(Un)teaching racism in classrooms across the country
Teachers, schools need to discuss Trump's racist language, educators say.
In light of reportedly derogatory language used by President Trump in discussions about DACA and immigration, educators are confronting how to address racist language and racism in the classroom.
Many educators across the country say that teachers and others cannot ignore the president’s alleged use of derogatory language to describe African countries, Haiti, and El Salvador in a Jan. 11 meeting about legislation for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) and the Temporary Protected Status designation, which extends lawful residence to citizens of certain countries due to natural disasters and extended conflict.
According to education expert and researcher Dr. Andre Perry, teachers “can’t afford not to address Trump’s racist behaviors” — which encompass a list of comments and statements before and throughout his presidential campaign and current presidency — because “inertia in the face of this kind of vitriol reinforces the kind of schooling that fostered many presidents’ bigoted views – including Trump’s.”
Perry also said that it is necessary to connect discussion of current racist discourse about immigrants with specific examples of bigotry in U.S. immigration policy in the past.
But to remain silent — as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos did following reports of the racist language attributed to President Trump — is to implicitly condone racism and contribute to a climate of fear and oppression for the more than 18.7 million first- and second-generation immigrant children in the country, Perry pointed out.
Addressing racist language in national politics is seen by many educators as part and parcel of efforts to eradicate racial discrimination and hate as it manifests in classrooms, hallways, and campuses across the country. For some recently-arrived immigrants, schools can be an oasis and a valuable community of support; however, high schools and universities nationwide are struggling to handle racist language, acts of violence, and hate crimes when they occur on their own grounds.
According to a study from the Southern Poverty Law Center, since the 2016 election students throughout the U.S. from minority, immigrant, and/or underrepresented backgrounds have seen an increase in discrimination and bullying based on race, religion, and immigration status; a July Buzzfeed News report verified at least 81 instances of racial-based school bullying that used slogans and words from Trump, and rhetoric from his campaign and administration.
Without an adequate process and established methodology in place to deal with incidents of racism and bigotry within and outside of the classroom, schools are risking the safety, health, and futures of targeted students, studies and reports show.