by Tim Nation
As the community looks for ways to establish a new normal in these times of civic unrest and COVID-19, there is an opportunity to build a path to peace.
Peace is the ability to stay calm and focused amid conflict; to work for collaboration between people, creating win-win situations instead of competition that creates losers; and to build community where everyone feels safe, valued, and loved.
Peacemaking takes work and does not magically appear. It involves working for peace through peaceful means. This includes forming stable, legitimate governments with equitable practices for all; maintaining a free and transparent flow of information; fostering a culture of acceptance and appreciation of others; developing social and emotional skills; and practicing social justice.
To help people build peace in the community, Peace Learning Center (PLC) programs rely on three main educational components: equity, social-emotional learning, and restorative practices. PLC programs reach many Midtown institutions, including schools such as IPS 43, 48, 60, and Shortridge High School, as well as community service organizations like Freewheelin’ Bikes, Martin Luther King Center, faith-based institutions, and many others.
Equity education addresses implicit bias, racism, and equity literacy. Racism is the worst problem facing our culture. By confronting our own biases, we learn how they are a root cause of current tragedies and why we need fundamental change in our economic, educational, judicial, and political systems.
Achievement gaps between students are gaps in opportunity. Problems that persist in low-income communities are the result of inequitable distribution of resources, not individual deficits. When people of color are two to six times more likely to be imprisoned or denied health care, and their children to be removed by child protective services or suspended or expelled from school, it is unsurprising that many students of color do not connect with the curriculum as presented. By recognizing that achievement scores are directly linked to family income and privilege, we see how our systems fail people of color and need to be changed.
A good place to begin this change is with implicit bias training, which helps uncover hidden thoughts that lead to actions we may regret or not even realize we are taking. As part of the implicit bias training Peace Learning Center offers, participants complete Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test. Anyone can go online and take the test anonymously to find out their own biases in a wide range of topics including race, age, disability, gender, and religion.
Restorative practices offer an equitable way to change our systems of discipline—especially in K–12 schools. Restorative practices are based on the concept that when someone misbehaves, they damage existing relationships, and these relationships need to be restored. If a student gets in a fight, instead of receiving a three-day vacation called a suspension, they need to be part of a formal conference that brings together a restorative practices leader, school staff, parents or guardians, and any other youths involved. The person doing the harm needs to hear from others how relationships were damaged and how the harm can be addressed. An action plan is created that holds the person accountable and lets them stay engaged in school.
Social-emotional learning is the third component that builds peace. This includes self-awareness, self-regulation, and the ability to maintain positive relationships. PLC teaches conflict resolution and problem-solving skills to learn ways of dealing with emotions and working for peace in daily life. When faced with conflict, ask yourself, “What happened? Why does it matter? How do I feel? What do I need to solve the problem?”
Building a path toward peace is an individual journey and each of us must find our way. The present moment calls us all to consider where we are on this journey, and move forward.
Butler-Tarkington resident Tim Nation is executive director of the Peace Learning Center.
What is implicit bias?
Implicit bias differs from explicit, or overt, bias. We all hold unconscious attitudes that we are not necessarily aware of. We may harbor negative stereotypes about others without consciously realizing that we do so.
Once we define the condition, what’s required to go deeper?
Kindness and empathy are the keys to success when communities work together to create the change that is so needed in our world today. Examining our hidden biases helps us understand when change is uncomfortable and look at it with curiosity. We need to learn to slow down, consider other points of view, ask ourselves if we are stereotyping, and be mindful of our emotions and how they affect the ways we act.
How can we move past bias through action?
Peace Learning Center offers implicit bias workshops that help people look inside themselves to figure out their own implicit biases. This is especially important if you are a gatekeeper—someone whose decisions affect others, such as supervisors, teachers, youth workers, human resource professionals, and others. If you are unconsciously biased against those you serve, it is important to uncover those biases so you can change.
What’s the structure for the process?
Peace Learning Center encourages groups to create a safe space that encourages self-exploration and self-reflection, and to adopt ground rules for meetings and trainings. These four agreements are helpful:
- attentive listening
- appreciation/no put-downs
- mutual respect, and
- the right to pass
What are the goals of implicit bias trainings?
- Identifying and owning one’s own implicit bias(es) and overt bias(es)
- Making the connection between these biases and one’s role as a gatekeeper (i.e., a person with power) and how this can inform/influence actions and interactions
During an implicit bias workshop, attendees learn strategies that they can incorporate in their lives to help lessen their own implicit biases and get space to brainstorm goals that could help mitigate those biases. Our hope is to lift people up by creating change in their lives.
Let’s Talk! Teaching Race in the Classroom from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
Talking About Race: Whiteness from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture