Book Club Discussion: “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

Our Legislation Team decided that a book club would be a good way to begin discussions around race, equity, inclusion and justice. They created a list of books dealing with these topics and began to read down the list. To read more about this process, please read our previous blog post about the book club.

Today we are going to share the resources and study questions from the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. In this book DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

The primary goal for white people working to understand racism is not to learn how racism impacts people of color. The primary goal is to recognize how the system of racism shapes our lives, how we uphold that system, and how we might interrupt it.

Definitions:

Prejudice is prejudgment about another person based on the social groups to which that person belongs.

Discrimination is action based on prejudice.

When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intention or self-image of individual actors. Racism is a structure, not an event.

Questions for Discussion:

1. “We are taught to think about racism only as discrete acts committed by individual people, rather than as a complex, interconnected system.”
“Only bad people who intended to hurt others because of race could ever do so….any suggestion that we are complicit in racism is a kind of unwelcome and insulting shock to the system.”

“Our simplistic definition of racism – as intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals – engenders a confidence that we are not part of the problem and that our learning is thus complete.”

“Racism goes beyond individual intentions to collective group patterns.”

“If I understand racism as a system into which I was socialized, I can receive feedback on my problematic racial patterns as a helpful way to support my learning and growth.”

How can we use this definition of racism as a systemic structure, and not acts of individuals to create awareness and acknowledgement that racism exists and how we might work to interrupt it?

2. DiAngelo suggests that one of the most effective barriers to talking about racism with white people is the good/bad binary. How have you seen this binary underlying common white responses to charges of racism? How might you respond when the binary surfaces in discussions about racism?

3. “Most of us can acknowledge that we do feel some unease around certain groups of people, if only a heightened sense of self-consciousness. But this feeling doesn’t come naturally. Our unease comes from living separate from a group of people while simultaneously absorbing incomplete or erroneous information about them.”

What can be done to change this?

4. “While implicit bias is always at play because all humans have bias, inequity can occur simply through homogeneity; if I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I won’t see them, much less be motivated to remove them. Nor will I be motivated to remove the barriers if they provide an advantage to which I feel entitled.”

“To understand race relations today, we must push against our conditioning and grapple with how and why racial group membership matters.”

How do you see these statements applying to PTA?

5. If we accept that racism is always operating, the question becomes not “Is racism taking place?” but rather “How is racism taking place in this specific context?” How does awareness of that change how we think about our lives and our actions?”

6. “Individualism claims that there are no intrinsic barriers to individual success and that failure is not a consequence of social structures but comes from individual character.”

Does this perception play into societies misunderstandings about affirmative action and why affirmative action programs haven’t changed our racial outcomes? How can we work as individuals or as PTA to change this world view?

7. “The metaphor of the United States as the great melting pot, in which immigrants from around the world came together and melt into one unified society through the process of assimilation, is a cherished idea. Once new immigrants learn English and adapt to American culture and customs, they become Americans. In reality, only European immigrants were allowed to melt. regardless of their ethnic identities, these immigrants were perceived to be white and thus could belong.”

Why is the idea that the U.S. is a “melting pot” problematic?

8. Anti-blackness – the ultimate racial “other”!

  • Kidnapping & 300 years of enslavement
  • Torture rape and brutality
  • Medical Experimentation
  • Share cropping
  • Bans against testifying against whites
  • Mandatory segregation
  • Bans on black jury service & voting
  • Lynching and mob violence
  • Imprisoning people for unpaid work
  • Bans on interracial marriage
  • Redlining
  • Employment discrimination
  • Educational discrimination
  • Biased laws and policing practices
  • White Flight
  • Subprime mortgages
  • Mass incarceration
  • School to prison pipeline
  • Disproportionate special ed referrals and punishments
  • Testing, tracking, school funding
  • Biased media representation

It’s a system, not an event

The concept of anti-Blackness pushes back against the idea that all ethnic minorities have the same lived experiences and can be shoved under a singular umbrella” Simply put: All People of Color (POC) do not face the same gravity of harm. The sooner we recognize the extreme barriers facing Black POC, the sooner we can address the anti-Black narrative and policies that are disproportionately killing them.

