Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School

Overview


Which acts by educators are "racist" and which are "antiracist"? How can an educator constructively discuss complex issues of race with students and colleagues? In Everyday Antiracism, leading educators deal with the most challenging questions about race in school, offering invaluable and effective advice.

Contributors including Beverly Daniel Tatum, Sonia Nieto, and Pedro Noguera describe concrete ways to analyze classroom interactions that may or may not be "racial," deal ...

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Overview


Which acts by educators are "racist" and which are "antiracist"? How can an educator constructively discuss complex issues of race with students and colleagues? In Everyday Antiracism, leading educators deal with the most challenging questions about race in school, offering invaluable and effective advice.

Contributors including Beverly Daniel Tatum, Sonia Nieto, and Pedro Noguera describe concrete ways to analyze classroom interactions that may or may not be "racial," deal with racial inequality and "diversity," and teach to high standards across racial lines. Topics range from using racial incidents as teachable moments and responding to the "n-word" to valuing students' home worlds, dealing daily with achievement gaps, and helping parents fight ethnic and racial misconceptions about their children. Questions following each essay prompt readers to examine and discuss everyday issues of race and opportunity in their own classrooms and schools.

For educators and parents determined to move beyond frustrations about race, Everyday Antiracism is an essential tool.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Teachers and parents often want to act on the issue of racism, but don’t know how. This one-of-a-kind volume is the blueprint; no one should teach another day without reading it."
—Tim Wise, author of White Like Me
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595580542
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/26/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 389
  • Sales rank: 109,850
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Mica Pollock is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. An anthropologist of education, she previously taught tenth grade and worked in the civil rights field. She is the author of Colormute and Because of Race. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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Read an Excerpt


Introduction:

Defining Everyday Antiracism

Everyday things represent the most overlooked knowledge.
—Don DeLillo, 1997

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.
—George Orwell, 1946

For this book, I invited over sixty researchers, many of whom are former
teachers, to boil down their school-based research into knowledge usable for
K–12 classroom practice. I wanted each author to suggest a school-based action
educators could take, every day, to help counteract racial inequality and
racism in schools and society. We call these actions everyday antiracism.

This book is not designed to convince you that you intentionally harm children.
Instead, it is designed to get you thinking about how everyday actions
can harm children unintentionally. It is not designed to get you to ask, “Am I a
bad person?” Instead, it is designed to get you to ask, “Do my everyday acts
help promote a more equitable society?”

We collectively define “racism” as any act that, even unwittingly, tolerates,
accepts, or reinforces racially unequal opportunities for children to learn and
thrive; allows racial inequalities in opportunity as if they are normal and acceptable;
or treats people of color as less worthy or less complex than “white”
people. Many such acts taken in educational settings harm children of color,
or privilege and value some children or communities over others in racial
terms, without educators meaning to do this at all. That is why this book
zooms in on ordinary acts taken by educators on a daily basis, and focuses
proactively on suggestions for everyday antiracism. We not only show what
acts inside schools and classrooms perpetuate racial inequalities, but we suggest
alternative acts that can help to dismantle such inequalities instead.

Educational policies and “outside” realities of health care, housing, and
family employment have huge effects on the opportunities the children in our
schools need and receive. Stereotypes and inaccuracies about “race groups”
circulate in society at large. But inside schools, everyday acts matter, too. In
schools, people interact across racial lines, distribute opportunities moment
to moment, react to “outside” opportunity structures, and shape how future
generations think about difference and equality. Interactions in educational
settings help build or dismantle racial “achievement gaps.” To a student, one
action can change everything. Everyday acts explored in this book include
how we talk with our students and discipline them; the activities we set up for
them to do; the ways we frame and discuss communities in our curriculum;
and the ways we assign students to groups, grade their papers, interact with
their parents, and envision their futures. Few of the contributors to this book
see such actions as “small potatoes” efforts. Rather, we propose that such antiracist
work helps remake social structure one bit at a time.

