by Jane Hall-Williams
Jane Hall-Williams is the CCTheo staffer who designs and manages our emails, virtual flyers, website pages, and appeals.
Growing up in the DC area in the 1990s, my social conscience was awakened early. I was aware of many of the world’s injustices, and I prayed about them in community, both in the atrium where I was a student, and at church. I didn’t have much language around race or racism, but I am sure that I considered myself “against racism.” Even before the boiling point of the summer of 2020, the message was broadcast that being vaguely against racism is not enough. Not nearly enough. Racism is woven into the fabric of our nation, and structural changes must be made in order to try to create a more just society. My husband and I took our young children to march and vigil in the summer 2020 in DC. Like many parents, I have taken seriously the task of educating myself and my white children about race and racism, privilege and bias. And in 2020, it was clear that not enough had changed. My now seven-year-old asked me recently if things were better, if racism was ending. I was really taken aback by her question, and it renewed the spark that must drive us ever forward. How much has changed? Again, not enough. The national conversation that was sparked by the tragic murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd gave us a shared language, an expanded vocabulary with which talk about the structural racism that continues to oppress way too many people– we need to work together now to create change.
As adults, we are mandated to do this work. For all the children, and especially for all the black and brown children of our communities and our country and world. The metaphor that has been most helpful to me in considering becoming anti-racist is to view the change as a lens shift that needs to happen within. We can view our own actions, all that we see and read, through a lens of anti-racism. Using this lens, we can see that our culture has centered whiteness, and marginalized non-white groups. Through this lens, we can see clearly that the school-to-prison pipeline is an example of institutionalized racism. With this lens, we can see that there is racism in our schools. There is racial bias among teachers in this country. According to the Brookings Institute, about 77% of both teachers and non teachers expressed implicit pro-white, anti-Black bias from research conducted through studies in 2020. (“Teachers are people too: Racial bias among American educators”) These biases can affect how teachers discipline, make pedagogical choices and form expectations of students. Through the lens of anti-racism, those of us who are called to work with children must be vigilant in our interactions, and do the inner work that is so needed in the work of becoming anti-racist. The work, especially on the part of those of us who are white, will be long and sometimes uncomfortable, but it is crucial to do it. We can use the lens of anti-racism to guide us. Listening to and lifting the voices of the people of the global majority is one of the most important things we can do. Reflecting and clarifying through inner work is another, so that we can speak out from a place of truth, and not fear. It is imperative that we act to create the change that is so needed to pass down to our children and our grandchildren a world that is truly more just and equitable for all people.
The discomfort of the work touched me recently. Looking through the anti-racist lens, I observed that I had grown complacent in my work, and have tended to dwell too much in the world of feelings, which can impede creating change. A friend noticed that I was very much in “feelings mode”, and pointed it out. I felt defensive, but decided to get curious with myself. I think my friend was right–I did some research, and started reading some really uncomfortable articles about white people, written by people of the global majority. I read about white women’s tears as tools of oppression. I read an article by Savala Nolan, Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, where she said, “I think of whiteness primarily as a collection of habits and behaviors premised on the assumption that you don’t have to deal with race, and if you choose to deal with it at all, you can do it on whatever terms suit you (in a given moment and over the course of your life).” This resonates. This discomfort, deep as it is, has unquestionably led me further along on my journey. And it has led me here– I’m writing to you all today because I do have to deal with race. Because I feel a moral imperative to bring up race, because I know that the more we talk about the institutional and structural components of racism, the more likely it is that they will shift. And they must. Let’s engage each other, and allow ourselves to transform, to become anti-racist, and to create a world that is as well.
Accapadi, Mamta Motwani. “When White Women Cry: How White Women’s Tears Oppress Women of Color.” College Student Affairs Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, 2007, pp. 208-215. Eric.ed.gov, https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ899418.
Nolan, Savala. “It’s Time For White People to Have Tough Conversations With Their White Friends and Relatives.” TIME, 7 February 2022, https://time.com/6145211/white-people-tough-conversations-race/. Accessed 24 May 2022.
“Teachers are people too: Racial bias among American educators.” Brookings Institution, 13 July 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/07/13/teachers-are-people-too-racial-bias-among-american-educators/. Accessed 24 May 2022.