Racism is Alive and Well in America’s Schools

It seems like every other day there's a new story about racist incidents taking place at schools. This time, the story comes from River Valley High School in California, where students were filmed participating in a "slave auction" of their Black teammates. The students involved have been barred from competing for the rest of the football season, and the season has been forfeited as a result.

First of all, can we talk about the fact that this was a "prank?" Which part of this was supposed to be funny? Was it the part where Black people were being auctioned off like property? Or maybe it was the part where white people were cheering and bidding on their Black classmates? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Secondly, I'm tired of hearing people say "but they didn't mean anything by it." Yes, they did. They meant to be racist AF and that's exactly what they were. There's no other way to interpret it. And even if they didn't mean anything by it, ignorance is not an excuse. These kids are old enough to know better and if they don't, that's on the adults in their lives who should have taught them better.

And thirdly, I'm sick and tired of watching Black people be taken advantage of and then told that we're overreacting when we speak up. This "auction" was sickening and humiliating for those students involved and yet somehow we're supposed to believe that they didn't realize how wrong it was? Please.

Racism is entrenched in our education system. From the way history is taught (or not taught) in schools to the lack of diversity among teachers and administrators, kids are not getting the exposure or guidance they need to become truly anti-racist. And while some may argue that school is not responsible for teaching children morality, the fact remains that children spend the majority of their time during their formative years under the supervision of adults in schools. So it's time we start holding schools accountable for their role in perpetuating racism.

As always, the district and site administration is working to identify lessons and programs to help students learn from this situation. But at what point do we start asking bigger questions? Like, how did these students get to the point where they thought it was okay to film themselves participating in a slave auction? And more importantly, what can we do to prevent future incidents like this from happening?

There are several ways we can do this.

1. We need to diversify the curriculum. Studies have shown that when children are exposed to diverse perspectives, they're less likely to develop racist attitudes and beliefs. This means incorporating more black and brown authors into reading lists, using primary sources from people of color when teaching history, and promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.

2. Hire more teachers and administrators of color. A 2016 study found that "students of color who have at least one teacher of color in elementary school are more likely than their white peers to graduate high school and go on to college." Not only does this provide much-needed role models for children of color, but it also forces white children to confront their own privilege—something that's all too often missing from discussions about racism.

3. Provide ongoing professional development for teachers on how to effectively address racism in their classrooms. This includes but is not limited to training on microaggressions, implicit bias, and culturally responsive teaching practices.

The bottom line is this: if we want to see an end to incidents like the one that took place at River Valley High School, we need to start making systemic changes within our education system. We can no longer afford to be complacent—the future depends on it.

What else do you think schools can do to prevent future incidents like this from happening? Comment Below!