I acknowledge that the word “antiracism” can have a negative cast, for it
implies that the educator is constantly fighting against and reacting to racial
inequality, rather than struggling more positively and proactively to equalize
opportunity and create an egalitarian society. It also can be heard as suggesting
that some people are “racist” and others are not. Yet this book
frames dismantling racial inequality and pursuing racial equality as two
sides of the same collaborative undertaking. It also sets forth to counteract
racial inequality and racism in society, not just inside “bad people.” The
word “everyday” is also crucial: it suggests that educators can, and must,
help counter racial inequality and racism in society at routine moments of
the schooling experience.

Pursuing racially equal opportunity and counteracting racism on a daily basis
in our classrooms and schools requires more than being a great teacher of
a subject; it requires particularly hard thinking about our choices in complex
situations. In a society where racism and racial inequality already exist, it is often
hard to figure out which of our everyday activities are harmful to students
or others and which are helpful to them. Blanket advice to “be colorblind” regarding
our students, to “celebrate” their or others’ diversity, or to “recognize”
their “race” and our own is not that helpful in real life. In daily life, sometimes
educators’ being colorblind is quite harmful to young people, since they live
in a world that often treats them racially; sometimes a particular celebration
of diversity can be reductive and stereotypic; sometimes seeing a person primarily
as a member of a “race” detracts from recognizing our common humanity.

Antiracist educators must constantly negotiate between two antiracist impulses
in deciding their everyday behaviors toward students: they must choose
between the antiracist impulse to treat all people as human beings rather than
racial group members, and the antiracist impulse to recognize people’s real experiences
as racial group members in order to assist them, understand their situation
better, and treat them equitably. I ask the reader to keep a basic
question in mind throughout the book. In your practice, when does treating
people as racial group members help them, and when does it harm them? This
core question ties this book together. Academics who write about racism and
antiracism in education often neglect to answer, or even consider, this basic
question. But in a world that has been organized for six centuries around bogus
biological categories invented in order to justify the unequal distribution of
life’s necessities, some antiracist activity refuses to categorize people racially.
Other antiracist activity recognizes people living as racial group members in order
to analyze and transform a racially unequal world.

In countless daily ways, teachers, administrators, and program directors
hoping to protect and assist young people must decide which acts counteract
racial inequality. This involves deciding whether and how to see, treat, or talk
about students, parents, colleagues, or others in racial terms. Some ways of
recognizing students as “black” buoy them up with confidence; others trap
them in reductive or stigmatizing notions of what being “black” means. Many
colleagues may not consider it relevant that they or their students are “white”;
yet ignoring their lived experience as “white” people can miss a major dimension
of their reality. Some ways of framing students as “Latino” make Latino
students feel welcome and safe; others make them feel excluded or likely to
fail. Some framings in curriculum of parents as “Asian” or a community as “Indian”
can be deeply inaccurate, yet ignoring people’s experiences as “Asians”
and “Indians” can prevent recognition of their struggles and joys. Specific ways
of highlighting or downplaying our own racial-ethnic experiences or identities
in conversations with students or colleagues can be dangerous or useful.

Really, everyday antiracism requires both addressing people’s experiences
in the world as racial group members and refusing to distort people’s experiences,
thoughts, or abilities by seeing them only or falsely through a racial
lens. This applies when educators interact with students in classrooms, design
and discuss curriculum, interact with students’ families, or even think about
ourselves and our colleagues. Educators must analyze, concretely, when,
where, and how it helps to treat people as racial group members, and when,
where, and how it harms. Above all, educators must keep analyzing which of
our everyday actions counteract racial inequality and which do not.

All of us, then, suggest specific, concrete ways educators can help equalize
students’ academic and social opportunities to learn and thrive in K–12 educational
settings, and more generally combat racism and racial inequality from
within schools and classrooms. We differ in the methods we suggest to move
in that direction. Some of the authors here measure “helping” as getting students
to achieve higher test scores; others measure “helping” as getting students
to believe in their own potential to become scientists. Some measure
“harming” as actions that cause students to doubt their abilities, to lower their
career aspirations, or even to despise themselves or others. Some authors
analyze the treatment of students of color in particular; many essays’ recommendations
can apply to schools and classrooms of any demographic composition.
Educators with a range of personal styles, in a variety of school
situations, will find different suggestions useful and compelling.

