by Brian Galaviz
As a public elementary and middle school counselor in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks has an important message for all educators, students and counselors.
In schools there is a focus, by some, on “bullying.” But too often, “bullying” is used as a sanitized term devoid of its often-underlying sentiments of whitesupremacist patriarchy. While it is vital to address harmful behaviors, it is just as important to name specific behaviors – homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, abelism, etc… If we simply label these behaviors as bullying, it is easy to turn away from the underlying discrimination. Using specific language potentially like islamophobia might cause discomfort, not only for the student causing harm, but also for school personnel. Educators may not feel qualified or ready to address these issues. However, it is our ethical obligation as protectors of safe spaces to name and address the root cause of violence. If students do not feel safe, learning is difficult if not impossible.
Another nugget of wisdom for those of us working and learning in schools is the value of resisting the urge to call police when bullying or other threats of harm occur in schools. In Chicago, the corruption within and harm caused by the Chicago Police Department is well documented. Will calling the police really make our communities safer? However, educators may not feel comfortable discussing the intersectionality of young people’s safety and the trauma caused by police. Yet the fact that many educators have family, friends and loved ones who are police officers is an unacknowledged tension and often a major barrier to addressing police violence against young people of color, mainly black and brown youth. Yet having open, honest, restorative conversations regarding police is essential to implementing creative, non-punitive responses to harm in schools.
I recommend watching and discussing: Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks.
Don’t Be a Bystander, running time approximately 4 minutes, is directed and produced by Lewis Wallace and Hope Dector, conceived by Mariame Kaba and Sarah Jaffe, with support from the Barnard Center for Research on Women.
Brian, his partner Gloria Ortiz, and their son Diego.
Brian Galaviz has been an educator for ten years in Chicago Public Schools. He has taught high school science and been a counselor in high school, elementary, and middle school, including in alternative settings for youth who have been pushed out of traditional schools. Both Brian and Gloria are fierce Chicago political and cultural workers!