Are You Okay With Arming This Arab Muslim Teacher?

 

Arming teachers is one of the worst solutions that exists for the epidemic of school shootings in the United States. When Trump and lawmakers made this suggestion, did they envision a Black teacher in front of the classroom? A Latino? An Arab? Arming teachers puts students of color and teachers of color in grave danger.

Arming teachers puts students of color and teachers of color in grave danger.

Picture this: A classroom filled with White and Asian students and an Arab Muslim woman wearing hijab is standing at the front of the class teaching them geography. A school shooter, a White male, barges into the school and ends up in her classroom. She draws her legally carried weapon as the police arrive on the scene. The police had not yet identified the shooter and the call to police was “terroristic threat.” Who do you think the police immediately assumes is the shooter?

Here’s another scenario: An altercation breaks out in a classroom between a Black Muslim student already labeled as a troublemaker and a White student labeled as a star student. The White male teacher at the front of the classroom mistakens the cellphone in the Black student’s hands as a gun and draws his legally carried weapon on the children. Studies have already shown that teachers see Black students as, “irresponsible, dishonest, and dangerous.” What will prevent this teacher from shooting the Black student?

It has been well documented that the people who would suffer most at the hands of armed teachers are students of color. Children of color have been gunned down by police, beaten by school officers, and ridiculed by their White teachers. The pervasive implicit bias of Black boys being perceived as threats does not disappear as they walk into their classrooms.

What about teachers of color? Although over 80% of public school teachers are White, teachers of color exist. I am a visibly Muslim woman who wears hijab. I am an Arab, and I teach in a public school. While my students have accepted the differences in our identities, in the eyes of law enforcement, I am already profiled as a threat and, worst case, a terrorist. The conflation of Arab and Muslim identities and ignorance surrounding these identities has resulted in systemic discrimination against Muslims and people perceived as Muslim. Can I trust that this bias against Muslims and Arabs wouldn’t dictate the decisions a police officer would make in a life or death situation? Absolutely not.

Can I trust that this bias against Muslims and Arabs wouldn’t dictate the decisions a police officer would make in a life or death situation? Absolutely not.

It is not just my identity being threatened with this proposal to arm teachers, but also the profession I fell in love with five years ago. As an educator, my job is to teach children how to critically think and analyze information, how to advocate for themselves, and to help prepare them for their future. I have accepted that my job also often times requires me to be their therapist, their mother, their life coach, and their support system, but I refuse to accept a position as a police officer or security guard.

Students— students of color included—deserve to feel safe in their classrooms. Something that society failed to do. Providing teachers with guns will make these students feel even more unsafe. At the moment, many students, including my own, feel empowered to question me if they think I said or did something wrong as their teacher. My students have learned to respectfully challenge authority and participate in a democratically run classroom. Would they continue to feel safe and empowered in a classroom where their teacher literally controls their life? Could they academically, socially, and mentally thrive in that type of environment?

Are you okay with arming this Arab Muslim teacher? If so, then you don’t care about lives like mine and so many other teachers of color who would be prompted to take arms. If not, why not? If you believe teachers like me shouldn’t be armed while others should, your bias is showing.