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el día 28 de febrero de 2018

One of the preservice teachers I work with, Hope, asked me a question in her journal/activity log. My response to her was really a summary of all the things I’ve been feeling all week. Check it out:

Hope: Shamari, I'd like to know your thoughts on addressing social justice in schools.

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Hi Hope,

I just read your activity log on social justice. First, let me say I think you bring up two wonderful points: there aren't enough spaces in schools in which students can openly and authentically engage with social justice and what it might mean for them and their education; and wanting are spaces for students to identify things that matter to them and strategies to address these “things”.

Yes, I agree with both of those observations! I would also add that in many schools that aren't enough spaces to reflect and heal. So, you asked about social justice and what about students who have not demonstrated a desire to take on this topic. I would argue that though our students may not want to engage with social justice, they all need spaces to heal from the many forms of discrimination they have endured. So, any attempt at social justice, agency, advocacy, or activism, in my opinion, must start with healing--and we all need to heal, regardless of our differences in social identity markers.

I dream of a day when all schools will come equipped with both physical and mental spaces that allow for this healing to become a reality for our scholars. And for a direct answer to your question: yes, social justice should be addressed in schools. Silence only helps the oppressor. And as Zora Neale Hurston once shared, "If we are silent during times of oppression, they will kill us and say that we enjoyed it". We've got to take on this "ugly thing" if not for ourselves, then for future generations; For all those beautiful people who are still yet to come. However, all of this is my personal opinion.

There's also the school of thought that believe these issues and "politics" have no place in the classroom, but I argue that teaching is always political. Even when we eschew the inclusion of certain topics in our curricula, we communicate where we stand on certain issues. Silence is a position, too.

You must ask yourself: which side are you on. What do

you stand for? And if you decide to make the commitment to social justice, then you must go "all in". Or, as James Baldwin said: go for broke. Will there be consequences? Absolutely, but as Viola Davis just shared in an interview on gender and color bias in Hollywood, if you're truly committed to equity and justice, let it cost you something! You've got to count the costs! What will it cost you to speak up? What will it cost your students? And on the other side, what will it cost if you don't speak up? What are the consequences for you? For your students? And for all those beautiful people to come.....

Lastly, if you do decide to make the commitment to social justice, then I suggest you surround yourself with others who share their commitment. You are not alone. There are networks and networks and networks and networks of people you don't know who are fighting for their lives and yours every day. Our job is finding and linking up with them. Together, we can accomplish anything!

We are not helpless,

Shamari

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