July 12, 2021

Sharif El-Mekki – Fake Outrage and What’s at Stake for Black and Brown Children

By Bellwether

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Sharif El-Mekki
CEO & Founder, The Center for Black Educator Development

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” -Sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill

“History is temporarily twisted by people who’re going to profit from it in the short term.” -Shubham Jaim

At this point, the contrived panic about Critical Race Theory by the conservative political-media complex has been shown for what it is: a naked attempt to gin up White anxiety for political gain, no matter how divorced from reality and slanderous to the actual substance of CRT it may be. 

CRT is simply a lens–a sophisticated, to wit graduate-level lens–to understand systemic racism in our legal system. Such analysis and understanding is, to be clear, fundamentally American, in fact.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Columbia Law School professor and leading CRT scholar, put it best. “Critical race theory is not anti-patriotic,” she recently told CNN. “In fact, it is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it — because we believe in the 13th and the 14th and the 15th Amendments. We believe in the promises of equality. And we know we can’t get there if we can’t confront and talk honestly about inequality.”

Unsurprisingly, the “controversy” about CRT has now fully entered the K-12 space. Putting aside, for a moment, the fake pearl clutching and feigned exasperation by those who know better, we can use this architected anxiety as a starting point for our own discussion of what Black and Brown children need in order to be successful in a country where a minority of deplorables can still stir a moral panic sufficient to disenfranchise whole communities.

A competent teacher for starters. That means that they need to be able to connect with Black and Brown children–either based on their experience as Black or Brown people or through effective, culturally responsive teacher preparation.

At the Center for Black Educator Development, our goal is to get more Black teachers into classrooms with the tools they need to support the Black child successfully – a far cry from what today’s outcomes across America’s schools show. But we also train veteran teachers and leaders to have the intellectual dexterity, the cultural competency and the commitment to equity sufficient to teach a child who does not share their same skin tone, lived experience, and cultural background.

Teachers need to be able to connect with a child outside of their own framework–that demands humility, curiosity, and an accurate handle on historical, and contemporary, context and content. Which, to return to our discussion of CRT above, requires an honest and clear-eyed understanding of the origins of the challenges and changes that our society is currently experiencing.  Such skills and competencies enable teachers and school/district leaders to more effectively and authentically build relationships with their students, families at their schools, and the broader communities.

These webs of trusting relationships can mean a world of a difference in the life trajectory of a student and effectiveness of the educator.  Such social scaffolding can lift up children furthest from opportunity and build stronger, more resilient communities.  That demands, again, a grounding in the reality of the historical weight that diverse communities continue to experience in this country today. A educator, well prepared and cognizant of this history, can be an essential lever in lifting some of that weight off the shoulders of our Black and Brown children. But those who prepare and develop our teachers cannot flinch in the face of false, racist outrage designed to undermine and undo precisely that work.

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