The Southern Poverty Law Center wants to have a talk with first graders, about microaggressions, stereotypes and systemic racism.

“What is this doing in my inbox?” Tyler O’Neil, editor for PJ Media, posted to Twitter Friday. “The Southern Poverty Law Center wants your first graders to learn about microaggressions. Yes, they’re already struggling to be nice to each other, but the SPLC wants them to tackle structural racism in first grade.”

O’Neil included a clip from his email inbox featuring a message from the SPLC about “Teaching first-graders about microaggressions.”

The news site reports the email linked to an essay from Oakland, California teacher Bret Turner titled “Teaching First-Graders About Microaggressions: The Small Moments Add Up.”

The missive is published by Teaching Tolerance, a nonprofit that focuses on providing “free resources” to educators on a mission of “social justice and anti-bias.” “The anti-bias approach encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives,” according to the site.

Turner explained that first-graders are “in the thick of learning to read and write” as well as “learning how to communicate with others,” making it the perfect time to introduce the concepts of racism, bias, and injustice.


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Kids tease each other, it’s part of their development, but “not all unkindness is the same,” according to Turner.

“It can be particularly detrimental when the hurtful language relates to race, gender, religion or other aspects of a child’s identity,” Turner wrote. “These are microaggressions: small, subtle, sometimes-unintended acts of discrimination.”

It’s a teacher’s job to hyper focus kids on their unintentional racism and other unconscious prejudices, but it’s not as simple as a classroom chat or one-on-one conversation. There’s groundwork, Turner advised.

“Before talking with students about microaggressions, it’s essential to establish an identity-safe classroom. Students need to feel safe and supported. In my class, when we do discuss microaggressions, I remind students of conversations we’ve already had about representation,” he wrote.

“I remind them that, when we’re reading together, we always ask, ‘Whose story is being told here?’ I also reference the discussions we’ve had around more overt racism: how being called a racist may hurt, but it doesn’t compare to actually experiencing racism.”

It’s all about equipping 6-year-olds with the “tools, vocabulary and context” to call out their classmates when they unintentionally use biased language or engage in politically incorrect behavior.


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