A white teacher proclaimed that she is “dismantling white supremacy in society” by not teaching Spanish to her students. The anti-racist teacher proclaimed that she is holding herself accountable for her skin color by grappling with her own “internalized white supremacy.”
Jessica Bridges is a Ph.D. candidate at the College of Education and Human Sciences at Oklahoma State University. She made “anti-racism and white women’s complicity” her dissertation topic.
Bridges spoke at Southern Connecticut State University’s Virtual Women’s and Gender Studies Conference, a two-day event in late April that focused on “Gender, Race, Community & Conflict: Pursuing Peace and Justice.” The conference included presentations such as “Diverging Feminisms: Engaging Transnational/Translational Activism,” “Sex, Work, & Care as Resistance in the Age of Capitalism,” “Undoing the White Settler-Colonial Gaze: Asserting Gendered, Racialized, and Radicalized Body Autonomy,” “Understanding Your Vicarious Trauma during COVID-19 and Beyond,” and “Igniting Social Justice, Community Engagement, and Diversity within the Neoliberal Academy.”
Bridges spoke during the “White Accountability & Anti-Racist Education” presentation.
The meeting started off with a “land acknowledgment,” which is a “formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories,” according to Northwestern University.
“Dismantling white supremacy in society looks like dismantling in my heart, first,” Bridges said, as reported by the Post Millennial. “It means I’m not going to teach Spanish. Accountability is ongoing because there is not end to the process.”
It should be noted that the Spanish language came from Europe. It was a mix of Latin language and local languages of the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, including Celts and Iberians, according to Lingvist.
“Learning Spanish from a white woman? I wish I could go back and tell my students not to learn power or correctness from this white woman,” she said of herself. “I would tell them to stand in their own power. White isn’t right.”
Bridges continued, “Racism originates with, and is perpetuated by white people.”
“We’re deconstructing our emotions around acknowledging our whiteness and white privilege through the lens of grief and the process of grief,” Bridges declared. “I have been complicit as a part of the educational system and as a white woman benefitting from white privilege.”
“We talked about mourning our white morality. I’m holding myself accountable to this journey,” Bridges added. “Part of my accountability is to continue to struggle and grapple with my internalized white supremacy.”
Bridges said that as a K-12 teacher, she has been “embedded in a system that some scholars have identified as reproducing social injustice. Consciously, or unconsciously.”
Bridges pledged to be a “white ally” and “anti-racist coconspirator.”
Also during the critical race theory-themed session, a Southern Connecticut State University professor said schools need to “attract anti-racist teachers,” who “teach through an equity, anti-racist lens.” She also claims that test scores shouldn’t be the barometer of “good schools,” but instead quality learning institutions are measured by the “perspective of teachers being engaged in communities.”