Black Lives Matter: Be an Ally in the Classroom

Statement of Support

Black Lives Matter. 

PALS celebrates the lives of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among so many others whose lives were tragically taken due to racism in the US. We mourn with the people who knew and loved them. 

We condemn the police officers who murdered Taylor and Floyd. We acknowledge that their deaths are not just the result of the individual actions of police officers but are a consequence of white supremacy and systemic racism. 

We recognize the many others who have died as a result of these systems. We recognize the Black men and women who have died since the protests started three weeks ago. Rayshard Brooks. Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells. Robert Fuller. David McAtee. Tony McDade. Riah Milton.

Black people in our country are not safe. We pledge to do the work to dismantle the systems of oppression that make it this way. We commit to using our power to create lasting structural change and do our part to make the US and the world a just and fair place. In order to do so, our support must go beyond statements and must last beyond these moments.

Call to Action for Educators

Whether or not we as individuals are able to physically be at the protests taking place across the globe, when those protests end, we, as educators, have an important role to play in the classroom when it comes to race and social justice. While much of the conversation right now is focused on policing, in order to confront the system of white supremacy, we need to challenge it at all levels. This includes higher education. In this section we would like to speak specifically to White faculty members. We want to highlight some things that we can do right now to better educate our students.  

While there are some of us who teach at minority-majority institutions, there are many more of us at predominantly White institutions. Much like the adage, Black friends don’t have to educate White friends about racism, Black faculty should not be left with the role of educating White students about racism. We should be using our White privilege to educate our students. 

Additionally, all too often the actual social justice work on college campuses falls on the shoulders of faculty of color in addition to service on diversity committees and the teaching of classes that fulfill schools’ diversity requirements (see Inside Higher Ed’s “Undue Burden” and “Invisible Labor,” The Atlantic’s “What Is Faculty Diversity Worth to a University?,” The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s “The Invisible Labor of Minority Professors” [paywall]) The existence of the diversity committee and course requirement has unfortunately enabled White faculty to avoid taking the responsibility to address these issues in their courses or include voices from marginalized groups as a part of course materials. Courses that meet diversity requirements are often doing a very certain kind of work that is important, but it should not stop with that one course or course sequence. We all have a responsibility as educators to look at the bigger picture with our course design and make sure we are contributing to the work surrounding race in our country or globally and supporting students’ continued learning and critical work addressing systemic racism.

We challenge all educators to take some time and reassess your courses for the upcoming year. How are you working to be an ally through practice, not just by name?

What are you doing:

  • to support students of color in your classrooms?
  • to present your materials as relevant to the current moment?
  • to incorporate new/different materials than you have used in the past to open up spaces for students to process institutional and structural racism?
  • to educate yourself on better (Culturally Sustaining) pedagogical practices?
  • to support your colleagues of color?

Our Resources

Here are some links to previous PALS posts that might help you think about what you are doing in your courses this coming fall to maintain and forward the current work being done to address racism and racial inequities in the US and the world:

Concepts/Movements

Specific Texts

Call for Posts

PALS has many other resources that can help expand our choices when teaching American literature. If you don’t find what you are looking for on our site and have an idea that you would like to propose, please email us at teachingpals at gmail dot com. We would love to know what you are doing in your classrooms that supports Black Lives Matter. We want to know how you are dismantling white supremacy through education. How are you teaching your students about vulnerable groups of people? How are you teaching your students to think and act in this world?

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