Dr. Eakins:

What is going on in our schools these days? It seems like there's more racial slurs being said. I probably have gotten about 10 emails within the last couple of months regarding different instances of racial slurs being utilized in schools, in hallway, in classroom, things like that. Some of our students, especially our students of color, are dealing with various aspects centered around this. And so I have a lot of educators reaching out and asking, "What do we do? What can I do about the situation?" Now, in my course, Annihilating Racial Injustice in Schools, I have a module. Actually, the last module within the course, is dealing with racial slurs in schools.

               So for today's episode, I'm putting a portion of that module, some of that information of dealing with racial slurs, I thought it would be beneficial to all of my listeners, but if you want the entire course, if you want the entire module in regards to dealing with racial slurs, you can see a link in a show notes on how to enroll in the course.

               So I'm just sharing a portion of dealing with racial slurs in school's module for you to listen to the audio here for you. But as always, if you are looking for further work, if you're looking for support with keynotes, training, things like that, please feel free to reach out to Leading Equities Center. I also have some big things coming up in January. We're having our annual virtual summit, Leading Equity Virtual Summit, is happening in January. I don't have the date yet. So I'll give that to you shortly, probably within the next couple of episodes, you'll get some information on registration and how to get that content. But it's called Educated Therapy and I'll share a little bit more in upcoming weeks. So just stay tuned for that.

               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.

               Honestly, I get questions centered around, "What do I do when I have students that are utilizing racial slurs at each other?" There's these instances where some students might utilize the... I'm going to say it like this. Some people will say the N word, for example, and they'll either put the A on the end or they'll put the E-R on the end. And unfortunately, well, I don't know, I still have my thoughts on that, but I guess I would say that the intention is often different whether or not you put the A or the E-R. Doesn't necessarily mean that the impact will change or is different, but often the intention is different.

               So for example, you might have black kids or even kids of color utilizing the N word with an A and then you may have students that are not of color that are utilizing the E-R. You might even have other words that are being brought up such as... Well, I'm not going to say the other racial slurs, but the N word is one. There's plenty of words that are utilized for our Latinx community. There's words that are for Asian and also for our Native American communities as well. And they're all racial slurs and they're meant to hurt.

               Now, again, I know that some folks will say, "Well, this was a form of endearment, a term of endearment." But we have to go back. I'm a history person. So we have to go back to the history. Where did that word come from? Some folks will tell me, "Well, we're taking power back by utilizing this word in a positive manner, as opposed to it being a negative word." I'm sorry. I disagree with that. I've seen folks utilize racial slurs with acronyms. I've seen different instances. And I'm like, "How could you take something back that was never yours?" When we think about where these words come from. How can you take something back? You didn't create it. And so we utilize these words against ourselves. So we're going to jump into it. And I'm going to give you my thoughts on how to support or how to deal with racial slurs.

               First thing we always want to try to do is try to make sure that it's preventative. Rather than being reactionary people, we want to be folks that are trying to prevent these instances from happening. Full disclosure, I'll be honest with you. It's tough. It is tough to eradicate a lot of the language that our kids are using. You know why? Because even when we address these words, sometimes students will say, "Okay, well, we just won't utilize the words in front of the teacher. The teacher doesn't like it when we say this, or when we say that, but we'll still utilize these terms outside of the classroom when a teacher's not around, in the lunch room and recess, those type of things." But at the end of the day, we've all heard it. We've heard these words and our kids learn it from somewhere. They learn it from somewhere. I've had instances.

               For example, my daughter, she's definitely been called to N word a couple times. I've addressed parents directly and I've also taken my time to go up to the school and address the administration in regards to the words that are being utilized towards my daughter. She's been called the N word, she's been called a burnt chicken nugget. She's been called all kind of things. My daughter's very social. My son's experiences have been a lot different. He actually has black kids in his class, believe that or not, in Idaho. But my daughter has always been the only, sometimes even the only person of color, but definitely only black girl in her class each year, in her grade each year. But my son's situation has been a little bit different.

               So what do we do? So I'm going to start with prevention. I'm going to start with prevention. I think that's the most important thing, because a lot of times when people reach out to me, they'll come up to me and they'll say, "Dr. Eakins, we've had these instances of kids that are calling each other the N words or they're calling each other, other racial slurs and they're giving each other a pass. And they're saying, it's okay for you to utilize it or they'll just say what's up my blank, blank, blank. As if it's a positive experience. we don't want this to happen anymore. We don't think that this is a school culture that we want to cultivate. And so what can we do?"

