Why Cowboy State Kids and Teachers Still Need Anti-Bias Learning Opportunities
Author: Tyler Gonzales
It is often argued that “There isn’t any diversity in Wyoming.” for several reasons. Aside from the fact that each family has its own unique culture, our state is full of diverse communities. Even still, Wyoming can be a difficult place to feel the need for anti-bias education…or can it?
Just last month, I went on a trip to Alabama with my husband and two young boys, who are 3 and 5. My boys have been around people of different backgrounds, their paternal grandfather grew up in Central America, and we often talk about embracing differences. When we landed at the DFW airport, I noticed them noticing. I felt that tension in my chest and the anxiety rising in my brain. I wanted to tell them, “Don’t stare!” and “Be polite,” but I knew that would only make them feel like the differences in people and culture they were noticing were “bad.”
How did I know this? I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in several Anti-Bias and Equity learning opportunities because of the PLC. As a group and as individuals, we have challenged ourselves to think about and reflect upon the hard things. What biases do we hold? How are we expressing those biases through our words and actions? What can we do to change the way we think and talk about differences? I was never so thankful that I had done this hard work then on our trip.
In the Dallas airport, my three-year-old proclaimed, “Her hair looks like ropes!” referencing a Chick-Fil-A employee's style of braids. I smiled at her and said to my son, “Those are braids! They use three pieces of hair and wrap them together. Aren’t they beautiful?” She and another smiled at us. You see, it’s essential to talk about the things children notice. It lets them know that our world is beautiful because of our differences.
Once in Alabama, my five-year-old was waiting his turn for pictures (he was a ring bearer in a family member’s wedding). One of the groomsman’s sons was playing with my boys. He reached his hands out, and my son paused. He looked carefully at the older boy's hands and then at his. He asked, “Why are your hands greasy?” referencing the darker wrinkles in the boy's hands. This teenage boy was black, and his answer was better than one I could have come up with myself. He said, “I got my skin from my dad. You see how his skin is dark? That’s why my skin is dark.” We then had a conversation about skin tone together.
These are only a few moments I was so grateful to have opened my mind and heart to learning about my beliefs and becoming more aware of how my actions impact others. These opportunities can happen even here in Wyoming or when Wyoming kids and families travel. NAEYC’s new DAP statement explains the importance of this work:
“Educators can advance equity by raising awareness of deficit-oriented beliefs and inequitable practices… It starts with each teacher looking inward, but real change happens when everyone takes part.”