Camp Pros must keep fighting for justice and equality — Anti-Racism at Summer Camp.
This brings us to the end of this series of articles. Not to the end of the work because the work will probably never be done. As humans, we will probably never make it to a place where one group of people does not discriminate and oppress another. But that does not mean we can give up.
We must keep fighting for justice and equality.
How do we respond when racism does occur? Because despite our best efforts, it will. Whether it is a microaggression from another camper, bias in the treatment of a staff member, or the lack of funds to get free food for everyone who needs it, we will continue to make mistakes.
Believe people when racism is reported
Treat reports of racism similar to child abuse or sexual harassment. We spend time in training every year talking about being mandatory reporters of child abuse. We train staff to believe children the first time they disclose abuse, not to make them tell their story over and over, and how important it is to keep that confidential to people who need to know.
What if we were mandatory reporters of racism?
We train our supervisory staff how to respond and not to retaliate when someone reports sexual harassment. Racial harassment should be no different. Legally in the US, it is the same, but it isn’t treated as such.
None of these things are easy to talk about, make decisions about, or do. But we have to because it’s the law. Let’s make sure racism is treated the same way.
Don’t Get Tired and Complacent
It could be so easy to say, “Yeah, racism is a problem, but it isn’t my problem.” If you are a human being in the world today, it is your problem. It may hit some harder than others, but being able to ignore or forget about this fight is the EPITOME of white privilege.
In a recent Facebook post for Be A King, Bernice King says:
Because I can’t afford to lose interest. No one can afford to, really. Racism is destroying humanity. As my father said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Racism is systemic, physical, legislative, economic, psychological, and environmental violence.
I’ve asked you to think about and do quite a bit through this series.
But this is my biggest request:
Don’t stop. Keep working, keep making changes.
I’ve even made you a handy little checklist to make sure you stay task-oriented and don’t get caught up in the intellectual and theoretical space.
If we’ve learned something from COVID this year, it’s that no one ever gets to say “but that’s how we’ve always done it” ever again.
We’ve shown that anything can pivot when it needs to. And now it needs to.
Thank you for working through this journey with me this far. I can’t say that we are done, because we will never be done fighting injustice. But we’ve taken a good first step.
I hope you’ve taken something away that can make you or your camp more anti-racist.
I want to thank Travis Allison for giving me this platform, and Alyssa Porter for her amazing editing. If you’d like to talk more, please reach out. I’d love to hear more about what you are doing that I haven’t thought of yet! You can find me on the Summer Camp Pro Facebook page, CampMavericks, on LinkedIn, or on Instagram @lei122.
I am a mixed-race Kanaka maoli (Hawai’i) and white summer camp director. I use she/her pronouns. I live on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish people, past and present. I speak for myself and from my own lived experience. I still have work to do.
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- Curriculum and training organizations
- Center for Racial Justice in Education
- Carle Institute
- National Equity Project
- Teaching Tolerance
- SEED Project
- Intro to Race Discussions/White Fragility
- So You Want to Talk About Race — Ijeoma Oluo
- Stamped from the Beginning — Ibram X. Kendi
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? — Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed — Paulo Friere
- White Fragility — Robin DiAngelo
- How to be an Anti-Racist — Ibram X. Kendi
- Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome — Joy DeGruy
- Black Faces, White Spaces — Carolyn Finney
- *Amazon affiliate links support the Equal Justice initiative
- Don’t Talk about Implicit Bias Without Talking about Structural Racism