As a public school teacher, I saw how a culture of fear is holding back anti-racist education in our classrooms

Photo: Andrea Chu/Getty Images

In the spring of 2017, I took a part-time job teaching English at a high school in a small agrarian and prison town just far enough outside of Seattle that people fly Confederate flags with impunity. It was just after President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech, in which he invoked the idea of “American carnage.” The kids at this school would notoriously lead a “build the wall” chant during lunch as a group of Latinx students entered the cafeteria — an incident of racial terror highlighted in the revised edition of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the…


The author engaged in distance learning

Before COVID-19 hit, I had some experience with “online education”, which for the purposes of K-12 public education and its complex legalities, is technically distinct from “distance learning” though they function similarly. This modality of education has for years been used to facilitate what is referred to as “credit recovery” programs — often seen as an alternate pathway for credit-deficient high school students to earn credit by taking classes online.

Typically the students in these programs had already been “warehoused” — a derogatory term that some in education use for students that the system has given up on and relegated…


The politics of the American political left have routinely been defined by the tension between the abolitionist and the assimilationist. It’s what Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois and most recently Dr. Ibram X. Kendi frame as “the dueling consciousness” — how (if at all) can we change the system while being part of it?

In nominating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as their 2020 Presidential ticket this week, the Democratic Party offers Americans a return to a pre-Trumpian “normalcy”. The DNC’s ticket also rejects policies of universal healthcare, abolishing student loan debt, or a federal jobs guarantee. The goal of the…


White protestors show solidarity at a Black Lives Matter march in Portland, OR. Photo by author.

In discussing the state of American race relations during a 2014 interview, comedian Chris Rock said, “To say that Black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.” In that and other interviews Rock did during the Obama administration, Rock spoke up about how white people have become “nicer” and “less crazy.” Through the transition into the Trump administration, the cultural zeitgeist has synthesized the point that “Black people don’t need to change — white people need to change.” …

Joseph Erikson

High School Ethnic Studies teacher writing on race, education, and politics. MLitt, University of Glasgow. MAT Lewis & Clark College. Based in Seattle.

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