Hedreich Nichols

April 2021

How Long Has This Been Going On

Small Bites Friday Five 4-30-21 

20-30m – Read this study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations.

15-20m – Read this short pamphlet with your classes. Enslavement and forced labor might be responsible for the cheap jeans you are wearing.

10-15m – Watch this VOX video from Ranjani Chakraborty on the impact of bias on the medical treatment of Black and economically disenfranchised patients. While you’re at it, look up ‘Mississippi Appendectomy’ and follow that rabbit hole down a ways.

5-10m – If you only have 10 minutes, click on the PNAS article from above and scroll down to the section marked Beliefs about biological differences between Blacks and Whites measure. Answer the questions yourself and reflect over your answers—and theirs.

0-5m – Find one educator to share a resource with in a non-confrontational way. Share what you’re learning, a content resource or even a book or podcast, if you think it can be received and not perceived as arrogant or pushy.

I am a Gen exer. I played video games and learned to use a computer in school, albeit a fairly large one. My childhood pics are faded but they are in color, not sepia or black and white. I learned about Woodstock just like Gen Y and Millennials, from history books and the internet. And yet, I was born in a Negro hospital. I went to the Black pediatrician who treated most of Houston’s children on my side of town. I lived in a Black neighborhood and went to a Black church. As a matter of fact, years later, after I had my own child, I buried my momma in a Black church using a Black funeral home who took her to a Black cemetery. That was in 2005.

When we talk about discrimination and challenging our biases, we have to realize, knowing better today does not negate what has been imbedded in us for generations. Most people over 30 were born to parents who lived in mostly segregated areas and led mostly segregated lives. In many places that hasn’t changed much. Redlining and redistricting have kept wealthy areas wealthy and often made poorer areas poorer. In this country, wealthy is still equated with White communities and poor with non-White communities. Further, the mindset for generations has been White=good, not White=bad. That was the perception at our country’s inception and we have yet to shake it.

Generations of viewing the world through that lens makes it hard to divorce ourselves from what we learned growing up. This does not mean we divorce ourselves from people who are close to us who still have no desire to shake off “the old ways”. But this means, that as we learn about implicit bias, diverse stories and the need for greater representation in all segments of society, we cannot forget where we come from. The only way to unlearn wrong thinking patterns is to acknowledge their existence.

If you were lucky enough to be born in an integrated hospital, grow up in a diverse neighborhood, worship in a diverse house of faith and be surrounded by family and friends who have always espoused trust and inclusivity of others, you are rare. For the rest of us, let’s acknowledge that the foundational systems, power structures and most of all, thought patterns, have been with us for a long time and that their influence is far reaching.

Yes, “the old ways” are closer than we like to think. But as soon as we give into the horribleness of things we’ve been taught as right, we can begin to shake them off in hopes of a better and more inclusive new way.

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Get Here

SmallBites Friday Five 4-23-21

Once again, I have 5 important prompts for reflection. This week, think of them in terms of your students and staff:

Why do you think police violence in the US is so much higher than in other democratic countries?

Why do disciplinary practices in schools tend toward punitive measures over restorative ones?

What is one way you can bring restorative practices into your daily routine?

Name 3 ways that you can make room on your campus for respectful discourse on divisive topics?

How can you change from leading discussions to mediating discussions?

The weekend before the trial verdict, the video footage of the police shooting of 13 year old Adam Toledo was released. And before the verdict could be read, Ma’Khia Bryant was killed in Ohio. Some people see police doing their jobs. Some see criminals being killed unjustly, instead of stopped in some less lethal way. Hopefully, everyone sees tragedy.

Unfortunately, these are the times in which we pull out our own violent instruments. If, indeed, the tongue is mightier than the sword, than we kill each other a million times over by attacking each other instead of the problem. Racist. Woke lord. Misogynist. Homophobe. We judge and rail against behaviors and even people themselves; those making, in our estimation, questionable choices. It’s not that there are not behaviors deserving of these labels. The question is, will calling a spade a spade help someone gain a different perspective?

There are many more and less logical viewpoints to every argument. Who gets to decide what is more logical? Unfortunately, most of us always think we are in the right. And mostly, we all equally hate to be told we’re wrong. So then what? Now what?

We have seen humanity prevail. Sadly, through a trial that retraumatized many. What if Derek Chauvin had instead apologized, pled guilty and offered himself up as someone who made a horrible mistake that he wanted to make amends for? What if the officers who beat Rodney King had set that precedent in the 90s? What if someone had reminded them that they hurt someone and had to find a way to make amends. What if we all believed in an eye for an eye, not as revenge, but for restoration?

As educators, it’s imperative that we teach our students to listen with empathy, apologize when wrong and make amends when we can. Pointing out how a behavior impacts another should be a regular part of what we do. Explaining how a wrong can be righted and how that benefits us all should be a daily occurance in our classrooms.

Yes, there are racists, homophobes, misogynists, woke lords and generally mean-spirited people. But calling them those things will rarely bring about a change of heart or a desire to right wrongs. When we stand in our classrooms and on our campuses ready to hear opposing viewpoints with respect–even for those viewpoints we find unworthy of respect–we are teaching respect, civility and empathy. And when we resist the urge to call out our students and colleagues in favor of pointing out wrongs that can be righted, we miss an opportunity to inch a little closer to a more equitable society.

This week, start making plans, in your corner of the educational world, to promote unity. Not the Kum By Ya pretend we all get along kind, but the kind that allows for respectful discourse even in a room full of vehemently divergent viewpoints. Explicitly teach your students and staff to opt for respect over righteous indignation. Teach them to consider how others feel and build a foundation based on civility and humanity, if not commonality. As long as empathy is the centerpiece, we’ll get there.

