Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School by Mica PollockEveryday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School by Mica Pollock

Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School

EditorMica Pollock

Paperback | June 1, 2008

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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.
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.
Title:Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in SchoolFormat:PaperbackDimensions:389 pages, 9.3 × 6.1 × 1.1 inPublished:June 1, 2008Publisher:The New PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1595580549

ISBN - 13:9781595580542


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Introduction:Defining Everyday AntiracismEveryday things represent the most overlooked knowledge.—Don DeLillo, 1997To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.—George Orwell, 1946For this book, I invited over sixty researchers, many of whom are formerteachers, to boil down their school-based research into knowledge usable forK–12 classroom practice. I wanted each author to suggest a school-based actioneducators could take, every day, to help counteract racial inequality andracism 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 actionscan harm children unintentionally. It is not designed to get you to ask, “Am I abad person?” Instead, it is designed to get you to ask, “Do my everyday actshelp 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 andthrive; 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 racialterms, without educators meaning to do this at all. That is why this bookzooms in on ordinary acts taken by educators on a daily basis, and focusesproactively on suggestions for everyday antiracism. We not only show whatacts inside schools and classrooms perpetuate racial inequalities, but we suggestalternative acts that can help to dismantle such inequalities instead.Educational policies and “outside” realities of health care, housing, andfamily employment have huge effects on the opportunities the children in ourschools need and receive. Stereotypes and inaccuracies about “race groups”circulate in society at large. But inside schools, everyday acts matter, too. Inschools, people interact across racial lines, distribute opportunities momentto moment, react to “outside” opportunity structures, and shape how futuregenerations think about difference and equality. Interactions in educationalsettings help build or dismantle racial “achievement gaps.” To a student, oneaction can change everything. Everyday acts explored in this book includehow we talk with our students and discipline them; the activities we set up forthem to do; the ways we frame and discuss communities in our curriculum;and the ways we assign students to groups, grade their papers, interact withtheir parents, and envision their futures. Few of the contributors to this booksee such actions as “small potatoes” efforts. Rather, we propose that such antiracistwork helps remake social structure one bit at a time.I acknowledge that the word “antiracism” can have a negative cast, for itimplies that the educator is constantly fighting against and reacting to racialinequality, rather than struggling more positively and proactively to equalizeopportunity and create an egalitarian society. It also can be heard as suggestingthat some people are “racist” and others are not. Yet this bookframes dismantling racial inequality and pursuing racial equality as twosides of the same collaborative undertaking. It also sets forth to counteractracial inequality and racism in society, not just inside “bad people.” Theword “everyday” is also crucial: it suggests that educators can, and must,help counter racial inequality and racism in society at routine moments ofthe schooling experience.Pursuing racially equal opportunity and counteracting racism on a daily basisin our classrooms and schools requires more than being a great teacher ofa subject; it requires particularly hard thinking about our choices in complexsituations. In a society where racism and racial inequality already exist, it is oftenhard to figure out which of our everyday activities are harmful to studentsor others and which are helpful to them. Blanket advice to “be colorblind” regardingour 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, sometimeseducators’ being colorblind is quite harmful to young people, since they livein a world that often treats them racially; sometimes a particular celebrationof diversity can be reductive and stereotypic; sometimes seeing a person primarilyas a member of a “race” detracts from recognizing our common humanity.Antiracist educators must constantly negotiate between two antiracist impulsesin deciding their everyday behaviors toward students: they must choosebetween the antiracist impulse to treat all people as human beings rather thanracial group members, and the antiracist impulse to recognize people’s real experiencesas racial group members in order to assist them, understand their situationbetter, and treat them equitably. I ask the reader to keep a basicquestion in mind throughout the book. In your practice, when does treatingpeople as racial group members help them, and when does it harm them? Thiscore question ties this book together. Academics who write about racism andantiracism in education often neglect to answer, or even consider, this basicquestion. But in a world that has been organized for six centuries around bogusbiological categories invented in order to justify the unequal distribution oflife’s necessities, some antiracist activity refuses to categorize people racially.Other antiracist activity