View or share this material on a Google Doc: Immersive Scenario
I’m Shané, the Director of Educational Equity for IDE Corp., and I identify as a Black-American who uses the pronouns she/her. I’m going to share a personal story for this immersive scenario. Take a few moments to walk alongside me as I progressed through school.
In fifth grade, I lived in the suburbs of a major city and was one of five Black students in that grade level. I was one of a dozen and a half at the school including my brother. Walking into school and down the hallways each day, it was clear that I was an “other.” My braided hairstyle and the darkness of my skin color were not highly visible in my surroundings. Every day, it was evident that my cultural experience was not similar to that of my peers or teachers. At that school, when I looked around at the adults in the building, few if any of them shared my skin tone. When I looked at the walls of famous faces, inspirational quotes, professions to aspire to, and more, my appearance was not fully represented. Do Black women not accomplish these same things? Do Black people not have inspiration to share? Are accomplished Black people only athletes?
Beyond the experience of what I was seeing in my environment, when I flipped the pages of our textbooks and reading materials, I was only seeing a singular narrative. It may not have been White faces, but it was clear the Eurocentric perspective was the dominant narrative in our curriculum. Were the experiences of Black and Brown people not meant to be explored? Though these were my thoughts as a young girl, I compliantly moved along.
I moved at the start of 7th grade to a place where there was greater diversity at my school and in my neighborhood. Walking the halls of my school, there were many more students who had skin tones that were similar to my own. There were even three Black teachers at my middle school, and I was appreciative to have all three during my time there. My 7th-grade science teacher was a Black female, and for the first time at school, I felt I was seen — not for being so starkly different, but for being who I was. Though there was a greater diversity in my daily interactions, the resources and materials did not align with that experience. My biggest question that I would bring home to my parents was: “Is there more to Black history than the civil rights movement?” and “Does the Black experience begin before slavery?” There has to be more than these standard figures and it has to be more complex than this, right? Luckily, both of my parents are HBCU (Historically Black College and University) graduates, so they were able to shed some light on these gaps and introduce me to other authors, inventors, and experiences. If not for them, I would not know about the Tuskegee Airmen, for instance.
Even in high school, the issue was the same. Though I was exposed to some Black authors and poets such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Maya Angelou, far and wide the stories, texts, and performance assessments were clearly not designed with me in mind. But how could I find the voice to express this? Would I be safe to share these views? Why was there not a greater conversation about race to normalize it?
My story takes place in the 1990s in three very different places. Things must be different now, right?
The fact is that in the past 20 years since I graduated from high school, progress in integrating curriculum and assessments wholly with diversity in mind has moved slowly.
But why is this even important?
Exposure to representative curriculum and resources supports the development of one’s own self-identity. How am I seen in the world? How do I see myself in the world? Though the gaps were filled in at home, the system of education still ingrains in all students what is of importance to study and know and what has been deemed irrelevant.
When we think about an inclusive curriculum and assessments, we want our students to feel empowered to dismantle systems of bias, inequities, and instances of power and privilege. To accomplish this, we must first learn these systems and begin to work intentionally to uplift marginalized voices in our classrooms. As educators, when we recognize the need for change in the system, we can support our students in recognizing the same. We can support them in using their voice and provide them with the tools to do so successfully. How will you be an agent of change? How will you support your students to be agents of change, too?