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Crying Over You

SmallBites Friday Five 4-16-21

This week instead of resources, here are 5 prompts to reflect on. Be brutally honest, this is for you alone. Make sure you are not answering as your perfect personae, but as the self you keep hidden, perhaps even from yourself:

Think of someone you love who has struggled to “get it all together”. Think about whether this person should be jailed, beaten or killed for a mistake that does not include murder.

Think about your experiences and opportunities. Do you believe that others have exactly the same opportunities? Do you believe that all people get exactly the same chance at success?

How many generations have your forefathers had the opportunity to vote and go to college?

What is the stupidest thing you have ever done that adversely affected others?

When reflecting over the above questions, what is your big takeaway?

This week, I am thinking of George Floyd, Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario, Daunte Wright and my son, 17 year old Christopher von Reichert. Four Black men, 2 killed and one injured at the hands of police. One, my son, is still riding with mom, thank Covid.

I remember the first time he and his cousins were riding in their Nana’s old Ford SUV. I was excited, I was afraid. Three young Black “men” in a car together. In a random traffic stop, no one would look into the back of the vehicle and see the violin, cello and bass the boys played in orchestra. If they were ordered from the car and shoved faced down to the ground, no one would know the youngest was still in middle school or that the oldest still prized his Lego collection. No one would know they still liked to remember the bedtime stories aunt Hedreich made up with them all as superheroes. In a traffic stop they might be stripped of all humanity. There could be threats or violence, my precious boys deemed guilty before charged. Possibly not? Yes, it could be that the boys will never have such an encounter. But I don’t know a Black man who has not had some similar experience; and I have had one or two of my own.

When these things happen, please, don’t assume we make it about race. I don’t know many white moms who have had “the talk” with their sons. Assume, just for a moment, that it really is about the bias and fear people feel when they see a Black person, particularly a Big Black Man. Think about those words and ask yourself if they make you uncomfortable.

That fear is why George Floyd is dead.

The absence of that fear is why almost no one was killed by the police in the January Capitol breach.

If you don’t know that fear, reflect on the questions above and watch the PBS special, The Talk. Watch it with your students, your family, share it with those who may not understand why Lt. Navario drove to a well lit area or why Daunte Wright ran. Did you know, Black people are pulled over 20% more than Whites according to this 2019 study on traffic stops? And if you think it’s not about race, here’s some context. Before you condemn their actions, especially if you have students who look like them, try to imagine what it must be like to live with that kind of fear.

And instead of being so sure that things would have ended differently if only they would have/have not________, consider that maybe, like in so many other cases, things might not have turned out differently at all.

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Willow Weep for Me

Small Bites Friday Five 4-9-21 

20-30m – Read this Learning for Justice article with content supports for student conversations. I especially am fond of the ‘silent dialogue’, which can be especially helpful if your class espouses diverse perspectives. Evaluate your own feelings and decide how you can support students who may be experiencing emotional fallout from the trial.

15-20m – Using the above article, plan lessons or choose and practice appropriate responses to questions that might come up in class. “We’re not discussing that” is NOT an appropriate response, so decide now how you will set any personal feelings aside in order to meet student needs, guiding them in respectful, if sometimes emotionally laden, discourse.

10-15m – Examine the statistics on Mapping Police Violence. Sometimes, it’s hard to see that something needs fixing unless we compare it to something that’s working. For example, according to a 2019 Statista report, US police officers kill citizens 3-4 times more often than in comparable democratic countries like Canada and Australia. Here are the numbers from other countries.

5-10m – Consider ordering a copy of my Cherry Lake trade book for middles,What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, to read contextual information on how there came to be a need for such a movement and how the Black community grieves at times like these.  

0-5m – Listen to SmallBites Lagniappe: Talking to Students about the Derek Chauvin Trial on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

At times like these; when yet another trial of yet another police officer is happening because of yet another violent death of yet another Black person: there is sadness.

Maybe you have a loved one on the force and you know the fear of getting that midnight call every loved one fears. I can see that, get my head wrapped around it. I share a similar fear; the fear of my 16 year-old son being pulled over because he looks like a Black man, 5′ 8, a ‘suspect’. I have a fear of him not coming home. Ever. I fear that same midnight call.

Can you also see my side, understand my fear? Can you fathom my part in this communal grief, this loss that reminds me that George Floyd could have been my son? If you can’t, your students are in danger. They are in danger of experiencing your silence or even worse, your silent scorn. If you teach anywhere, especially if you teach anywhere where the communities you serve experience violence rooted in bias and discrimination, you can’t be silent.

Whatever you believe at home, you have to believe that in acknowledging the collective grief that your students and coworkers may be feeling, you serve your campus better. If all lives really matter then that means the Black ones too. That’s what Black Lives Matter means, it means Black lives matter, too. It means don’t forget us, we are much too often harmed and killed while people look the other way.

Showing up with a ‘Teachers for Black Lives Matter” t-shirt is not the Goal Line. There is no race to be the most vocal activist on your campus. Your support can be loud and visible or quiet but unmistakable. Just don’t look the other way.

Say, “I’ve been watching the trial. I am so sad this happened to George Floyd and that his family has to go on without him.”

Say, “there are too many of these trials, I hope we can be better as a country.”

Say, “you matter to me, I hope you know that.”

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This is Me

This week, I am excited to announce the launch of the #SmallBites One Question series. This season asks educators about the privilege–and the dark side–of ‘assimilation’. Follow the link to listen to an open, honest conversation on the experiences of a Black Educator teaching in White spaces in my #SmallBites Lagniappe podcast with The Counter Narrative Podcast‘s Charles Williams.

Additionally, am taking off this weekend for the observance of Good Friday and Easter. Please listen to SmallBites Lagniappe: Lead With Love, a message to my Christian friends.

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