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The Racism We Don’t See

By Naomi O'Brien


The main problem with people like Johnathan Pentland in South Carolina is not the racism they go viral for, but all of the many other times they could have, but didn’t.

The ideas they promote, the people they influence, the decisions they make or fail to make daily, the children they raise, the people they hire, the people they fire….it all matters.

In a similar fashion, it’s not just the headline scandals that make the news about racism in schools, it’s the racism that happen in classrooms DAILY and harms ALL children.

It’s the gifted Black child that is misunderstood and never identified as gifted. It is the white child that needs Sped services, but is given the benefit of doubt and passed on from grade level to grade level without intervention. It’s the students who are assumed to be less than because of where they live or the other language they speak at home.

It’s the assumptions made about a family because the the religion they follow (or don’t) and how that impacts relationships with the family. It’s the students who aren’t served well because stereotypes and bias distort what the teacher can see. It’s the child suspended and removed from the classroom without anyone identifying the teacher as the potential problem.

It’s the children who are or aren’t encouraged to follow certain paths based on their racial or ethnic background. This harm can come from everyone’s favorite IG kindergarten teacher, the sweet and bubbly teacher of the year, or even the teacher who thinks he/she/they have no work to do because they read that one book last summer.

It’s the racist harm caused with good intention. It’s the failure to continue to examine our own biases and push ourselves to be better. We have been raised and conditioned in a racist society. There is always work to do in ourselves… even the “wokest” of us.



Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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