Updated: Aug 26, 2022
What is racial equity? Racial Equity is a situation in which people of all races and ethnicities are treated in an equal manner despite any differences in physical traits. This is when institutions give individuals all the support they need.
Many teachers who are women of color are being laid off despite school districts claiming they want more teachers of color.
One of these teachers was Qorsho Hassan who won Teacher of the Year award in 2020 shortly after Burnsville School district laid her off. In an interview with Ayada Leads, Qorsho Hassan answered questions in regards to her profession and her teaching experience. What brought the young teacher to take on the role of teaching and educating the kids who will one day take on professions to help others and be able to carry the lessons they learned while in the classroom with Ms. Qorsho.
What do you think the community could do better in order for teachers to help teach kids about community issues such as hate crimes and the societal disparities kids may face based on their skin color and background?
“I believe in normalizing conversations about anti-oppression at a young age. This requires having honest and direct dialogue with children about diversity (not limited to race, but culture, gender, religion, etc) to prepare them to be disruptors of oppression. It's important to give space for their questions, wonderings and feedback in order for children to feel assured to seek justice. We have to also give them the language and tools to not only be prepared to disrupt oppression amongst their peer groups, but also to understand that adults (i.e. teachers) uphold white supremacy and should be held accountable. White supremacy isn't just an abstract system, it's strategically upheld by people.”
While a lot of people have spoken on the importance of change, much hasn’t happened. What can be done to help with the racial equity and to improve the lives of all that are involved?
“Systemic change. It requires a more concerted effort from white folks, in particular white liberals in Minnesota. Racial equity can only be achieved if white supremacy is abolished at its core. It's not equity work in silos or success stories of one person making it to represent a marginalized community. It's economic, political, educational, etc. Power being given to minimized communities. It's reparations for African Americans and access to quality education for all, not just affluent communities. It's eradicating poverty and homelessness and providing universal health care. It's liberation for all.”
Many organizations such as ours are training women leaders on how to excel in their leadership roles and are striving for inclusivity and representation for women of color. However, incidents such as mistreatment and being forsaken in the workforce is affecting said organizations when women of color aren’t given the same opportunities and respect as their white counterparts.
The mental health and overall well being of teachers has declined since Covid-19 started but mental health has never been prioritized in schools, for students and staff.
“It always feels like a crisis intervention because most schools are operating in a deficit due to being defunded. We don't have the tools to meet the social emotional needs of students who are experiencing significant trauma, let alone the ones who just need the resources and language for occasional use. It's immoral for the United States to constantly give excessive and consistent funding to sectors like military, policing, corporations but provide very little relief for students, their families and school systems. It creates a very harsh, inequitable schooling experience that often comes at the expense of Black and brown children, whose needs both academically and socially are not meant. If the mental health needs of teachers were met, I fear it wouldn't make a dent in the actual lived experiences of black, brown and indigenous students in schools. We need a sustainable approach that doesn't rely on band aid interventions. “
When asked how the current events surrounding teachers affects young women of color seeking careers in the education field who might face disrimination and Islamophobia; Qorsho answered that;
“It absolutely has had an impact on how women of color seek careers in the education field. Young women of color who find themselves in the education system are often asked to carry the load of equity work, seen as mythical creatures that never tire, and are expected to handle misbehavior with ease. There is very little recognition of how invisible labor in addition to the labor of teaching causes more harm for us.”
New research has also proven that there’s an
"invisible tax" that teachers of color pay in this field, in addition to the overall stress of being a teacher during a pandemic. This "invisible tax" is when BIPOC teachers are expected to shoulder the responsibilities of serving as school disciplinarians based on the assumption that they can better communicate with students of color.
There’s a lot of importance in having a diverse teaching force. While there’s a higher proportion of students of color, teachers of color make up only 18% of the faculties. In order to address this problem, school districts need to focus on retaining their teachers of color as research conducted by the American Federation of Teachers shows that although teachers of color are being hired more than in the past, they’re leaving the profession quicker than white teachers.
Black, brown, and indigenous peoples' success shouldn't require us to be seen as the only representative for our communities. We shouldn't be tokenized nor should we welcome tokenization. It's important for us to be unified in our shared narratives and experiences as we reject white supremacy. Even though we cannot be inherently racist, it's important to remember that we are also working on being more conscious about the ways we uphold white supremacist structures within our workplaces, homes, communities, etc. Anti-oppression requires us all to do the work of unpacking the limbs of white supremacy like misogyny, homophobia, ableism, etc. A better world requires work from all of us.
How can we move forward from this?
"Hope is a discipline,” is a powerful quote by Mariame Kaba that I hold close. We have to remind ourselves that as we fight for justice, we must not lose sight of the importance of building hope. Hope is essential to not just survive but to imagining a better, more just world.”