, what exactly it is, I'll give you a quick overview.

               Emancipation proclamation passes, which is supposed to end slavery. As of that day, that was when slavery was supposed to end. I believe that was 1865, sometime in 1865. However many of the slaves in Texas, they weren't notified. They weren't told that they were free until two and a half years later. That's when they were notified that they were free, on June 19th, two years later. Just growing up in Houston, we've always celebrated Juneteenth every June 19th. Right? And so it was good to know that there's more awareness. So not just Texas was celebrating, but a lot of states, a lot of communities were celebrating Juneteenth. People sometimes will ask me questions such as, "Sheldon, how come you don't celebrate 4th of July?" I said, "Well back in 1776, my people were enslaved." So they didn't celebrate 4th of July. And to be honest, I would say if you're indigenous as well, I would imagine you probably don't celebrate 4th of July either.

               Because your people, again, what does 4th of July signify? Independence on what we call the United States of America. We're celebrating taking someone else's land, right? It wasn't their land to claim independence on in the first place. So if you're indigenous, if you're a black person, we have to consider what was happening during this time. It wasn't made for us. That wasn't our celebration. It wasn't our celebration. But anyway, going back to Juneteenth. I've been thinking about this because it's good that there's more awareness to the various things that have happened within our country, the atrocities that have happened in our country. So on one hand, it's good that we're recognizing it. We're acknowledging June 19th and what happened. However, I would love to see more long-term lasting impressions, if you will, on what is happening currently in our country. I've heard someone say this is like putting a band-aid. The real thing is we have a lot of issues that are impacting our community.

               And when I say our community, I mean communities of color, right? And specifically, when we talk about the black community, I would love to have seen a bill being passed in regards to anti-police brutality maybe, anti-hate. I would love to have seen something that was specific. If we're going to acknowledge, Juneteenth, slavery was a horrible thing. If we're going to acknowledge it once a year, every June 19th, and everyone gets a day off because you know how sometimes national holidays, they're just viewed as another day off for us. "Oh, well, well, okay, I'm fine with that. Oh, we get a day off? Cool." But does that really bring any change? Does that bring any change? That's my thing is, okay, how does this impact my life tomorrow? So I took a day off, so I got a rest. But is it going to impact any change?

               So I would love to see, I would love to see some tangible efforts to change a lot of the systems that are put in place. In my home state of Idaho, they banned critical race theory, House bill 377. So on a federal level, we recognized June 19th, but then on the local level, we can't talk about it. So I got to tell my students, "Okay, you guys are off on June 19th," but I can't tell them why, because there's been a ban of critical race theory, on paper. If I'm an educator and I'm about that life, I'm going to figure out ways to still be able to support my students and teach them how to be human beings. I feel like when we say you can't talk about race, you can't have any conversations about race because critical race theory is teaching Americans or teaching students to hate America, but that's not the case. Right?

               All it is, is saying that there has been things that have happened in our country. There are systems in place that historically have been set up to oppress. And generationally, these systems have continued to uphold white supremacy. That's not teaching us to hate America. It's just bringing awareness to what's happening in that there needs to be some changes. But if I'm a legislator and my child is coming home and I'm not an educator, right? My child is coming home saying, "Hey, mommy, daddy," or whoever, "I learned about implicit bias today," or "I learned about microaggressions," or "We talked about race or social justice, we talked about this in class. I'm just a legislator. I'm not an educator. And in my mind, first of all, my child goes to school and they're supposed to get an education.

               They're not there to learn about any leftist or conservative or whatever it is. We're not there to learn about those types of things. They need to learn about reading, writing, arithmetic. And we're not considering the human side of things. And so if I have the control, if I have an opportunity to pass a law that says, "You're not allowed to teach anything outside of academics, especially race. You're not allowed to talk about race." But then again, we celebrate Juneteenth, we celebrate Dr. King. So I'm supposed to teach about Dr. King or we bring up black history. How do you teach black history? How do you teach Native American heritage month, Hispanic heritage month? How do you teach about any of these months? And keep in mind, I'm a big proponent against tokenized events. However, how do you teach your students about these without talking about race or bringing in how race has played a factor?

               But again, we celebrate these months, these special days. I would love to see some laws changed on a federal level with lasting impact. That shows me that we're going in the right direction. Again, I'm not against a holiday, I'm not against it, but I want to see more. I would love to see more. All right, let's get into some of these Q&A. I actually have a form. I'm going to put the form in the show notes as well. I'm going to put the link for the forum. I'm going to go through this form. So again, feel free to shoot me an email [email protected] or you can fill out this form that talks about, it's a form where you can fill out your questions as well.

