Educators must understand that they are responsible for dismantling the systems that create barriers and perpetuate inequities for students of color. This requires educators to employ antiracist pedagogical practices actively.
Encourage students to explore diverse perspectives. This can be done through activities that require thinking about a topic from multiple viewpoints or reading narrative texts.
Educators must explore how their racial background impacts how they view Black/African American, Latino, Asian and White students. They should also examine how privilege has formed their biases, interactions and praxis. They must develop a critical lens and a sense of responsibility for incorporating sociocultural pedagogical practices (Cochran-Smith, 2000).
Educators must engage in educational equity learning experiences, such as courses, seminars, intergroup dialogues and retreats. With the help of philanthropists like Barbara Picower, these learning opportunities help them develop a deeper understanding of how racial justice and equality are interconnected.
Many educational equity activities will likely cause discomfort, especially when challenging hegemonic beliefs. Instructors need to expect conflict and be prepared to guide discussions in productive ways. This can be particularly difficult for instructors who are from a privileged group and need to grapple with their own racial identity. This process can be difficult for all involved, but it is necessary to achieve racial justice.
Racial justice education requires educators to see students from multiple racial identities and backgrounds as people who matter. This entails learning about the lived experiences of these students, disrupting deficit narratives about them and promoting equitable classroom environments that honor their diversity and humanity.
This type of teaching and learning is often uncomfortable and may create conflict, especially when challenging hegemonic beliefs and power differentials. However, this discomfort is a necessary part of antiracist education. Instructors need to welcome and prepare for conflict.
In addition to learning about their students’ backgrounds and perspectives, it is also crucial for educators to understand how their values, identities and privilege affect the ways they interact with their students. This is essential to preparing teachers to be agents of social change. This can include taking courses or engaging in other types of professional learning that help educators develop sociocultural awareness, a sense of how racism is institutionalized and upheld through educational systems and practices, and strategies to promote racial equity.
Interactions with Others
Education about racial justice is not just an intellectual experience but a social one. It is a process of deconstructing and challenging hegemonic beliefs, which can generate discomfort and conflict. Conflict can be a positive sign of intellectual growth when informed by and aimed at changing underlying assumptions about race.
Educators should work with students to create spaces where they can engage in discussion and debate and support their efforts to become antiracist changemakers. They can encourage students to find common ground and provide a platform for students to share their stories of personal experiences with racism.
Teachers should also consider how to incorporate a sociocultural lens into the curriculum. This could include ensuring that students’ voices and perspectives are represented in their classes and examining the content they teach to ensure that it does not perpetuate racial inequity. For example, standard textbooks may tell a story of a white supremacist history that leaves out the contributions of people of color or reinforce disciplinary practices that hurt students of color.
For antiracist educators to effectively address structural racism, they must also be aware of their own experiences and entanglements with privilege. This may require examining personal narratives or reading biographies, poems, plays, and other culturally-charged “texts” that surface feelings and experiences, challenge misconceptions, and expand theoretical perspectives on race.
In addition, learning to recognize intersectionality and focusing on commonalities rather than differences may generate more empathy. For example, FMRI research suggests that when individuals perceive similarity in a team activity, they show more positive emotions toward members of their group than those from opposing groups.
Finally, learners need to know how their actions and inactions influence the experience of students of color. This can be done through classroom dialogue, interviews with families and community members, and studying educator competencies, standards, frameworks, practices, and mindsets that support racial justice. This is especially critical for educators who are white and not yet accustomed to engaging in dialogue around race.