Confessions of an Art Teacher in Wake of George Floyd Protests

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This was used with permission from the author, Nicole Raneri

This is going to be hard to say and admit who I was, but I grew up a racist. A white privileged racist.
I grew up to stay near mommy and hold her hand in “bad” areas.
I grew up to walk on the other side of the street if there was a “bad” crowd blocking the way.
I grew up to be angry when Obama won and not really understand why.
When graduating high school, I was angry about sharing a college course with someone who got a free ride, and me having to pay (but reallly my parents paid).
In my graduate year getting my masters, I was angry I had to take a cultural diversity and awareness course exposing myself as a racist with white privilege. I was in denial.
And then I started my first year teaching.
I was in an urban community with students who came from mostly poverty-stricken homes.
I watched students walk into class late everyday because they lived 2 hours away by train.
I watched students struggle to finish their SAT test because we didn’t have enough calculators for them to complete one of the sections.
I watched students skip days of school to work at their family’s restaurant because their dad was sick.
I learned about which students were in shelters and group homes that year, and school was the only thing they looked forward to.
I had students accidentally call me mom because I reminded them of her, and they missed her.
These experiences that year changed me. It was a gradual change, but it made me face my racism and my privilege head on.
I realized the change when friends and family would make comments about the environment I teach in. It would offend me and make me question why they are insulting me and my students. My kids. How dare they.
I’m writing this because now more than ever, we need to reflect on ourselves. Teaching has changed me as a person in ways I didn’t realize until recently. People grow up with beliefs that are not their own, and once exposed to new worlds, it is then that they can start growing as a person with their own thoughts.
I am proud to be the teacher I am today.
Today I can say I am still white and privileged, but I am no longer a racist.