While many people identify as “not racist,” mere neutrality allows racist ideas, policies, and systems to perpetuate. To be “anti-racist,” according to Ibram X. Kendi (2019), one moves beyond neutrality and actively supports anti-racist policy through their actions. We may already be anti-racist in our personal and professional lives. What does it look like to bring anti-racism into our work as educators, as we strive to create a more inclusive Northeastern University community?
In the context of becoming an anti-racist educator, according to Kishimoto (2018), “when racism is understood only as individual prejudice, racism embedded in institutions is ignored. At the same time, focusing only on institutional racism allows individuals benefiting from racism to avoid any responsibility.” Thus, one challenge for the aspiring anti-racist educator is to simultaneously look inwards at their own experiences and beliefs, and to look outward with a critical lens on the context in which they teach.
In “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Paulo Freire introduces us to the idea of praxis as the way we engage in reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it–a process which involves assessment, critical reflection, and learning (1972). This combination of reflection and action is crucial for making intentional decisions about what your role is as an educator and how you engage and support your students in their learning.
As you consider your own actions in striving to become an anti-racist educator, these prompts can guide your critical reflections and pedagogical praxis:
- Looking Back: Critical self-reflection of your own social position as an educator includes understanding that identities are not static, that you possess both privileged and oppressed identities, and that your socialization and intersecting identities can have an impact on your teaching, research, and broader institutional context (Kishimoto, 2018). Therefore, it is an essential starting point to examine your own racialized socialization experiences (Harro, 2010; Tatum, 2003): How do you identify racially? How would you describe the racial demographics of your neighborhood, school, family, social groups? When do you remember being told there were different races? What were you told?
- Looking Around: After reflecting on how you developed a sense of race through socialization, consider the ways in which race and racism impact your current interactions (Obear, 2020). You can reflect to yourself or find a peer to engage in authentic dialogue. Here are some prompts to help you think about how race and racism shape you today:
a. Can you think of a time where you spoke up and effectively engaged someone whose comment or behavior was biased or misinformed? If so, how did you feel? If not, where did you get stuck?
b. What are some ways in which you see people benefiting from white privilege? What are some examples of how white people have intentionally used white privilege to help dismantle racism?
- Looking Ahead: Anti-racist pedagogy focuses on the process of learning, challenging assumptions, and fostering students’ critical analytical skills. In thinking about your own educational or disciplinary context, how can you develop students’ awareness of their social positions? How can you de-center authority, with the goal of not presenting an “objective” view of knowledge production, to make your approach consciously anti-oppressive? (Teel, 2014).
Eager to continue the work? Explore further CATLR tips on diversity, equity and inclusion. You can also reach out to us on our Contact Page to discuss anti-racist teaching strategies and more with a member of our team.
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.
Harro, B. (2000). The cycle of socialization. In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W. J., Castañeda, C. R., Hackman, H. W., Peters, M. L., & Zúñiga, X. (2010). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge. 16-21.
Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. New York: One World.
Kishimoto, K. (2018). Anti-racist pedagogy: From faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom. Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(4), 540-554. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2016.1248824
Obear, K. (2019). Dismantling racism and white supremacy in organizations. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 9(1), 8-21. https://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/18869
Tatum, B. D. (2003). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? And other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.
Teel, Karen. (2014). Getting out of the left lane: The possibility of white antiracist pedagogy. Teaching Theology and Religion, 17(1), 3-26.