Thoughts on this? Were times tough for your immigrant ancestors? If so, in what ways does DiAngelo say this is still not the same as being Black in the U.S.?

9. As I move through my daily life, my race is unremarkable. My presence is not questioned. I belong. Try to identify at least 3 ways white racial belonging has been conveyed to you in the last week.

Once we have been made conscious of what has always been all around us – the consistent reinforcement of white superiority/privilege – what are the options you can generate in your life to challenge and dismantle this historical and dominant view system?

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March 31st is National Crayon Day

Take some time with the family today to celebrate both National Crayon Day and the end of Arts Education Month. Our Communications Commission created these coloring sheets that highlight PTA’s advocacy efforts over the years — enjoy coloring them with the family or your PTA unit.

              
PDF version                         PDF version                  PDF version                  PDF version                 PDF version                PDF version

 

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Leg Con 2021 Wrap-Up: Bringing Equity to California Public Schools

This article was written by Kitty Cahalan, President of Blair School PTSA in Pasadena (First District)

“A Path to Equity” was the focus of this year’s Legislation Conference, which I attended as a local PTA leader and advocate, but also as the parent of two public high school students. Bringing equity to California public schools has long challenged our educational leaders, and the pandemic has highlighted vast inequities in the system and left millions of California students more disadvantaged than ever. From access to mental health care and meals to the widening of a vast digital divide, the conference underscored that the prospect of getting students back on track is daunting. Far from being pessimistic, however, the conference presented information and opportunities that we as parents and PTA advocates can use to disrupt ineffective old practices and bring public education into a new era in which all are included and empowered, and in which the needs of all are seen and addressed.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond opened the conference and focused on restorative justice and increased digital access and literacy as examples of measures needed at the state level to increase inclusiveness and access for all students. President Celia Jaffe shared CAPTA’s ten recommendations for the timely and safe reopening of schools. Director of Legislation Shereen Walter shared CAPTA’s legislative agenda and the critical need for “our collective voices to influence legislation and the state budget to improve equity, access, and opportunity for all of California’s children.” Then, National PTA President-Elect Anna King shared her personal stories of witnessing how racial and economic inequities affected her own children, injustices which led directly to her involvement in PTA and her work to bring a collective voice on behalf of all children to our nation’s leaders and educational decision-makers. This was a powerful start to the conference.

Equity best practices were discussed in sessions about equity in the arts, community schools, and schools as incubators for democracy.

  • Tom DeCaigny, California Alliance for Arts Education, stated that even though the arts are shown to be effective for development of motor skills, a powerful educational tool for students with disabilities, and are mandated by the state, arts education implementation continues to fall short in districts throughout the state. DeCaigny identified PTA as a key messenger and urged coordinated messaging for the arts, especially during remote learning.
  • Michael Essien, a middle school principal, shared how adherence to the school’s North Stars – whole child, student voice, belonging and rigorous education – combined with ongoing staff training in implicit bias, as well as community partners to bring tiered interventions to students, helped the school meet students and their families where they are. When students feel healthy, safe, and included, he said, they will be ready to learn.
  • John Rogers, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) examined mission statements and LCAPs from districts across the state, looking for indicators that districts consider themselves responsible for the civic education of their students, and found very few districts include keywords such as “democracy” and “civic participation.” Rogers encouraged participants to consider their school districts’ role in furthering democracy and to encourage students to learn how to participate in their communities’ civic lives.

Each of these speakers gave clear, actionable information for the advocates in attendance to use to further the call for equity.

The news on the budget front was encouraging, as California has an unexpected budget surplus. Budget experts discussed the state government’s priorities: addressing the digital divide, helping students who have been the most affected by the pandemic catch up, and providing for an increase in mental health services. Many of these allocations will come in the form of one-time funds and will challenge districts to rapidly deploy services to our most at-risk students. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, pushing for the additional revenue to go to education, especially early childhood education. He said that PTA is best positioned among all advocacy groups to disrupt the layers of abstraction between what is decided in Sacramento and what is happening on school campuses. He challenged us to communicate specifically what is needed in schools. Brooks Allen, Education Policy Advisor to the Governor, made clear the breadth of the challenge – nearly two-thirds of the state’s students, about 3.7 million children, come from economically disadvantaged homes – and the state must focus on these students or the additional funds will not have the impact we wish to see.

