You would need your head in the sand to not be aware of the structural racism and racial tensions that have come to a head in our country in recent months. Jenna Chandler-Ward has been doing something about it for years by addressing racial illiteracy in education. Jenna is co-founder of Teaching While White, an organization that teaches educators across the country how to make the whiteness inherent in educational institutions more explicit.
“When we talk about race in education, the culture of whiteness is the baseline from which everything is judged,” said Jenna in a Marlboro College panel discussion on racial bias last February titled “What Is ‘Woke,’ and Are You It?” “We have this school-to-prison pipeline, and we don’t talk about how our system is failing—we talk about how those kids are failing. We talk about achievement gaps, not about expectation and opportunity gaps.”
Jenna did her Plan on theater that evokes social change and worked with homeless people, and as an actor, directly after. Since then she has been an educator in non-profits, schools, and colleges, working with students from kindergarten to college level. Jenna is also a founder and co-director of the Multicultural Teaching Institute, which produces workshops and a conference for educators on issues of equity and inclusion. “My objective is to bring more white people to the conversation, do some self-education, and stop relying on folks of color to be the ones who have to tell us what we’re doing and not doing,” she said.