Occasional Paper Series #44

Discussing Race, Policing, and Privilege in a High School Classroom

by Arianna Banack

Racial profiling, police brutality, and white privilege: these were three topics I knew I needed to talk about with my students, but I wasn’t confident about how to approach them, especially with my position as a middle-class, white female. It was my fifth year of teaching ninth-grade English, and I wondered: would my students have an opportunity to discuss these important topics in other classes? If they had discussed racism and privilege before, those conversations need to be ongoing, so why weren’t my classes adding to the conversation?

The high school in which I taught was a large school in the Northeast and had a predominantly Black and Hispanic population (approximately 80 percent). The school participated in the Community Eligibility Program (Community Eligibility Program, 2019), which provides free meals to students who are enrolled at a school in low-income areas. From previous but scarce class discussions around racism, “othering,” and stereotyping, I knew these topics were timely and meaningful to my students (Drossopoulos & King-Watkins, 2018). I also knew that while books in my curriculum like A Raisin in the Sun (Hansberry, 1958) could facilitate discussions around race, I wanted to find literature that would center topics of race, privilege, and police brutality in a way that was more contemporary and relevant to the time period.

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About the Author

Arianna BanackArianna Banack is a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, in the literacy studies program with a specialization in children’s and young adult literature. She is currently serving as one of the assistant editors of The ALAN Review. Her research interests focus on the connections between adolescent reading engagement and YAL. Prior to enrolling at UTK, Arianna was a ninth-grade English teacher in Connecticut. Arianna has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, including English Journal and The ALAN Review.