These essays focus on things to do in our schools and classrooms, rather
than just on ways to think differently about ourselves or others. Antiracist
practice requires the intermingling of actions and ideas. The contributors recognize
that being effective at countering racism and racial inequality requires
us to develop skills as well as commitment. Many educators say they enter the
field seeking to improve opportunities for all children but end up either frustrated
or failing at this task because they cannot figure out how to navigate
race issues while doing this. So, each essay in the book asks educators to rethink
their ordinary activities and to try doing something differently in everyday
life. I asked each author to boil her or his recommendation down to one
sentence that I have used in the introduction to each section, forcing us all to
pinpoint strategies and principles of everyday antiracism.

We assume that readers are committed to helping children to learn and
thrive. We do not assume that readers will accept or agree with our analyses
of how the everyday acts discussed here might help equalize opportunity for
children, or combat racism and racial inequality in society. I asked each author
to support each of his or her claims with research and personal experience. I
also asked each author to clarify claims about “race” and “racism.” Finally, and
perhaps most importantly, I asked each author to walk the educator through
the minefields or pitfalls educators might encounter if they take his or her advice.
Educators work in a world of ever-changing complexity; we expect that
readers will modify and rework these ideas for their own purposes and contexts.

In “Suggestions for Using This Book,” I suggest that as you read and discuss
these essays, you seek to name antiracist principles: core ideas about how
to pursue racially equal opportunity and counteract racism from within
schools and classrooms. To get us started, let me propose four foundational
principles. Everyday antiracism in education involves
Rejecting false notions of human difference;
Acknowledging lived experiences shaped along racial lines;
Learning from diverse forms of knowledge and experience; and
Challenging systems of racial inequality.

First, everyday antiracism in education involves rejecting false notions of
human difference and actively treating people as equally worthy, complicated,
and capable. In educational settings, antiracism entails actively affirming that
no racially defined group is more or less intelligent than any other. We can tell
students that racial categories have no valid genetic basis. Through our curriculum
and in our everyday interactions, we can challenge oversimplified notions
about racial-ethnic identities or group behaviors. We can remember that
any “race” group is composed of individuals who have complicated identities
and lives.

Second, everyday antiracism in education involves acknowledging and engaging
lived experiences that do vary along racial lines. Genetically bogus
racial categories like “white,” “black,” and “Asian” were built upon genetically
insignificant physical differences (hair, noses, and bone structures). Racialized
categories like “Latino,” “Native American,” and “Arab” lump together people
from countless regions and, in some cases, people who speak totally different
languages. Still, over six centuries of American history and even now, people
have been lumped into ranked “races” by others and forged solidarity along
racial-ethnic lines themselves as a means of social empowerment. The Irish
“became white” in the nineteenth century, and Jews “became white” in the
twentieth, to gain opportunity in a system that already favored “whites” of
European descent. Lumped together as a “race” to be enslaved by “whites,”
Africans and their descendants in America simultaneously forged deep solidarity
as “black” people. People from a variety of Asian origins made alliances
as “Asian Americans” starting in the 1960s. “Latinos” converged at that time
as well, voicing the plurality of their origins and the unity of their agendas.
Distinct tribes of Native Americans recognized common experiences of displacement
and forced assimilation. “Arabs” have shared many U.S.-based experiences,
particularly in recent years. All such “racial” groups in the United
States today bring different historic and contemporary experiences to the table,
and after several centuries of opportunities being distributed differentially
along racial lines, racial group members still have differential access to educational
resources and opportunities for success. Everyday antiracism entails
engaging our own and one another’s experiences as racial group members—
particularly of this differential treatment, whether we have benefitedfrom it
or been sabotaged by it.