               All right, so here's the first question that I have here, and I haven't read any of these questions. So this will just be just again, my thoughts. Question is, "Why do most, if not all, so-called diversity equity and inclusion initiatives and professionals exclude people with disabilities? Most such programs and activities aren't accessible to persons with disabilities, even as an afterthought, let alone address people who are deaf or have disabilities as a valued target or audience, monetary, whose experience of workplace discrimination, healthcare disparities and inequities, and social and domestic violence, including familial violence, is as high or severe as that experienced by persons or communities of color. This lateral or horizontal oppression and marginalization is rife throughout the diversity profession and activities, especially as I see them in the federal government."

               All right, good question. I guess the challenge that I have with the question is that it seems to be some sort of a comparison of our disabled community in comparison to our communities of color. Says that they have basically experienced their experiences is as high or severe as the experiences by persons or communities of color. The challenge that I have is that our communities of color can be disabled too. Right?

               A person of color can also be disabled. So we have to think about the intersectionality of things. When we think about how let's say a brown person who might be part of the deaf and hard of hearing community, they face challenges as well. Right? Folks of color can be disabled and I'm not a big fan of comparing who's had it worse. I try to avoid those types of conversations. I just believe that when it comes to oppression, when it comes to discrimination, I don't like to have that conversation about who's had it worse. I think we have all experienced things and some have experienced more than others. However, to me, that's not what's important. That's not what's important to me. To me, it's important to recognize that these things are happening and how do we fix it, how do we stop it from happening, as opposed to focusing on who've had it worse. Okay?

               So I would agree that when it comes to diversity training, equity training, inclusion training, we don't always include our communities that are disabled. Now I come from a special education background. I've worked in special education and I've seen it from again, working with communities of color who are a person of color who also has some sort of a disability, learning disability, whatever it is, IEP, 504 plans. And so I know that when it comes to a lot of the PD that's available, it's there. It's there. We have to find it. I would argue that there is a lot of training and professional development, at least again, in my experience because I worked within special education. I've seen a lot of professional development that is available for our folks that are disabled.

               Now, I would say that there could always be more, there could always be more. Me personally, I do not represent the deaf and hard of hearing community. So this was mentioned in the question. I don't represent that community. And sometimes I get questions like, "How come you don't do a lot of talk regarding our deaf and hard of hearing, our disabled, our LGBTQ communities, our gender rights?" I said, "Those are not communities that I represent." I am a person of color and I tend to sway more towards racial equity. I don't apologize for that at all. I'm one of those in your lane type of people. I'm one of those individuals like, I don't represent this space. This is not an identity that I personally have. I would rather see someone who does have these lived experience. I want to give them that space.

               I want their voices to be heard. I am not going to take away from them. So yes, I will bring on a guest to talk about certain topics and areas who have area of expertise to discuss certain topics regarding issues and challenges of identities that I don't have. I would love to see more support and professional development outside of just race, right? Because I believe when it comes to oppression, when it comes to discrimination, it can happen across racial lines, various identities are impacted. That's a good question. Thank you for asking. All right, let me look at time. Okay, I think I got a little time to do a little bit more.

               Next question says, "In your post, why white students need multicultural and social justice education, you write that 'Students as young as six years old can learn about race and class.' My students have a very high generational poverty rate. How explicit do you think educators should be at making students aware of the socioeconomic status of their family? For example, I can see speaking to young students about class, without them making a connection to their own situation." This question, I like the question. But the question's a little different than my quote that I posted because it says you write that students as young as six years old can learn about race in class. Oh, okay class. Okay, I see it in there. Okay, okay, okay. Cool, cool. All right, no problem. This is a good question, right? Because I get asked this question a lot. I work with early childhood educators and the question comes up, four years old, five years old, can I talk about race to them? Yes you can.

               We teach our kids about colors. We teach them what red looks like, what yellow looks like, what black and white, brown. We teach them colors early on. And guess what? Our kids can recognize that their skin color is different. There is a lot of research that says that kids as young as three months start to identify people that look like their caregivers. As early as three months. So the conversations can happen. Now, I will throw this caveat out there. When we are talking to a four year old, our conversations are not going to be the same as if we're talking to a 15 year old, a ninth or 10th grader. But we can have those conversations. I always tell, especially my early childhood folks, I tell our early childhood folds, I say, You have such, the impact, the just a little piece that you are the spark, if you will, that you are giving to those little babies that you are sharing with our little ones."

