How Do We Respond?

Tending To Our Community

Reported incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes have risen an astonishing 150% during the past year. The racially-motivated and gender-based mass shooting in Atlanta this week propelled the issue onto national headlines, but many of our colleagues, students, friends, and neighbors may have been feeling unsafe for a long while.

When any tragic event on a national scale–whether a natural disaster or a human act of violence–reaches our collective awareness, our question as teachers is how, or whether, to address it with our students. Although we may not know how, or we may not be comfortable broaching these issues in our classrooms, in past crises, students reported that saying nothing was the worst approach faculty could take (Huston and DiPietro, 2007).

When the events are incidents of terrorism and hate, it is all the more criitcal that we do not ignore them. Our silence can signal to students that we consider the violence unimportant, or even acceptable.

It’s important that we take the time to say explicitly, and to demonstrate, that our classroom community is inclusive–that all of our students (and colleagues!) are seen and heard and valued. Trust and safety are essential for learning, and since we’re the stewards of our classroom communities, our tiniest gestures can carry great meaning. It can take just a moment as class begins to acknowledge horrific events, and to steer students to resources (linked below.) You might also read aloud FSU’s statement on the incident, condemning “all acts of xenophobia, nativism, and racism,” or share it in a Canvas announcement. This is an especially important time to monitor interactions amongst students, and intervene when we observe microaggressions or bullying.

Our year of collective trauma has made concentrating almost impossible for many of us; students and colleagues experiencing “COVID racism” are bearing the additional burden of being scapegoated for the pandemic. Some students may have difficulty with coursework right now, while others may prefer to immerse themselves in learning and make our courses a refuge. It will mean a lot to students if you check on their well-being and share your care and concern — but please don’t single anyone out.

Here are some campus resources you can share:

If you’d like to go beyond just mentioning the murders in Atlanta, here are some useful resources for faculty:

As Dena Simmons wrote, in How to be an Antiracist Educator, “We cannot afford to wallow in our discomfort regarding issues of race and equity … Educators have an obligation to confront the harm of racism. That is why we must commit to becoming antiracist educators and to preparing our young people to be antiracist, too.”

If you’d like to talk through or practice a script, facilitate a classroom discussion about racism, or think about ways to make your classroom inclusive, please get in touch with us at pro-teaching@fsu.edu. We look forward to working with you.