               So again, I start with the prevention. I want to draw your attention to Dr. James A. Banks. I talk about him a lot. I got to get him on my show, but he is definitely someone that I find very influential. When we think about culturally responsive, culturally relevant, culturally sustaining. When we think about all of these things, the root, I would say, a lot of is the founder if you will, of this multicultural education where we're really paying more attention to the individual needs, especially when it comes to culture and ethnicity. Dr. James A. Banks out of University of Washington is the go-to person again. He is credited for multicultural education.

               Now, part of his multicultural education, he has five dimensions. I'm not going to go through the five dimensions. That's actually in my teaching through a culturally diverse lens course. But one of the dimensions within his five dimensions is prejudice reduction. So prejudice reduction is one of the five key dimensions of multicultural education. It's an umbrella term, referring to deliberate attempts to reduce prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination, and to develop positive attitudes between different ethnic and cultural groups. Now, what does that mean? Well, here's the thing. When we think about a lot of the content.

               For example, maybe in our history courses, our English language arts, writing those type of liberal arts courses, you might see black history, you might see Native American history, you might see multicultural perspectives. However, in what light are those cultures reflected in? Are we talking about civil rights movement? Are we talking about Ruby Bridges? Are we talking about conquistadors? Are we talking about instances of colonization? Are we talking about how various groups of color have been impacted negatively by folks of European descent? And if that is the only thing that students receive as far as learning about various cultures is from an oppressive, a negative state, you could see how subconsciously that perpetuates supremacy.

               So that's something I want you to think about. If we are, okay, we're taking it a step further. And so we'll do lessons. And in those lessons, we might highlight inventors of color, or we might highlight science of color, but they're viewed as contributions or add ons. We're still centering dominance. So we teach one whole unit. And out of that one unit, we have one lesson that is focused on various diverse perspectives, whatever content area, whatever subject you're teaching, we just had that one lesson or maybe we teach a lesson and there's a sidebar. Again, you're centering dominance. And that's the challenge that we often see.

               And again, we don't necessarily think about how some of the things that we do in class might help perpetuate a lot of the negative culture and conversations and experiences that some of our kids are having. Often we blame our kids. We think about our students and say, "Oh, well, our students are doing this or they're learning this from home." This is what they're being taught at the house. This is what they're watching at home.

               But are we contributing to some of this culture unintentionally? Just something I want you to think about. Are we unintentionally perpetuating some of these words and negative perceptions that students have against each other? I have a recommendation for prevention. So we just kind of highlighted how some of the reasons why these racial slurs come up, but what are some things that we could do to prevent this? Education. I've seen a lot of schools make ethnic studies mandatory. Why would ethnic studies be helpful? Well, we know that a lot of the assumptions, the decisions that we make, whether if it's implicit or explicit, are based off of stereotypes. If I haven't had a lot of experience interacting with a racial group or an ethnicity, any of those kind of things, culturally, if I don't have a lot of experience with that, then the only thoughts that I may have when it comes to attitudes, behaviors, might come from a stereotype, again, implicit or explicit.

               I don't have enough not. And so this is my thought, I saw something on the movie or I saw your culture represented via this news article, or I listened to this song and I make these assumptions. And I utilize these words. I mentioned in a earlier module that one of my experiences in high school, I remember this in ninth grade, was we had a lot of students that were of Asian descent. And there were a lot of terms utilized to refer to the various referred to as for Japanese, for Chinese, Korean, Filipino. I didn't even know they were racial slurs in the ninth grade. I didn't know. That was literally what I heard all the time when people referred to each other. And of course, when I hear students calling each other those words, I thought it was okay. I didn't know.

               So education is important. Ethnic studies, if you do not have an ethnic studies course... Now, I like the specific courses. So sometimes when we lump everything all in one, we just call this ethnic studies and we don't necessarily specialize in certain groups. So for example, if you look at your student demographics, if you're saying that, "Hey, my school is predominantly black," or, "My school is predominantly black and brown," or whatever my demographics are, and you do not have a course that reflects your student's demographics, I suggest that you look into that.

               So that's the first step is setting up some ethnic studies courses to educate your students. They don't know about the greatness within a certain culture. They don't know about all of the amazing things, not as contributions, but as part of the United States or the world, global perspective as a whole. It's not a sidebar. It's not a, as you know, or by the way. This is not the experience that your students should be getting. This should be an experience in which they're learning about some awesome and amazing things about various cultures that they probably wouldn't have gotten on their own, or they would never experience on their own. So, that's the first one.

