Faculty members attend professional day with focus on racial issues


Sascha Wolf-Sorokin/Sagamore Staff

Psychologist and educator Dr. Beverly Tatum speaks to faculty members regarding the “ABCs” of combatting racism during the professional day on Nov. 8. Her address focused on working to improve the environment in schools regarding race.

Sascha Wolf-Sorokin and Lauren Mahoney

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, all Brookline educators attended a professional day at the high school focusing on the cycle of racism. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and educator who has conducted extensive work regarding racial identity and race in education, gave the keynote address. Following Tatum’s presentation, educators broke off into discussion groups to further explore this topic.

Tatum challenged the faculty to think more critically about conversations regarding race in education and how the cycle of racism needs to be stopped.

Superintendent Andrew Bott introduced Tatum and stressed how important this day was.

“What a statement for us to come together and bridge these deep divisions,” Bott said. “This is not a one day event, this is a long term commitment.”

Tatum started her presentation by challenging the educators to think of their earliest race related memory. Most responded that they happened in the early education years; some were as young as 3 years old.

“What does it mean to grow up in a race conscious society?” Tatum said.

Tatum said that when students are not exposed to diversity in their education, they can draw conclusions that that lack of diversity correlates to the real world. Then, a cycle of racism starts and is reinforced by people and institutions.

“We internalize it and come to see difference as wrong or abnormal,” Tatum said.

According to Tatum, in general, once people become aware of the perpetuating cycle of racism they want to see it end.

“The reality is that when we become aware of this cycle there is often a human desire to interrupt it,” Tatum said. “It’s that dissonance that leads to the path of social change.”

Tatum said that this never-ending cycle of racism was inherited from long ago to the present day.

“It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility to interrupt it,” Tatum said.

Tatum provided educators with the “ABCs” for how to combat the cycle. A refers to affirming identity, B refers to building community and C refers to cultivating leadership.

Tatum said how one can not just talk a little about the cycle and then stop when they become uncomfortable. She said if one does that, it then comes back worse when people remember their experiences of discomfort.

“If we wait until we are able to do things perfectly we immobilize ourselves,” Tatum said.

According to Tatum, the most important role that students can play is speaking up about what is right when they see the cycle occurring.

“Everybody has a sphere of influence, it doesn’t matter how young you are,” Tatum said. “So, think about how you can use your own sphere of influence to speak up when you see something happening that you think is not right, when you hear people using language that you think is offensive, when you see somebody being marginalized.”