I was recently reminded that One. White. Woman. has a lot of power in this country. This reminder came after our team completed a No-Nonsense Nurturer® Workshop in the South and One. White. Woman. set the district into a tizzy. She claimed our training conflicted with their state’s CRT laws, when in fact it does not. It was one white woman’s voice that was heard when hundreds of other teachers in the same district ranked the professional learning experience as the “best professional learning of their careers.” These hundreds of voices were silenced as One. White. Woman. took center stage with her complaint.
As a white woman, who has positioned herself in the fight for the rights of all students to receive an anti-racist education, I have grown to understand the impact of white women in the education space. For reference, white women make up just over 80% of the teaching force in public education. We hold many of the site administrator jobs, and our faces are being seen more widely on school boards and in the seats of the superintendent. There is an argument to be made that white women hold much of the power in public education.
However, our public education system serves primarily students in the global majority – students of non-European descent – in fact, 54% of students identify as non-white. This leaves us with a vital question to address: How do white women teach and lead these diverse groups of learners?
Understand our power. Recognize our privilege.
As white women, we must understand and recognize the power and privilege we inherently possess.
We can leverage that privilege for the greater good by:
- Being cognizant of how long we talk in meetings or classrooms & making space for others to speak
- Inviting folks of color to share their thoughts, experiences, and ideas
- Listening intently to what is being shared by people of color
- Using the information shared by colleagues or students of color to better inform our way of thinking and decision making
Appreciate colleagues for “checking” us.
If colleagues challenge our language because it is offensive or feels “off,” sometimes white women get defensive and insistent about intent. Instead of defending our language, we can express appreciation for the feedback. Then we can reflect on our language and how to adjust the way we are sharing our thoughts with consideration to how our “whiteness” shows through this language.
It is not up to our Black and Brown colleagues to educate us (although they teach us constantly!). We must read…read anything we can get our hands on to better understand the Black, Latinx, and immigrant experiences in the American education system.
Understand what CRT is… and what it is not.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic concept that recognizes race is a social construct. Because of this, race is not just about individual bias or judgment, but it is embedded in our systems – legal, government, education, etc. CRT is interrogated in post-doctoral discussions and literature; it is not a practice in our K-12th grade classrooms.
Constantly challenge ourselves and our anti-racist stances.
Because we are white women, we must own the fact that we hold racist ideas and have to constantly fight the white supremacist ideology that penetrates the systems we work and live in. How can we do this? Ground ourselves in definition AND in action.
At CT3 we define being an anti-racist with the act of taking risks to:
- Constantly question and evaluate oppression based on race
- Deconstruct the personal and structural behaviors, systems, and policies that support oppression
- Build equitable replacements for those systems that create a racially just world
Recently my CT3 colleague Leah – One. White. Woman. – was assigned to lead a No-Nonsense Nurturer® Workshop in a progressive city at a school that is made up of 95% global majority students and a teaching staff that is almost completely white. The school leader of the community respectfully informed Leah that the liberal staff would be critical of a white woman leading an anti-racism training and that his community would better learn from one of her Black colleagues. Leah could have done the easy thing and requested one of her colleagues do the training, but instead, she prepared to address her whiteness, privilege, and ongoing journey to deconstruct how she is complicit with systemic racism upfront. She decided to model showing up for racial justice over staying silent and afraid. Leah was committed to delivering this training because as an anti-racist, she understood that leaning into the discomfort in the fight against racism is important AND she understands that as One. White. Woman. it is her responsibility to fight racism among other white people. (I am happy to note Leah received 95+% approval ratings for the workshop.)
Who will you be?
Will you be the One. White. Woman who takes the easy way out and whines or cries at the moment her privilege is tested?
Will you be the One. White. Woman. that recognizes the power and heft of her voice, empowers others, challenges systems, and embraces and shifts your own racist views, not only to become a better educator but to become a better human being?
by Kristyn Klei Borrero, Founder