The theme of equity echoed throughout the conference: access, inclusive approaches, and listening to all the voices in our communities. Our path toward equity requires that our local and state leaders share a coherent, unified message that puts the needs of the most vulnerable first. Not only was this message shared in multiple legislative meetings, but PTA participants left the conference with the tools to continue to forge this path forward for our students.

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What is the Role of the Federal Government in Education?

Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States. It is states and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation. The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant state and local role. The result is that the Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is just under 10%, which includes funds not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Head Start program and the Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch program. These Federal programs are not affected by California’s Local Control Funding Formula.

History of Federal involvement in Education

The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandated the desegregation of public schools and gave the executive branch a legal precedent for enforcing equal access to education.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was a key part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and has set the basic terms of the federal government’s involvement in education ever since. Rather than mandating direct federal oversight of schools, ESEA offered states funding for education programs on a conditional basis. In other words, states could receive federal funding provided they met the requirements outlined in certain sections, or titles, of the act. Every major education initiative since then has been about recalibrating the balance first struck by ESEA. Until 1980, the program was reauthorized every three years, each time with more specific guidelines about how federal funds were to be used.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now IDEA) ensured that students with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education to meet their needs.

In 1979, the Federal Department of Education was established as a separate, cabinet-level government agency that would coordinate the federal government’s various initiatives and requirements. In the years since, we have had ESEA reauthorizations such as No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act.

In addition to ESEA, the Federal government continues to administer other programs, including two large ones that tend to get less attention; child nutrition and Head Start.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or no-cost lunches to children each school day. This program has played an essential role during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time of heightened food insecurity for so many families across our state and nation, this program has helped millions who may only get nutritious meals during the school day. The US Department of Agriculture recently announced the continued extension of nationwide flexibilities that allow free school meals for children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.

Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families. This program is intended to halt the development of an achievement gap by promoting the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from low-income families.

If the Federal contribution to the California public school system is less than 10% of the overall budget for schools, why is it important for PTA to spend time on this now? Due to the pandemic, a large federal investment in education is needed in order to stave off major state and local budget cuts that would disproportionately affect our most vulnerable students.

Want to learn more?

Why Should You Attend the 2021 California State PTA Legislation Conference?

Have you considered attending Leg Con 2021, but are still on the fence? Well, here are five reasons that will convince you that attending is DEFINITELY worthwhile:

  1. This is our first-ever virtual Legislation Conference — don’t you want to be able to say that you were at the very first? 
  2. You don’t have to be a policy expert or an advocacy rock star to get great benefit from the conference. The Legislation Conference is designed to meet the needs of everyone — from an advocacy novice to a policy wonk. Everyone will find something of value at the conference.
  3. There is so much to learn! Participants in the conference learn about various ways to advocate at the local and state level, hear about important issues that affect students around the state, and hear from policymakers in Sacramento.   
  4. Meet and network with leaders from across the state. One of the best things about the Legislation Conference is meeting other leaders who care about children and families as much as you do! 
  5. Students can attend too! Is your high schooler passionate about a cause, do they want to learn more about how our government works or how they can help make change? Students are always welcomed at the Legislation Conference.

Registration is now open! Click here for more information: https://capta.org/programs-events/legislation-conference/

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Parent Stories, Part 2

First, listen…

Unit PTA leader: We decided to move to an area where my Black son would see peers and school adults who looked like him. As a PTA leader, I know the power of advocacy and partnership with school staff. I advocated with his teachers about implicit bias and how harmful it was to send my son to sit at the desk for the same behavior his white friends engaged in but instead received a warning and allowed to sit on the carpet. We advocated with the school to address the bullying and use of unacceptable language around race. We advocated with the PTA and parents that even if we didn’t have a large African American population, an African American Living Museum should be a school event. There was some success but it was exhausting. After a few years, as a family, we decided that living in and being educated in a community that is integrated and more diverse was the right choice for us. We had read about how students of color are disciplined more, tracked for AP classes less, and the list went on. We wanted to minimize the impact of the embedded systemic bias.

