Preparing Yourself to Challenge Bigotry and Prejudice
It’s clear that one voice in one moment does not stop bigotry or prejudice. Bigotry is insidious, arriving in many forms and many voices. Insults and put-downs, like the rest of the English language, are ever-evolving. As people use language to create new ways to ostracize and hurt others, we hope the strategies in this guidebook can be adapted and adjusted to keep pace.
Every moment that bigotry goes unanswered is a moment that allows its roots to grow deeper and stronger. Bigotry left unanswered is bigotry tacitly approved. If you don’t speak up, you are saying, in your silence, that you condone it.
In moving forward, consider the basics:
Prepare yourself, and help prepare your students. Have handy phrases you are comfortable saying. Promise yourself that you’ll speak up in these moments, then follow through.
Don’t just be reactive. Take proactive steps to help create the school climate you seek.
There is no need to apologize for speaking up. Don’t let naysayers silence you. You recognize bigotry, and you seek to eradicate it. This is important work, and you must dedicate yourself to it.
Help others prepare to speak up. Encourage the good behavior you see, especially changed behavior. If someone else has spoken up before you, be the next voice, echoing that anti-bigotry message—thanking the person who has spoken up and encouraging others to join in.
This guidebook is designed for individuals, but know that you are not alone. Even in the most oppressive school environments, allies are waiting for you somewhere in the building. Maybe they are students, other teachers or counselors. Maybe they tried to speak up once, weeks or months or years ago, but felt too alone to bring change. Seek them out. Band together. Create a campaign focused on the most prominent problem at your school, and put it into place, using resources included in the appendices of this guidebook. There is power in numbers.
The campaign against bigotry involves all of us. Each of our voices matters, and each is vital to creating inclusive, socially just schools—schools that not only embrace the great diversity of our nation, but also seek to ensure all of our students are seen, heard and valued.
So speak up. Don’t let hate have the last word.