Open thread and ARP link: Teachers talking race

Look for a quote from Carmen in this article from Teaching Tolerance:

Nuri Vargas knows how it feels to be silenced.

Not long ago, while working in a school near San Diego,  Calif., Vargas was talking with another teacher when the conversation randomly led to the topic of dental health.

“She said to me, ‘Have you noticed that the Latino kids’ teeth are all rotten? It’s cultural because Latino parents give their kids lots of candy and they don’t brush their teeth.’”

Vargas told her colleague that a lack of health insurance would be a more likely explanation. The other teacher brushed her off with “not all kids, but most of them.”

Although Vargas was concerned that her colleague’s beliefs would trickle over to her treatment of Latino students, she never expressed her concerns to the administration.

“I don’t think I was comfortable with talking to the principal — because what if the principal thought just like her?” she said.

In many classrooms across America, race and ethnicity are very much on the table. Teachers dream of seeing their students discuss difference in a constructive way. Some educators actively encourage their classes to get outside their comfort zones and confront the country’s racial history.

But in many faculty rooms, there’s little to no talk about race. Whether the topic is a racial disparity in students’ academic achievement, a teacher who feels victim to racial discrimination or even simply a question about a black student’s hair, teachers often elect to keep their mouths shut. If teachers can’t have the race talk with each other, how can schools effectively educate their students about difference?  Read more…

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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