T he MTA created a Task Force on Race in 2015 to address issues of racial inequality and racism for our members. Drawing upon
the dialogue generated at a number of workshops
we’ve held around the state, we have identified
a series of interrelated policies and practices that
construct racism on institutional-systemic-structural
levels (we use these three words interchangeably).
The policies and practices include:
n Disciplinary policies that target youth of color
and help create the school-to-prison pipeline.
n Staffing issues involving a lack of educators of
color and the undue burden they face in representing
the minority presence.
n Curriculum and high-stakes testing that
impose elitist content and a culture of fear and
competition that undermines the capacity for learner-
n Cultural bias evidenced in issues such as
Islamophobia and misrepresentation of Native
Americans, as is the case with school mascots.
n Underfunding and social disparities that
hold schools responsible for fixing an “achievement
gap” caused by enduring race/class inequities.
What would you add? What should the MTA
put on the agenda for dismantling racism in public
The work of the task force has included the
following: a Mapping Racism in Public Education
workshop in 2016, an Islamophobia workshop
at the 2016 Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee
Conference, workshops on Native Americans
at the 2017 EMAC Conference and the 2018
MTA Summer Conference, a racism and testing
workshop in March 2017 addressing the structural
racism inherent in high-stakes testing, a forum on
combating Islamophobia in June 2017, and a cultural
competency workshop at the 2018 MTA Summer
I n an effort to engage more members in our work, the task force held its first networking meeting in May 2018. Those invited were drawn from a list
of more than 100 MTA members who had participated
in our workshops and related outreach activities.
The network is open to all MTA members and
holds meetings once a month on Sunday mornings
in the MTA’s Auburn office. It has begun to build
a statewide cohort of MTA members who are
interested in dismantling racism.
In January, the task force heard from a guest
presenter, Jarib Rahman of the Muslim Justice
League. We learned from him about a program
created at a public college that encourages
educators to monitor students and report suspicions
of radical Muslim activity to the Department of
Homeland Security. Educators are told to look
for “signs of radicalism” among students, such
as trying to grow a beard, expressing negative
opinions about the U.S., or traveling to one’s
family’s home country. Another such program
targets Somali immigrants.
Task force members expressed great concern
about these programs and their ideology, as well
as the intent to persuade educators to spy on their
students. Educators need to win the confidence of
their students to enhance the learning relationship —
not turn students into their adversaries.
Since these initiatives are not well known, the
task force is now working to educate our members
about them internally rather than give questionable
organizations free publicity.
Most immediately, the task force is taking a
stand against the use of Native American mascots in
the Commonwealth’s schools, calling for redesigning
the seal of the Commonwealth to remove negative
depictions of indigenous peoples, and stating its
belief that Columbus Day should be changed to
Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We are talking to our
fellow MTA members about these issues.
Joel Saxe and Shauna Manning are co-chairs
of the Task Force on Race. If you are interested in
learning more about the task force, contact MTA staff
member Becky Austin at email@example.com.
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