Third, everyday antiracism in education involves learning from diversity in
human experience, and valuing equally the knowledge and activity shared
within various “groups.” As Cornel West wrote, for example, being “black” today
can involve both experiencing stigmatization, particularly from “whites,”
and enjoying a community that has bonded through expressive practices and
political resistance in the midst of oppression.1 Respecting such shared experiences
and knowledge also involves appreciating the critical lenses that members
of groups can offer—even as we highlight the diversity within groups and
emphasize each person’s individuality.

Fourth, everyday antiracism in education involves equipping ourselves and
others to challenge racial inequalities of opportunity and outcome, rather than
accepting racial disparities as normal.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Suggestions for Using This Book xiii
Introduction: Defining Everyday Antiracism xvii

SECTION A
RACE CATEGORIES: WE ARE ALL THE SAME,
BUT OUR LIVES ARE DIFFERENT 1

Part I: Remember That Racial Categories Are
Not Biological Realities 3
1. Exposing Race as an Obsolete Biological Concept
Alan H. Goodman 4
2. No Brain Is Racial
Mica Pollock 9
3. Getting Rid of the Word "Caucasian"
Carol C. Mukhopadhyay 12
Part II: Get Ready to Talk about a Racialized Society 17

4. Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race
Glenn E. Singleton and Cyndie Hays 18
5. Talking Precisely about Equal Opportunity
Mica Pollock 24
6. Nice Is Not Enough: Defining Caring for Students of Color
Sonia Nieto 28
Part III: Remember That People Do Not Fit Neatly and
Easily into Racial Groups 33
7. Following Children's Leads in Conversations about Race
Kimberly Chang and Rachel Conrad 34
8. Observing Students Sharing Language
Ben Rampton 39
Part IV: Remember That People Are Treated as Racial Group
Members and Need to Examine That Experience 43
9. Strengthening Student Identity in School Programs
Patricia Gándara 44
10. Uncovering Internalized Oppression
Angela Valenzuela 50
11. Helping Students See Each Other's Humanity
L. Janelle Dance 56
Part V: Emphasize Individuality 61
12. Constructing Colorblind Classrooms
Samuel R. Lucas 62
13. Knowing Students as Individuals
Joshua Aronson 67
14. Showing Students Who You Are
Heather M. Pleasants 70
SECTION B
HOW OPPORTUNITIES ARE PROVIDED
AND DENIED INSIDE SCHOOLS 75

Part VI: Remember That Students Experience Racially
Unequal Expectations about Their Brainpower 77
15. Helping Students of Color Meet High Standards
Ronald F. Ferguson 78
16. Providing Supportive Feedback
Geoffrey L. Cohen 82
Part VII: Counter Racially Patterned Skill Gaps 85
17. Teaching and Transcending Basic Skills
Amanda Taylor 86
18. Grouping in Detracked Classrooms
Beth C. Rubin 90
Part VIII: Help Students Gain Fluency in "Standard"
Behaviors While Honoring the "Nonstandard"
Behaviors They Already Have 97
19. Standards vs."Standard" Knowledge
Edmund T. Hamann 98
20. Valuing Nonstandard English
John Baugh 102
21. Teaching Students Fluency in Multiple Cultural Codes
Prudence Carter 107
Part IX: Defy Racially Based Notions of Potential
Careers and Contributions 113
22. Challenging Cultural Stereotypes of "Scientific Ability"
Maria Ong 114
23. Finding Role Models in the Community
Meira Levinson 120
Part X: Analyze Racial Disparities in Opportunities to Learn 125
24. Providing Equal Access to "Gifted" Education
Karolyn Tyson 126
25. What Discipline Is For: Connecting Students to the
Benefits of Learning

Pedro A. Noguera 132

SECTION C
CURRICULUM THAT ASKS CRUCIAL
QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE 139

