Ray Carter | July 27, 2020
OKC public schools training equates racism to COVID-19
A mental-health training event conducted this week by Oklahoma City Public Schools declares that violence against racial minorities is a pandemic comparable to COVID-19.
The event—“Back to School 2020: Mental Health in the Dual Pandemics of COVID-19 & Systemic Racism”—is being conducted on July 27 and 28.
“COVID-19 and Violence against Black and Brown People continue to threaten lives, safety, health, jobs, family structure, and communities,” the “learning objectives” section of a handout on the event declares. “While the pandemics are experienced differently and with differential impact across race, everyone is indeed affected.”
The document states that the three-session event “will explore the intersection of systemic racism, mental health, developmental psychology, and student behaviors—all within the context of dual pandemics of a new infectious disease and centuries-old racialized violence.”
Among other things, participants will reflect “on the parallel experiences from the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism for students and yourselves as educators and administrators,” and also learn to “practice alternative ways of engaging that acknowledge the influence of systemic racism on behavior.”
A “prework” page encourages Oklahoma City educators to read several articles and watch an online video prior to taking the training.
Among the “prework” assignments is a statement by Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association, declaring, “If you’re black in America—and especially if you are a black male–it’s not safe to go birding in Central Park, to meet friends at a Philadelphia Starbucks, to pick up trash in front of your own home in Colorado, or to go shopping almost anywhere.
“We are living in a racism pandemic, which is taking a heavy psychological toll on our African American citizens,” Shullman continued. “The health consequences are dire. Racism is associated with a host of psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety, and other serious, sometimes debilitating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Moreover, the stress caused by racism can contribute to the development of cardiovascular and other physical diseases.”
Oklahoma City teachers were also encouraged to read a 1989 article by Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” that first appeared in “Peace and Freedom Magazine.”
That article declares that “obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all.”
“Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already,” McIntosh wrote.
Presenters at the event include Denique Boxhill, Sitar Mody Scott, and Taquelia Washington.
On the website for “Sankofa Holistic Counseling Services,” Boxhill declares, “I am a Jamaican immigrant, passionate about celebrating our whole selves, so working through the impacts of oppression on the many marginalized identities of communities of color is part of what I do.”
Scott’s bio, contained in the school district’s handout, states that she “works from a relational and anti-oppression foundation while co-creating courageous spaces for connection.” On a “get to know” page of the website of The Wright Institute, Washington stated that she was attracted to the institute by its “emphasis on social justice.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.