Anti-racist schooling starts with the danger in me

“Even if, juristically speaking, we were not accessories to the crime, we are always, thanks to our human nature, potential criminals.” — Carl Jung

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

I walked with my father through the cold streets of Central Harlem in the winter of 1997. Perhaps we’d just visited Revolution Books on 132nd Street. I don’t recall. I do recall that I felt that we were being followed.

I had just graduated from college and I was living with my friend on 1st Avenue and 117th in an old public school building. A fallen-from-something-other-than-grace real estate…

06.16.20 Commencement Address

We gathered mostly in cars in a state college parking lot for our ceremony this year. Hard to gauge how my remarks were received because I could see so few faces in the crowd. After the ceremony, as he drove away, one man yelled at me, with sarcasm, “Hey, nice politics!” — by which I think he meant something like, “Nice job, principal, you ruined things again with your divisive political talk.” I guess at least that means I had his ear for some of it.

To the Randolph Union Class of 2020:

Once upon a time, you seniors were 8 or 9 years…

This is now in the fifth week of no school…

Parents are going nuts.

- Tom Gjelten, NPR

Teacher Labor Disrupts

If autoworkers go on strike, other workers in town still go to work. And more cars can be imported from Mexico.

If oilrig workers go on strike, other workers go to work, the economy keeps chugging, and more oil floats in from Saudi Arabia.

If freight train workers go on strike, other workers go to work, and the freight moves by truck instead.

If gas pipeline workers go on strike, or pipeline X is compromised, other workers still go to work. …

Should I speak or pass the mic? A school principal’s reflections.

“Turn and talk to your neighbor.”

I turn to the girl, 16, from New Haven. Her name is Darriell*, after her father she will later tell me: take his name and add “iell.” I turn to this neighbor. I ask what she is thinking.

“I’ve got so much to say,” she says. “But I don’t know how to say it.”

She has pages of notes, and pages of notes.

“Maybe just read from your notes.”

She does. She says:

This innocent country set us down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that we should perish. Let me…

Do you teach the children of white supremacists?

If you work with white students in this country today — or ever — the answer to this question is “Yes.” White supremacy is a bedrock ideology of this nation. No family is immune to the infection, the inheritance. In many families, white supremacist ideology and its violence are perpetuated in unconscious ways; in others it is perpetuated with explicit intention. Let us consider here those families who embrace the ideology explicitly, and the children of those families.

What is the responsibility of educators to children who are overtly exposed to white…

This is a letter I sent to the new principal hiring committee at my son’s elementary school last year.

Dear Principal,

We don’t yet know who you are. The hiring committee is still at work. I trust they will make a great choice. I look forward to getting to know you.

Actually, I don’t.

That is, I don’t look forward to getting to know you all that well personally. I look forward to getting to know you through my son. …

California Fires, Displaced People, Vermont Vineyards

My math teacher colleague said the lake water was 80 degrees and he caught no fish. And grain harvests are down in many countries. And the heatwave has killed in Japan and Montreal. And California burns again and worse than ever.

I remember the smoke cloaked sky above LA beaches last time I was there. I wonder, will refugees from the California fires migrate here to Vermont where I live?

Of course, no one’s really asking that question. Vermont’s too far away. Nor do we hear words like “refugee” or “IDP” in reference to…

Stories are tools that can open necessary discussions about bodies, race, class, trauma — and schooling.


“If I crack my head open all my blood will explode out,” says my three year old son envisioning an accident. He’s thinking of what happened to his older brother in the gym that day: a collision, split forehead, nine stitches. The three year old taps his skull, “Daddy, what’s in here?”

“This is flesh I’m talking about,” calls the grandmother to her community in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. “What you scream…they do not hear… No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love…

T. Elijah Hawkes

Educator. Author of SCHOOL FOR THE AGE OF UPHEAVAL: Classrooms that Get Personal, Get Political, and Get to Work.

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