Part XI: Create Curriculum That Invites Students to
Explore Complex Identities and Consider
Racial Group Experiences 141
26. Using Photography to Explore Racial Identity
Alexandra Lightfoot 142
27. Exploring Racial Identity Through Writing
Jennifer A. Mott-Smith 146
28. Involving Students in Selecting Reading Materials
Christine E. Sleeter 150
Part XII: Create Curriculum That Analyzes
Opportunity Denial 155
29. Teaching Critical Analysis of Racial Oppression
Jeff Duncan-Andrade 156
30. Using Critical Hip-Hop in the Curriculum
Ernest Morrell 161
31. Engaging Youth in Participatory Inquiry for Social Justice
Mar�a Elena Torre and Michelle Fine 165
Part XIII: Create Curriculum That Represents a
Diverse Range of People Thoroughly and Complexly 173
32. Arab Visibility and Invisibility
Thea Abu El-Haj 174
33. Evaluating Images of Groups in Your Curriculum
Teresa L. McCarty 180
34. Teaching Representations of Cultural Difference Through Film
Sanjay Sharma 186
35. What Is on Your Classroom Wall? Problematic Posters
Donna Deyhle 191
36. Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature
Jocelyn Chadwick 195
Part XIV: Create Curriculum That Discusses History
Accurately and Thoroughly 199
37. Making Race Relevant in All-White Classrooms:
Using Local History

Mara Tieken 200
38. Teaching Facts, Not Myths, about Native Americans
Paul Ongtooguk and Claudia S. Dybdahl 204
SECTION D
RACE AND THE SCHOOL EXPERIENCE:
THE NEED FOR INQUIRY 209

Part XV: Investigate Learning Experiences in Your Classroom 211
39. Inviting Students to Analyze Their Learning Experience
Makeba Jones and Susan Yonezawa 212
40. Interrogating Students' Silences
Katherine Schultz 217
41. Questioning "Cultural" Explanations of Classroom Behaviors
Doug Foley 222
42. Creating Safe Spaces in Predominantly White Classrooms
Pamela Perry 226
43. On Spotlighting and Ignoring Racial Group Members
in the Classroom

Dorinda J. Carter 230
Part XVI: Spearhead Conversations with Students about
Racism in Their Lives and Yours 235
44. Racial Incidents as Teachable Moments
Lawrence Blum 236
45. Debating Racially Charged Topics
Ian F. Haney López 242
46. Developing Antiracist School Policy
David Gillborn 246
Part XVII: Talk Thoroughly with Colleagues
about Race and Achievement 253
47. Focusing on Student Learning
John B. Diamond 254
48. Moving Beyond Quick "Cultural" Explanations
Vivian Louie 257
49. Naming the Racial Hierarchies That Arise During School Reforms
Rosemary Henze 262
50. Spearheading School-wide Reform
Willis D. Hawley 267
Part XVIII: Analyze, with Colleagues and Students, How
Your Race Affects Your Teaching 273
51. Responding to the "N-Word"
Wendy Luttrell 274
52. Engaging Diverse Groups of Colleagues in Conversation
Alice McIntyre 279
53. Locating Yourself for Your Students
Priya Parmar and Shirley Steinberg 283
54. Expanding Definitions of "Good Teaching"
Lee Anne Bell 287
SECTION E
ENGAGING COMMUNITIES FOR REAL 291

Part XIX: Inquire Fully about Home Communities 293
55. Valuing Students' Home Worlds
Eugene E. García 294
56. Getting to Know Students' Communities
Leisy Wyman and Grant Kashatok 299
57. Helping Students Research Their Communities
Kathleen Cushman 305
Part XX: Discuss Parents' Experiences of Racially Unequal
Opportunity 309
58. Cultivating the Trust of Black Parents
Beverly Daniel Tatum 310
59. Helping Parents Fight Stereotypes about Their Children
Janie Victoria Ward 314
60. Informing Parents about Available Opportunities
Roslyn Arlin Mickelson and Linwood H. Cousins 318
SECTION F
KEEPING IT GOING 325
Part XXI: Struggle to Change a System That Is Unequal,
While Working Within It 327
61. Resisting the "Lone Hero" Stance
Audrey Thompson 328
62. Recognizing the Likelihood of Reproducing Racism
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David G. Embrick 334
63. Staying Hopeful
Ronald David Glass 337
64. What Is Next?
Mica Pollock 341

Complete List of Everyday Antiracist Strategies 343
Notes 349
Reference List 361
Index 381

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