               The next thing I would recommend is looking into Dr. Beverly Tatum's work. She has an awesome book called, Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?. It talks about how, when we think about, we have a school student demographics that is predominantly white, for example. And you have just a small pocket, you have a small percentage of students of color or students of certain demographics or students... I have worked with schools that have maybe a small population of refugees, or they might have Arab Americans, or they might have just a small percentage of students and they wonder, "Well, they all hang together. We invite them to our various activities and we encourage them to join up and participate in these things, but they don't do it." The question is why? Because again, you're still centering dominance. You're saying, "Join us."

               Rather than saying, "How can we join you? How can we learn more about you? What do you have coming up? You have a celebration? Can we participate in that?" It's always, "Well, you all need to come follow us." What kind of message, again, are we unintentionally sending to those students? That what we do is better, what we do is normal, what we do is traditional. And what you guys have is unique or it's different.

               See how that language shifts when we say, you know what? Rather than us trying to figure out how do we get them to join us, why don't we look at it from what can we do to learn more about you so that we can come together and do things collaboratively, as opposed to this one sided, you need to join us and then we can't figure out. We can't figure out, they won't stay. We got some of the kids to join our program. We got them to enroll in our AP course. We got them in our honors program, but they didn't stay or they failed out or whatever it is. Have to think about what part can we play in order to support them?

               If you have young kids, let's say your early childhood, early elementary, again, I am a proponent of kids can learn about race at a young age. We teach our kids colors. We teach them what blue looks like and what red looks like, four years old and five years old, three years old, we teach them that stuff. Dr. Beverly Tatum, I left a link in the notes of this course, has an awesome Ted talk, I highly encourage you to check out. It's her own story regarding her son. Her son comes home one day and asks about his skin color. I'm going to leave it there. I'm going to let you check it out.

               But I would encourage you if you got little ones that are in your class, if that's what you do, I would encourage you to check it out. And you know what? Honestly it is, I think it's relevant, K-12 or higher ed it would still be relevant. So that's my thing is preventative. Prevention, I think is very important. Now, if it happens, because the sad truth is you might hear a racial slur being used in your class or in your hallways, or you might have a student that comes up to you and tells you this is what happened.

               So let's say that we've done our prevention stuff and now we are at a place where now we're reactionary. So here's some things that we could try. My thing is always, don't just tell a kid, "Don't say this, don't utilize this word." Make sure you tell them why. Educate them. Give them some history. Say, "Listen, I know you think this is cool or that you've been given a pass, you think this is acceptable, but here's why I disagree with that." Or, "Here's why I'm disappointed that that's the route that you chose to take," and give them some history. This word has a historical perspective that is derogatory, that was created by people who hated folks like you, just because of the color of your skin. That's where this word comes from. So no matter how much you try to put a tweak or your own spin or your own flare to it, just keep in mind where this word came from. So educate kids, if you hear it happen.

               At my old school, I used to hear the word. I've had students call me the N word as a term of endearment. And I tell them, no. I'm shutting it down right then. No, I don't want to hear that word. I don't want to hear it, but I shut it down and give them the reasons why. Let me wrap this up. At the end of the day, we can't stop every situation that may occur. However, we can take preventative measures such as offering ethnic studies courses, such as providing campaigns or informational experiences in positive manners, especially what we do on our everyday basis. Showing various groups in positive ways, as some forms of prevention. If things do happen, again, we reinforce the education. Why we don't utilize these terms.

               I would go even a step further. I didn't add this in, but it just came to me. When you do have students, especially students that are of color, I encourage you to talk to them separately as well and give them some tools and strategies on how to deal with these situations, especially if they occur. That's the other thing. Again, these things don't always happen when a teacher's around. Affinity groups are great, student affinity groups. I am a huge proponent of that. And by the way, if you are looking for some student affinity work, we definitely can offer that at the Leading Equity Center. But talking to your students of color and supporting them and letting them know your here for them, that if these situations do occur, that you will swiftly take care of it. The onus should not be on the victim. As educators, as adults, we're there not only to educate our kids, but also our kids should feel safe, welcome, and included within the school community.

               This concludes the Annihilating Racial Injustice in Schools course. Again, thank you so much for your support. If you need more information, if you're looking for additional support, training, keynotes, presentations, either virtual or in person, feel free to reach out to leadingequitycenter.com/consulting. You can always shoot me an email, [email protected] My Twitter handle is Sheldon L Eakins and my Instagram is Sheldon Eakins.

               Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, "If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving." Let's continue to be a voice in leading equity.

               This episode was brought to you by the Leading Equity Center. For more podcast interviews and resources, head on over to leadingequitycenter.com.


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