A march against police brutality arrives at the Capitol after starting near the White House on July 7 in Washington. (Paul Holston/AP)
Twenty-three-year-old Leanna Diggs grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and attended James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., double-majoring in political science and law and policy, focusing her studies on systemic inequity. In May 2015, she joined Teach For America and was placed in Miami-Dade County Public Schools as a ninth-grade algebra teacher at Miami Edison Senior High School. With an interest in the law, she interned this summer with Judge Thomas Logue of the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida, and she hopes to begin law school in a year, after fulfilling her two-year requirement with Teach For America.
Diggs says that Logue encouraged her to write the following post about her belief that educators cannot pretend society is colorblind but, rather, should find valuable ways to address the racial tensions and fear among students that are heightened by mass media coverage. In this post she makes a call for teachers to discuss #BlackLivesMatter in class as part of a long-overdue and difficult conversation about social, political, and economic inequality based on race.
By Leanna Diggs
As I scroll through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well as conventional new media outlets, I am forced to reconsider my role as an educator.
L. Diggs (Used with permission)
In July, a new hashtag surfaced, #AltonSterling, followed by a video of a police officer shooting a black man. A day later, another hashtag, #PhilandoCastile, appeared on my news feed also accompanied by a video. And most recently, in the streets of North Miami, Charles Kinsey with his hands raised in the air was shot by police while attempting to help a patient with autism. Three more black men shot for no apparent reason except the color of their skin. The same color as my skin and as the skin of my students.
As part of Teach For America corps, I teach ninth-grade Algebra at Miami Edison Senior High School. The students at Edison are 99 percent minority. Eighty-seven percent of those students receive free or reduced meals. Historically low performing, surrounded by gangs and violence, Miami Edison Senior is a product of hyper-segregation. Miami Edison Senior is an example of how urban ghettos continue to systemically limit spatial mobility of blacks, which obstructs social mobility.
As a millennial, I understand my student’s connection to their phones and social media. As a person of color, I understand the feelings of despair and fear as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed this summer. As a teacher, I have a duty.