Deborah Hale, founder and director of the Inside Outside School, kindly granted Alt Ed Austin permission to republish this timely and soul-searching piece. It originally appeared on her school blog earlier this month, soon after large protests against police brutality and racism began in Minneapolis, Austin, and many other communities throughout the world.
Recent events following the murder of George Floyd have offered me, a white woman born in the 1950s, an opportunity for self-reflection. I am not doing a good enough job of growing anti-racist children. I’ve always taken the approach with environmental education that we don’t focus on what is wrong like glaciers melting; instead, we help children fall in love with nature so that one day they will harness that love in a way that actively protects the environment. Playing in a creek, gardening, and feeding chickens are our methodology of raising an environmental activist. We address race issues mostly through literature. We teach respect for everyone. The students study the Civil Rights movement, Jim Crow laws, slavery, the Underground Railroad, segregation, and prejudice.
In her book Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness, Anastasia Higginbotham shows a mother saying, “Oh no, not again.”
Her daughter hears her and says, “Mom. What ‘not again?’” The mother doesn’t want to tell her child about the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Mark Ramos news break of the day. She wants to “hide scary things” from her kid. Boy, do I get that! I really want children to enjoy their sacred childhood, running, playing, laughing. The dangers they face at school are poison ivy, sharp rocks under their bare feet, snakes, and puss moth caterpillars. Their parents might worry about that a bit, but they don’t have to worry that their child will be murdered by police. I can protect them from the horrible, frightening details in today’s news, but because there is not a lot of diversity, I cannot help them fall in love with people of color through direct experience. Our school isn’t free, there is no free breakfast or lunch, we are not on a bus route. We lack socio-economic diversity. As a private school, we serve privileged children. That’s not what I want, but that is what I created.
Our family has recently had our own run-in with racist police brutality. Like many white grandparents, we have grandchildren, daughters-in-law, nieces, and nephews who are people of color. Our grandson was peacefully protesting in Austin and was shot at close range by a police officer’s rubber bullet.