Then, learn…

Even though #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month is over, we want diversity, equity and inclusion to be a focus all year round. California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of all families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Look at the demographics of families on your campus– Are they represented on your PTA board?  Are there activities that highlight and celebrate these families and make them feel like they are an integral part of your campus?  Does your library showcase authors and books with characters that represent these families?  Are your assemblies diverse enough that all children see themselves in the presentations?
  • Educate yourself, your board, and your school community about the challenges these families face by holding a book club or hosting listening sessions. 
  • Participate in the upcoming Listening Sessions that California State PTA will hold in January. 

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.

Click here to read part 4 of this series.

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Teacher Stories, Part 1

First, listen…

Educator: I use the word ‘grownups’, not parents, or mom and dads. I used to use those words but I learned that some of my students are being raised by their grandparents or other family members. Some had one parent because the other was serving in the military or incarcerated. Some were with foster families. All of that is important to me because it is important to my students that I know they have same sex parents, or are adopted and don’t ‘look’ like their other family members. All families are talked about because young children will create their own narrative if you don’t give them one. So I talk about all the wonderful and different ways families are formed. 

Then, learn…

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of all families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Make sure your PTA publications are inclusive. Remember that not all families look the same, so make certain that your PTA fliers reflect that.

National PTA has a Diversity Toolkit that you can use to help your unit connect with all the families on your campus https://www.pta.org/home/run-your-pta/Diversity-Equity-Inclusion

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Student Stories, Part 2

First, listen….

Student: It wasn’t until I took an AP class my sophomore year where the books we read were by authors of color. I became really interested in who gets to choose the books that I am taught in school. I found out it’s up to the teacher to find a way to buy these books that are not on the usual approved list. That didn’t make sense to me. I am now involved in a student-led group to have more student voice in deciding things like the books we read. All students should get to read these books, not just the AP class or the new ethnic studies elective. All our classes should have authors of all histories. 

Then, learn…

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of our racially diverse students and their families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Attend the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee’s Listening Sessions November 16, 17, 18 and 21, 2020 https://capta.org/resource/listening-sessions-on-race-and-racism/
  • When your PTA raises funds for your library request that a certain percentage of the funds be spent on racially diverse authors.  We want all children to see people who look like them on our library shelves. 
  • Include students in your PTA!  We have lots of tips on ways to include student participation in your PTA ( http://toolkit.capta.org/membership/involving-students/).  One of the best ways to include students is to invite them to our Legislation Conference which will have a Racial Injustice and Social Advocacy theme this year.  More information about the dates and cost will be released soon, so be sure to visit our webpage from time to time to get updates. https://capta.org/programs-events/legislation-conference/

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Student Stories, Part 1

First, listen…

Student: Whether I wear pants or a skirt, I sing the same. Does it matter if I wear pants instead of a skirt? Yes it matters to me. I don’t understand why my teacher and principal insist on me wearing a skirt to sing in the choir. It feels as weird as showing up to school in a bathing suit and nothing else. I already feel uncomfortable at school. It would be just one small thing that would make me think, ‘At least this one teacher knows and accepts me.’

Then, learn….

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of LGBTQIA+ students and their families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Review school policies in regard to bullying and support revisions and amendments to those policies that specifically address the topics of sexual orientation and gender identification/expression as they relate to harassment and bullying.  https://capta.org/focus-areas/community-concerns/lgbtqia/
  • Use the Welcoming Schools Checklist to see how your PTA is doing in welcoming all families into your school.  http://downloads.capta.org/hea/WelcomingSchools_Checklist.pdf
  • Use the California State PTA Position Statements and Resolutions as you do studies of local legislation that impacts families of LGBTQIA+ students.  If you need support in this process, reach out to your Council or District Board and they can support you.

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

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