Race and Ethnicity

Student Plays Get Discussion Rolling on Race

I do a lot of things in my classroom to teach, manage and assess my students. Countless assignments, procedures and projects are designed to keep the academic machinery of my classroom running smoothly. But when I want to know what my students really think about the world, I ask them to write a play.

I do a lot of things in my classroom to teach, manage and assess my students.

Race Relations Scope More Than Black, White

Sometimes teaching at my magnet arts school in Alabama, I can imagine the worst days of racism and intolerance are behind us. Most of the roughly 500 students have genuine, deep friendships across racial lines and very rarely do the old racist memes and tropes raise their ugly heads.

Sometimes teaching at my magnet arts school in Alabama, I can imagine the worst days of racism and intolerance are behind us.

Public School Integration Still ‘Best Goal’

When my daughter pulls hard on the heavy glass doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School and races upstairs into her fifth-grade classroom, she is living my dream.

When my daughter pulls hard on the heavy glass doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School and races upstairs into her fifth-grade classroom, she is living my dream.

Two Decades of Teaching Tolerance

In 1991, when Morris Dees, a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, decided to start the Teaching Tolerance program, he hoped to make

Against the Current

Abena Osei was on track to attend law school after earning her degree in political science and psychology from Southern Methodist University. The 2001 grad dreamed of a career in social justic

Race Talk When Diversity Equals One

It happens in every class. We’re discussing a text, a publication, a current event, a poem. The content doesn’t matter. It’s the phrase that counts.

A student comments and uses the phrase “African American” or even “black people.” The student is white. The reaction of the class – almost all white – is swift. As if choreographed, all eyes turn to the one student of color. The spotlight of eyes shines down and he or she blinks back as if staring into the sun. 

The teacher should use this moment to open a discussion.  

It happens in every class. We’re discussing a text, a publication, a current event, a poem. The content doesn’t matter. It’s the phrase that counts.

Tracking Derails Diversity

The first day of my second year of teaching, a third-grader walked into class, saw another student and punched him in the nose. He didn’t say anything or give any indication that he was going to do this. It just happened. After cleaning up the blood and redirecting the class, I asked the attacker why he wanted to punch someone else. “He’s Mexican,” he said. “He don’t belong in my class.”

The first day of my second year of teaching, a third-grader walked into class, saw another student and punched him in the nose.

The Black Teacher Who Wasn’t

As a young white woman from the suburbs, I knew I was going to experience some culture shock as I began my teaching career in one of the more violent low-income areas of Oakland. The town I grew up in was different from where I went to college, but they had important qualities in common. Both were strongly middle class, had a clear agricultural focus, a vast white majority and a significant but well-hidden Spanish-speaking minority. I hadn’t realized how comfortable I was in those environments until I was faced with the reality of inner-city Oakland. 

So I had a lot to learn.

As a young white woman from the suburbs, I knew I was going to experience some culture shock as I began my teaching career in one of the more violent low-income areas of Oakland.

Exploring the Power of the N-word

“Ms. Craven, we can put ‘nigga?’” 

I pause. Images of earnest sitting-in-a-circle chats in college flash through my brain:

  • A classmate from Kentucky explaining how she will never say that word, even in academic circles, because, being white, she will never be able to fully grasp its implications;
  • Another black classmate asserting that the word has been reclaimed, and that when black people use it, the poison of the original use gets diluted.

“Ms. Craven, we can put ‘nigga?’” 

I pause. Images of earnest sitting-in-a-circle chats in college flash through my brain:

Remember the Tulsa Race Riot

May 31 marks the 90th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot. You can be excused if you've never heard of it. Despite being the bloodiest attack on African-American citizens in U.S. history, the riot was almost completely ignored by most history books for about 75 years. Only recently has the event received the attention it deserves.

May 31 marks the 90th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot. You can be excused if you've never heard of it. Despite being the bloodiest attack on African-American citizens in U.S.

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