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Teaching racial equity in schools

July 9, 2010

Cross-posted at Equality 101, a blog for teachers and students

As feminists, we know that fighting for the equality for women also means fighting for equality for all. That’s why I want to talk to you about an important racial equity initiative happening in schools around the country.

The America Healing Initiative, [AHI] a program funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This initiative is a larger part of the Kellogg Foundation’s Commitment to Racial Equity and Healing. The mission of the program is to

to help communities create conditions that propel vulnerable children to success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.

This five-year, $75 million initiative will help fund programs around the country that focus on helping vulnerable children. Many of its programs are listed here. The programs who received grants from AHI are diverse: 119 organizations have been awarded grants in 29 states including the District of Columbia. Grantees come from various ethnic, culture, and racial backgrounds and focus on different topics, such as food, art, education, health, etc.

I have to make a small critique, however. With a large program such as the America Healing Initiative, nothing is perfect (for those who work in the non-profit arena and/or in education, I’m sure that you hear this loud and clear). When I first read about this program (at the Schools Matter blog), I thought “what a great idea.” I mean, what better way to fix racial inequities than to teach our children? Children absorb information faster and still have time to formulate opinions and beliefs.

The mission, however, struck me as a bit “off.”  As a racial healing initiative, I would have preferred to use race and/or culture in the mission; in fact, “socioeconomic” would be best. But the mission only mentions of “vulnerable children,” that was all. I think that while children of color are most likely more vulnerable than children not of color, let’s make that distinct difference. Nevertheless, I find that Kellogg’s intentions in reducing the racial disparities is honest.

Some people have a heavier critique of America Healing. I’m not going to get into it, but if you want to read a sharp criticism check out Stephan Thernstrom’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the program.

The America Healing Initiative is another great tool for teachers and students to use in the school community. For those teachers wanting to teach students about racial inequities, read more about the organizations that are funded by the America Healing Iniative. For example, in Chicago, IL, the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center is using its AHI funding for their “Collateral Damage: Creating Legacies of Boundless Peace” project. “Participants,” the AHI website states, “including Chicago Public School students, will explore the lives of young people lost because of gun violence in the city and learn research skills with which to document the issues of violence and discrimination in their communities.” This project can be used as an example to teach about race and racial inequities in the classroom, or mirror a similar project that your students can take on.

If the America Healing Initiative doesn’t do anything else, it can affect small organizations that will in turn help not only their target communities but your classroom as well, to address racial inequity.

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