Talking About Race: Alleviating the Fear


What is it that gives many of us White people a visceral fear about discussing race?

Do you realize that being able to not think about or talk about it is a uniquely White experience?

Do you warn your children about how people might react to them; find store staff following or watching you; get stopped by the police for no reason?

“While many of us long for teaching as something transcendent and powerful, we find ourselves too-often locked in ...

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What is it that gives many of us White people a visceral fear about discussing race?

Do you realize that being able to not think about or talk about it is a uniquely White experience?

Do you warn your children about how people might react to them; find store staff following or watching you; get stopped by the police for no reason?

“While many of us long for teaching as something transcendent and powerful, we find ourselves too-often locked in situations that reduce teaching to a kind of glorified clerking, passing along a curriculum of received wisdom and predigested and generally false bits of information. This collection offers a means to disrupt and reconnect, and a way forward."?Bill Ayers

To overcome the common fear of discussing race, of saying “something wrong”, this book brings together over thirty contributions by teachers and students of different ethnicities and races who offer their experiences, ideas, and advice.

For any teacher grappling with addressing race in the classroom, and for pre-service teachers confronting their anxieties about race, this book offers a rich resource of insights, approaches and guidance that will allay fears, and provide the reflective practitioner with the confidence to initiate and respond to discussion of race, from the pre-school and elementary classroom through high school.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579225605
  • Publisher: Stylus Publishing, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/28/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Grineski started his teaching career in 1975 as an elementary school teacher. In 1984 he joined the Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) faculty and earned his doctorate from the University of North Dakota in 1989. While at MSUM Steve served as Dean of Education, Chairperson for Secondary Education and Foundations, Director of Faculty Development, and taught in several different departments and regularly in the local public schools. Currently he is Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning and teaches in the Foundations of Education program, while serving as field experience liaison between the MSUM Teacher Education and the Moorhead, Minnesota, Alternative Education programs. Steve has made over 100 presentations at state, regional, and international conferences; and published over 75 articles and 4 books in diverse areas including cooperative learning, critiquing corporate school reform, alternative education, holistic approaches to teacher education, critical perspectives about instructional technology, talking about race and racism, and the history of education. Steve and his wife Lee are parents to daughters Abby and Sara and privileged grandparents to Noah, Libby, and Caleb.

Julie Landsman has taught in Minneapolis Public Schools for 25 years. She has also been a visiting Professor at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota, and an adjunct professor at Hamline University and Metro State University in St. Paul. She is the author of numerous books on race and education and a frequent speaker and consultant around the country and abroad. She can be reached through her website at

Robert Simmons III is an assistant professor in the School of Education at Loyola University Maryland, an associated faculty member of African and African American studies, and a member of the social justice collaborative Edchange. Robert’s K-12 teaching experiences include being a middle school science teacher and elementary teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. With additional teaching and administrative experiences in the Dominican Republic and Minnesota, and in the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, Robert was nominated twice as the Walt Disney National Teacher of the Year and once for the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Foundation Outstanding Educator Award. Robert has been a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. Robert is currently working as a co-PI on an NIH funded grant that focuses on the development and study of virtual science labs in secondary classrooms.

William Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), and founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, where he taught courses in interpretive and qualitative research, urban school change, and teaching and the modern predicament. A graduate of the University of Michigan, the Bank Street College of Education, Bennington College, and Teachers College, Columbia University, Ayers has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. He is currently the vice-president of the curriculum studies division of the American Educational Research Association.

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Table of Contents


Poem: "Unless"
Rose McGee

Foreword: Digging Deeper
William Ayers

Introduction: Our Separate Voices, Our Combined Vision

Poem: “A Drive-by in Frogtown”
Paul C. Gorski

PART ONE: Getting Grounded

1. Black Silence, White Noise: Race and Labels
Johnnetta S. C. Ricks and Imandeep Kaur Grewal

2. Working While White: Observations, Missteps, and Suggestions
Amy Philips and Anita Bender

3. Complicating White Privilege: Poverty, Class, and Knapsack
Paul C. Gorski

4. Breaking the Cycle of Color Blindness in Higher Education
Caprice D. Hollins

PART TWO: When It Goes Wrong, When It Goes Right

5. A Small Request With a Big Answer: Can I Borrow Your Copy Code? And Other Pitfalls of Teaching in a Large Public School District
Laura Zelle

6. Vignettes on Education and Racism in My Life and the Lives of My Children
Ruth Newton

7. The Color of Our Skin
Naomi Rae Taylor

8. A Developmental Approach to Civility and Bystander Intervention
Jennifer McCary

PART THREE: Classroom Dialogues: Preschool, Elementary

9. White Skin and Princess Hair: Exploring Race in a Preschool Classroom
Brigid Beaubien and Linda Williams

10. Lessons Learned: Creating a Safe Space to Navigate a Challenging Topic
Pam Booker

11. Conversations With Children: Discussions About Race and Identity
Cheryl Moore-Thomas and Jennifer Scaturo Watkinson

12. My Preschool Experience Expressed in a Mexican Proverb: La mula no era arisca, la hicieron
Cindy Gomez-Schempp

PART FOUR: Classroom Dialogues: Middle and High School

13. Letter From a High School Student #1
Eva Mitchell

14. Middle School Lessons Lead to Deeper Insights on Race and Class
Amy Vatne Bintliff

15. Disrupting School: Learning Autobiographies as Queer Curriculum
Jehanne Beaton Zirps

16. Letter From a High School Student #2: Bring in Elders, Let Us Talk About These Things
Fardousa Ahmed

17. Exploring the Intersection of Ageism and Racism
Ilsa Govan

18. Combating Huck Finn’s Censorship: A Step-by-Step Approach to Discussing the N-Word in the Classroom
Justin Grinage

19. Letter From a High School Student #3
Carlo Balleria

20. The Miseducation of Nigger in American Schools
Marcellus Davis, Alexander Hines, and Kenneth Turner

21. Crossing the Racial Line: Making a s.t.a.r.t
Kate Towle

PART FIVE: Connecting to the Community

22. Not Just for a School Year
Stacy Amaral and Shirley Williams

23. Interview With Mariano Espinoza, Minnesota DREAM Act Movement Leader: Latino Perspectives on Race Equity in Education and Teaching
Jennifer Godinez

24. Pinocchio in Black America
Ben Mchie

PART SIX: Digging Deeper in the Arts

25. Hip-Hop and Conversation
Jennifer Skoglund

26. “I Know My Brother and He Is Good”: Using Photography to Engage Youth in Discussions of School and Race
Kristien Zenkov, Marriam Ewaida, Megan R. Lynch, Athene Belle, James Harmon, and Anthony Pellegrino

27. Looking at Race: Adding Images to Conversation
Adam Levner

28. Outside the Bubble
Rachel Rycerz

PART SEVEN: Implications for Teacher Education

29. Talking About Race: A Story From a Teacher Educator
Ok-Hee Lee

30. Cross-Race Mentoring in Teacher Education: Black Teacher Educators Supporting White Pre-Service Teachers
Valerie Hill-Jackson and Omah Williams

31. Reflections on Teaching and Learning About Antiracism
Sue Peterson and Tracy Clark

32. Preparing NativityMiguel Teachers to Work With Children of Color From High-Poverty Environments
L. Mickey Fenzel and Melodie Wyttenbach

33. Moving From the Margins to Intersections: Using Race as a Lens for Conversations About Oppression and Resistance
Phyllis M. May-Machunda

34. Letters to Our Teachers: Black and Latino Males Write About Race in the Classroom
Yolanda Sealy-Ruiz and Chance W. Lewis

Suggested Readings
About the Contributors

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