Letters: Views on racism, equality from the classroom

The Detroit News

Fight against racism starts with education 

This has been a tough few weeks for our nation. Americans are once again confronted with a 400-year-old systemic problem, one we cannot continue to ignore. Difficult conversations about racism are happening around the dinner table, on social media, and even on Sesame Street — and more lie ahead. These conversations about race, justice and equity are critical to bringing change and to helping our nation heal.

I believe the fight against racism starts with education. Today’s students are looking for answers.

In whatever way schools comes back in session this fall, educators must be prepared for these difficult discussions to continue.

Each year at Insight School of Michigan, English teacher Mae Condalary and I host a guest speaker who shares her life story and the importance of remembering the past to move forward. Dr. Irene Hasenburg Butter, a Holocaust survivor, has spoken to my students for the past two years and for three years when I taught at South Arbor Academy. In her discussions, she shares the horrors she faced and how she now advocates for understanding and compassion of others.

Let’s not let racism persist in our society any longer. It is time for changes that are long overdue. Teachers must take a leading role in providing students with a forum to talk about what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others, and how we can move forward as an equitable society.

There are a variety of ways to approach this. Hearing from another person’s perspective provides a greater weight than words in a textbook ever could. I recommend bringing in someone with firsthand experience confronting racism and fighting for change. Whether this is a local leader or a community activist or anyone with a story that needs to be shared, letting students hear personal experiences shows them that something is real, and that it is happening now.

I also urge you to remember our past in ways to move forward. If we neglect our past, we will never make progress. Consider what we can do differently to truly bring change because this is certainly not the first time we are holding these difficult conversations.

Our nation’s students are looking to us to lead them. It is time to light the path forward.

Larry Biederman, high school science teacher, Insight School of Michigan

Our nation’s students are looking to us to lead them. It is time to light the path forward, Biederman writes.

Reflecting on my privilege 

As a 16 year old growing up in wealthy white suburbs, it’s perpetually easy to revel in my privilege and view the world through rose-colored lenses. But that’s the problem — for too long society has chosen to don such glasses and overlook systemic issues that tint the world red. Now, in this era of rapid global interconnection, the people are begging for these dense spectacles to be ripped off, shattered and replaced with justice and equality. 

Why is the first reaction of so many Americans to change pure denial? The issue of race, equality and basic human rights is not a matter of opinion. This country was founded on the basis of liberty and equality, simple foundations that the government has failed to provide to numerous groups throughout history.

My peers often feel the need to align themselves with a certain “stance” on the Black Lives Matter movement due to their political ideals. In reality, I find it incredibly disconcerting that any modern ideology would oppose the fight for equality and justice. Walking, sleeping, simply living freely in America is not an argument based on race. Human rights shouldn’t have to be up to politics. 

Privilege is an invisible power that shapes my life. Privilege plays a part in who hires our parents, where we grow up, what businesses we frequent, etc.  

I recognize my privilege. It gives me endless advantages in life, and it pains me to know that others suffer because of the racism seeped into America’s veins.

If you do one thing this year, to move forward, I encourage you to remove those rose-tinted glasses and see the world as it truly is with an open heart. 

Maria Cowden, rising junior, Northville High School