Please Watch: Documenting Hate from Frontline

Posted on August 12, 2018

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Stunning. Difficult to watch. Important.
 
If you are a teacher, please watch this documentary series. Part 1 is out now. These young white men are in our classrooms. Some are dangerous–or can become dangerous if they are rejected by a woman or face other traumatic losses that affect their self-esteem. I saw it happen to a young man I knew, with tragic consequences for the entire community.
 
I could be wrong, but I don’t think teachers are going to be receiving professional development on recognizing or dealing with violent white supremacists, but they are the biggest terror threat in USA, especially when it comes to mass shootings. It is important that we educate ourselves and be able to recognize signs of involvement with violent ideology and/or gangs.
Not surprisingly, white supremacists are often recognizable by their interest in activities that involve training to fight; martial arts, the military, the police–AND they have successfully joined the latter organizations in large numbers. They often prefer to listen to heavy metal and other aggressive genres of music and favor Norse and Celtic mythology and symbols. Some of these students spend a lot of time playing video games and can be socially isolated, spending little time outside of school involved in social activity.
White supremacist groups can capitalize on vulnerable teens’ loneliness and sense of powerlessness, offering them “brotherhood” and “power” over others through participation in acts of mob violence, like what happened in Charlottesville and other communities where white supremacists and Nazis have marched in the streets.
 
As teachers, we have a role to play at this moment in US history. We must educate ourselves about white supremacist groups and be able to recognize signs that people in the community may be in danger from an attack. On the other hand, we must avoid demonizing and/or dehumanizing these students, because social isolation is often what drives these usually very lonely teens into the “family” of white supremacy that offers them a sense of belonging. They usually find that “family” online.
As educators, we can reach out to the young men who believe that their suffering can be relieved by attacking others and help them learn to connect with people in positive ways.
We can listen to their stories and help them learn healthy ways to cope with their pain, grief, and loneliness. Reading, writing, art, music, nature, and mindfulness can all be very therapeutic–as well as mind-opening. A well-timed book recommendation can be a game-changer. We can connect them with resources in the community where they can meet others who share their interests and where they can make positive contributions to the community.
Most of all, we can and we must always stand against racism, bigotry, and intolerance of all kinds in our classrooms, which must be living models of our nation’s motto, e pluribus unum, “out of many, ONE,” for all our students. 

In the NCTE Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning, the Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English recommends that English language arts educators:

  • actively identify and challenge individual or systemic acts of racism and other forms of discrimination and bigotry in educational institutions and within our profession, exposing such acts through external communications and publications.
  • express strong declarations of solidarity with people of diverse human and cultural backgrounds to eradicate forms of racism, bias, and prejudice in spaces of teaching and learning.
  • promote not only cultural diversity and expanding linguistic knowledge, but explicitly push for anti-racism by participating in ongoing professional development for educators to succeed in countering racism and other forms of bigotry.
  • support the enforcement of laws and policies that provide sanctions against racial and ethnic discrimination in education. Also, advocate for legislative reform that will lead to policies that provide sanctions against discrimination in education based on race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, class, mental and physical abilities, nationality, migrant, immigrant, and refugee status.
On this anniversary of the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, VA, I ask my fellow educators to join me in making or renewing a commitment to fighting white supremacy, in the classroom, and on earth. I can think of few endeavors of such importance and urgency in the classroom today.

Anti-Racist Reading Recommendations for Educators:

Teaching for Black Lives, Editors: Diane Watson, Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au

Stamped From the Beginning: A History of Racist Ideas by Ibram X. Kendi

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen

 

 

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