My friend Jaime Casap posted the following tweet-thread yesterday:

And yes, if you are a person of color, this thread was probably not at all shocking to you. But for many white people who are able to spend their lives not thinking about being white in most if not all spaces, it can be very jarring to read. For me, as someone who lives and works in a very diverse community, it is still jarring to read, in no small part because Jaime is a dear friend and someone who, in most of the social situations where we are together, he is very confident and the notion that Jaime could be made to feel that way is a deep and profound reminder of the challenges that people of color face in America.

But it also got me to thinking about the students of color in our classes – especially in our classes taught by white teachers or in schools that have a significant white population. Although, even as I type this, I think it’s important to understand that this probably has ramifications for students of color in most, if not all schools because the overwhelming number of our schools in this country are implicitly – if not explicitly – part of the dominant paradigm of our nation.

So what I wonder is this — how many of our students of color experience school feeling as Jaime felt in that parking lot?

How often do students of color question, “Did that teacher make the call home / suspend me / expel me / fail me because of the color of my skin?”

How much mental energy do students of color spend thinking about how to make sure they are perceived by adults in a way that does not hinder their ability to get their education in powerful, meaningful ways?

Simply this — how many of our students of color are in school waiting to be judged?

And before any educator jumps to, “Yeah, but that’s not what I’m thinking my class…” think about Jaime’s tweet thread. Think about what it means to be Black or Hispanic in America today. Think about always wondering if you are safe… and perhaps this… think about a moment in your own life where you did not feel physically or mentally safe and all that you did to get through that situation. The point wasn’t that you or were not safe in that moment – the point was that something going on around you that meant that you could not be certain that you were in a safe space.

And then think about what it would mean to feel that way in school much -if not most or all – of the time.

For me, this is yet another why it is so important that schools, teachers and school administrators have to be explicitly anti-racist. It is on us as the adults to make sure that every student feels safe in school. The biases that students of color face every day in America means that students of color are quite probably walking in the door not feeling safe in their skin. And we know from all the work around the disproportionality of punishment for kids of color, that schools have not done a great job of ameliorating that fear.

We must do better.

Our students need to hear us take anti-racist stands.

Our students need to see policies enacted in school that actively create the conditions of safety for all students – especially our students of color.

Our schools need to examine every policy and practice through an anti-racist lens and ask ourselves, “Is this practice / policy creating the conditions of physical and mental safety for our students of color?”

Every child in America deserves to go to school and feel safe in their own skin.

Every child in America needs to know that when they walk into school, they are cared for and loved and able to learn.

No child in America should ever walk into school and worry about being judged because of the color of their skin or where they are from or what God they worship or how they identify on the gender spectrum or who they love.

It is on us as the educators to work every day to make schools safe for every single child with every word that we speak, every lesson we teach and every policy we enact.