The “boogeyman of wokeness”

By Tena Hahn Rodriguez
This month I’ve been to two open meetings to give remarks on equity in education. I first went to Kearney for the Board of Education’s meeting to testify in support of adopting the proposed Health Education Standards, and last Thursday I attended the Learning Community’s meeting to express my support for the teacher-requested anti-bias education training.

In both places voices opposing anti-bias trainings and education about equity in schools invoked Critical Race Theory as a sort of “boogeyman of wokeness.” Claiming that it promotes Marxist ideology, it’s undemocratic, unpatriotic, or teaches feelings of “white guilt.” None of these statements are accurate or true.

But y’all, I’m tired. After a year of demonstrations and a pandemic that has disproportionately affected BIPOC; is it still so difficult to acknowledge our country’s real history of racial inequity and discrimination? It’s disappointing to see this collective drive NOT to confront the legacy of harm that slavery and its compounding impacts have entrenched in our society.

Anti-bias education (which is not the same as CRT to be clear) helps us recognize the varying lived experience of all people, and how that connects them to systems of advantage and disadvantage. It explores the vast and diverse intersections of identities – age, income, ability, background, education, language, faith, sexuality, gender, appearance, and yes, ethnicity and race.

So, you see, bias doesn’t come from just one place. But when we say the word bias, some folks automatically jump on the issue RACE.

This type of education has come under attack with a particularly strong fervor in the past year. Last year the Executive Order banning diversity training made me feel like the future of IC as an organization was in peril.

And I get it. Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is ugly, especially when we have to acknowledge deep societal wounds that have generationally existed and never been addressed. Getting uncomfortable is our first step towards growth. We can’t do it otherwise. We do need to have a reckoning with ourselves where we unfreeze and make intentional changes, whether it’s in ourselves, our communities or the systems that underpin our society.
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