At the Jan. 13 Franklin County School Board meeting, I tried to appeal to “teacher sensitivity and tolerance” and encouraged educators to respond to classroom safety, crisis planning and decision-making.
I emphasized that the Confederate flag is seen as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which causes it to be very popular among white supremacists, but is a hate symbol among most. I discouraged its use or approval by educators as a symbol of their heritage — hate — as something to hide behind.
There are few African Americans or other ethnicities, in each classroom with a white teacher, most of the time. The children are already intimidated by not seeing anyone who looks like them. And then a white child (bully) wears a Confederate flag. It is known as the “bad” flag in our communities.
These public debates should impact the moral conscious enough to embody the dreams of the children for a better, more peaceful future.
We should not have to fight “hate” in the classroom as well as the courtroom. Why wait for conflicts “disturbances” as defined in school policies? Just seeing the “bad” flag is a disturbance and intimidation, especially when I don’t see anyone around who looks like me.
Since the last election, racism has seen an uptick. So we must challenge, examine, investigate and fight for the right civic engagement and social change in the learning environment.
White leaders must seek the moral will to do the right thing and not stand behind their heritage to please their neighbors and friends. If they believe in the value of education, they must stop acting defensively and start acting in the offensive with all leaders to democratically plan and implement policies that protect the safety and finest education for our children, not wait for a crisis to demand safety.
We as educators are building the foundation of the future of human kind. Toxic behaviors by educators — racism and power — can be a dangerous mix. There are few things more detrimental to children than educators who pretend ignorance of the truth just because they are threatened by it.
Dr. Gloria Freeman-Martin