By way of various media, research reports and opening up dialogue to family, friends and colleagues on Facebook, I’ve been constantly engaged in gathering perspectives on the #FergusonDecision as a white, middle-class Philadelphian. I’ve followed the events of Mike Brown’s death since August, but when the decision not to indict was made last week, I became glued to the TV, and of course the #Ferguson & #FergusonSyllabus hashtags on Twitter. My Facebook wall has become a place where every opinion you could ever imagine is shared in the most unorganized and sometimes visceral way. I’ve really gotten to know much more about the unique sense of “privilege” my family and friends carry with them as I read each post. Some comments are quite disturbing, but offer a window into the real-life perspectives WE ALL HAVE in our communities that educators need to be prepared to engage. I’ve struggled to make sense of where I stand in many places, as it’s hard to have a definitive line in the sand with so many details absent. I can say that this particular situation has encouraged me to be even more transparent about the white privilege I’ve been fortunate to have with me my whole life.
Last night CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts. Batts speaking on his leadership of the BPD immediately caused me to reflect back on the work of today’s school leaders. As you listen, what themes strike you as you during the three-minute clip below?
Cooper asked Batts two questions that could have been answered in a similar fashion by a school superintendent and/or principal.
AC: Can training really be effective in reducing the impact of bias?
AB: Absolutely and shares the following keys in his experiences as the leader of three large urban police departments:
- Bias-based policing
- Emotional intelligence
- Tactical proficiency
- Embracing that every human being has bias
- We need to move beyond our bias based on scenarios
- We have opportunities to back away from situations, call for back up, in effect take the bias out of the situation
AC: How important is it that the police force resemble the community they are policing?
AB: There is a need to have diversity in the workforce – not only in race, but in gender and ethnicity.
- Police force must understand what its like to live in the unique community.
- New officers should come out of the Academy away from theory and get into the community to get them to know the people they serve.
- There is culture, norms and issues going on in community. It’s more important to have the pulse of these things than to have a workforce that mirrors the community.
I also watched Batts’ introduction speech as new BPD Commissioner in November, 2012. At the 6:50 mark, he talks about community engagement. From an educator lens, there are many parallels to our work inside the school with students and out in the community with families. We need to build trust, get to know the norms, culture and issues they are challenged with to best serve them when they are in our care.
What have you learned from the Ferguson movement? Please detail your own takeaways as it relate to your work in the comments below.
Looking for support in the classroom? Tonight’s #PTchat (via @IELconnects) features special guest, Georgetown Professor Marcia Catelain (@DrMChatelain), as she details the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus, she first used in August after Mike Brown was killed by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. The one hour conversation will be about supporting healthy dialogue in the classroom with students on these and other issues involving sensitive topics.