Minnesota Teacher of the Year says ‘school culture is embedded in white supremacy’

Prior to the pandemic, “many white educators” were “looking the other way and harming their kids of color,” Hassan claimed.

Qorsho Hassan, Minnesota's 2020 Teacher of the Year, appears on the Nomadic Hustle podcast. (Nomadic Hustle/YouTube)

Minnesota’s 2020 Teacher of the Year claimed in a recent interview that school culture is “embedded in white supremacy” and accused white teachers of “harming their kids of color.”

Qorsho Hassan, who was a fourth-grade teacher at Echo Park Elementary when she won the annual award, told the Nomadic Hustle podcast that students of color are “conditioned through the school system to be criminalized, to receive punitive measurements.”

“There’s never this connection of, well, why are students of color struggling? Why are they having a hard time integrating or acclimating to school culture? And the reality is that the school culture is embedded in white supremacy. And the system is really teachers, white teachers, they’re the ones that are in the majority of the classrooms, upholding white supremacy and, you know, making sure that, you know, they are the gatekeepers, whether they realize it or not,” Hassan continued.

She said a year of virtual learning has “illuminated for a lot of white educators” the “inequities” that exist in the classroom. Prior to the pandemic, “many white educators” were “looking the other way and harming their kids of color,” Hassan claimed.

Throughout the interview, Hassan repeatedly used the term “whitelash” to describe criticism of her teaching style, such as her decision to teach a controversial children’s book that says police officers demonstrate a “pattern” of “being nice to white people and mean to black people.”

The book was promoted by both the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education as a resource for children to have conversations about race.

The book, called “Something Happened In Our Town,” prompted one of the state’s largest police unions to send a letter to Gov. Tim Walz. The letter claimed that the Walz administration was “counseling teachers and parents to use materials which instill fear of police officers in young children.”

“It’s not about calling law enforcement this or that, even though I have my own personal opinions, like I made sure that I was objective in teaching that, you know, my students have this power to break the pattern by being inclusive and by being anti-racist,” Hassan responded.

“It was just a really powerful moment. I was making anti-racist practices accessible to them in kid terms, and that’s what they need,” she added.

She said the book bothered law enforcement because “they have this narrative where police are protecting and serving, but they’re failing to mention that they’re protecting and serving white communities and predominantly harming and criminalizing black communities.”

“When you have a teacher that is aware of that and trying to make sure that her students are aware of that, that becomes a threat to a union of police officers,” she said.

Hassan was named Teacher of the Year at an August ceremony on the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol.

“I challenge systems of oppression such as poverty and racism by demanding more resources for my students and their families,” Hassan said after winning the title.

She said she was nominated by the principal at her school because she is a “changemaker” and was “very forward with the inequities” she observed.

“Instead of being defensive, like a typical white male might be in that position, he took it in stride,” she said.