               Such an impact that we have when we work in early childhood. Think about the book selection that we have, right? There are books that we can utilize that talk about privilege, that talk about social status, social economic status. And I think it's important that again, that we don't shy away from it just because of their age. Okay? I think it's important that we have those conversations. Now, the question is, how explicit do I get? I think at the early ages, that we just focus on introducing these concepts. So maybe we're not going full on privilege, doing privilege walks and just going hard. However, we can, again, I like to bring in literature, right? We can find those books that talk about privilege and Diverse BookFinder is a really good resource to find that.

               But again, I say, introduce the concept. Again, you don't have to go far in depth. But at least introduce the concepts of privilege and then you can introduce the concepts of race as well, and go from there and go from there, and just allow the students to talk.

               Let's answer one more. Okay, here's a question that came up. "We recently had a white teacher use the N-word in class. It was in relation to a piece of literature the class was studying, but the word did not appear in the text. I would like to provide some resources for the teacher and the students. I know there is a lot of information on this, but I am wondering how you might help a white teacher that is utilizing the N-word in class is a problem. To me, it doesn't matter whether or not the word was in the text or not. I don't think that word should be utilized."

               I personally don't think it should be utilized at all. Right? As a black person. I don't think that word should be used. But definitely when it comes to a white teacher utilizing the N-word in class, I'm actually curious to know what happened because it says "I would like to provide some resources for the teacher." So I'm assuming the teacher didn't get fired. I don't know that there was any sort of disciplinary actions that took place. I find this interesting. However, resources, I mean the only resources I can think of is just tell them don't use the word. I don't know. Sometimes this conversation comes up where it's like, well, why can't we utilize this word? Personally, I don't think you need a resource. I don't have one to give you.

               And I do have a episode that talks about racial slurs. However, I don't think that there should be a set of resources that I need to send someone on why they shouldn't use the N-word. If you're telling me that the word wasn't even in the text, I don't know the full story related to how the word came up then. But to me, if you are a teacher, if you're in front of students and you claim that you care about kids, using racial slurs in any sort of context, to me, is inappropriate. So not just the N-word, but just racial slurs. I don't think we should utilize them at all. Okay? I don't have a resource to give. To me, just common sense. I don't know. Common sense resource. I don't have one to give. I do have an episode. I'll try to remember to put the link in there, but I don't have one.

               All right, let's do one more. Let's do one more. "How should we refer to students who are struggling? Something other than low." It's a good one. Cause when we say struggling, we're approaching things from a deficit frame, deficit mindset. Some words that we can utilize instead are striving. So the students not striving or the students not struggling, the student's a troublemaker, troublesome kid, whatever it is, these deficit mindsets, but a kid is approaching, a kid is striving, a kid is a scholar in whatever sense. Just a scholar. They're scholars. I'm glad this question came up because I've been hearing a lot of conversations centered around learning loss, especially with this past school year, COVID, everything.

               Learning loss, a lot of kids, learning loss, boom, boom, boom. There's so much emphasis placed on this learning loss. And listen, we forget to humanize our kids sometimes, the academic side of things. All of our kids, and I don't know about you, but me personally, this is my first time ever experiencing a pandemic. You know how hard it is to try to focus and learn when you don't know necessarily if you have a roof over your head or you're not used to online learning and you learn better in person with one-on-one support or multi-tiered systems of support? You learn better that way and now you're forced to have to do online learning, learn on your own. You don't have someone at home helping you.

               We have a lot of kids that are resilient, surviving, but we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of test scores. I've seen schools who emphasize social emotional learning, put more emphasis on academics and talk about learning loss. And again, if we're doing social emotional learning, if we're claiming that we're an SEL school, we need to be doing this with fidelity. Humanize our kids. Learning loss, I don't like to hear it because that's a deficit frame. That's a deficit mindset. When we talk about achievement gap, those are deficits. Let's celebrate our kids from where they are right now. As of today, this is where they are. How do we build? That's a good question.

               Again, if you have questions, I'm going to put a link for my question and answer form. Also, you can always shoot me an email, [email protected] If you have any other questions, feel free. These are just my thoughts, okay? Again, these are just how I feel. This is what I think about these questions. These are my answers. Okay? If you're looking for a professional development, shoot me an email. Keynotes, trainings, we do offer that. And of course, the new course Annihilating Racial Injustice in Schools will be available this coming Friday, June 25th. For more information, again, link in the show notes. That's all I have for you today.


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