recognizes people living as racial group members in orderto analyze and transform a racially unequal world.In countless daily ways, teachers, administrators, and program directorshoping to protect and assist young people must decide which acts counteractracial inequality. This involves deciding whether and how to see, treat, or talkabout students, parents, colleagues, or others in racial terms. Some ways ofrecognizing students as “black” buoy them up with confidence; others trapthem in reductive or stigmatizing notions of what being “black” means. Manycolleagues may not consider it relevant that they or their students are “white”;yet ignoring their lived experience as “white” people can miss a major dimensionof their reality. Some ways of framing students as “Latino” make Latinostudents feel welcome and safe; others make them feel excluded or likely tofail. 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 waysof highlighting or downplaying our own racial-ethnic experiences or identitiesin conversations with students or colleagues can be dangerous or useful.Really, everyday antiracism requires both addressing people’s experiencesin the world as racial group members and refusing to distort people’s experiences,thoughts, or abilities by seeing them only or falsely through a raciallens. This applies when educators interact with students in classrooms, designand discuss curriculum, interact with students’ families, or even think aboutourselves 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 ofour everyday actions counteract racial inequality and which do not.All of us, then, suggest specific, concrete ways educators can help equalizestudents’ academic and social opportunities to learn and thrive in K–12 educationalsettings, and more generally combat racism and racial inequality fromwithin schools and classrooms. We differ in the methods we suggest to movein that direction. Some of the authors here measure “helping” as getting studentsto achieve higher test scores; others measure “helping” as getting studentsto believe in their own potential to become scientists. Some measure“harming” as actions that cause students to doubt their abilities, to lower theircareer aspirations, or even to despise themselves or others. Some authorsanalyze the treatment of students of color in particular; many essays’ recommendationscan apply to schools and classrooms of any demographic composition.Educators with a range of personal styles, in a variety of schoolsituations, will find different suggestions useful and compelling.These essays focus on things to do in our schools and classrooms, ratherthan just on ways to think differently about ourselves or others. Antiracistpractice requires the intermingling of actions and ideas. The contributors recognizethat being effective at countering racism and racial inequality requiresus to develop skills as well as commitment. Many educators say they enter thefield seeking to improve opportunities for all children but end up either frustratedor failing at this task because they cannot figure out how to navigaterace issues while doing this. So, each essay in the book asks educators to rethinktheir ordinary activities and to try doing something differently in everydaylife. I asked each author to boil her or his recommendation down to onesentence that I have used in the introduction to each section, forcing us all topinpoint strategies and principles of everyday antiracism.We assume that readers are committed to helping children to learn andthrive. We do not assume that readers will accept or agree with our analysesof how the everyday acts discussed here might help equalize opportunity forchildren, or combat racism and racial inequality in society. I asked each authorto support each of his or her claims with research and personal experience. Ialso asked each author to clarify claims about “race” and “racism.” Finally, andperhaps most importantly, I asked each author to walk the educator throughthe minefields or pitfalls educators might encounter if they take his or her advice.Educators work in a world of ever-changing complexity; we expect thatreaders 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 discussthese essays, you seek to name antiracist principles: core ideas about howto pursue racially equal opportunity and counteract racism from withinschools and classrooms. To get us started, let me propose four foundationalprinciples. Everyday antiracism in education involvesRejecting false notions of human difference;Acknowledging lived experiences shaped along racial lines;Learning from diverse forms of knowledge and experience; andChallenging systems of racial inequality.First, everyday antiracism in education involves rejecting false notions ofhuman difference and actively treating people as equally worthy, complicated,and capable. In educational settings, antiracism entails actively affirming thatno racially defined group is more or less intelligent than any other. We can tellstudents that racial categories have no valid genetic basis. Through our curriculumand in our everyday interactions, we can challenge oversimplified notionsabout racial-ethnic identities or group behaviors. We can remember thatany “race” group is composed of individuals who have complicated identitiesand lives.Second, everyday antiracism in education involves acknowledging and engaginglived experiences that do vary along racial lines. Genetically bogusracial categories like “white,” “black,” and “Asian” were built upon geneticallyinsignificant physical differences (hair, noses, and bone structures). Racializedcategories like “Latino,” “Native American,” and “Arab” lump together peoplefrom countless regions and, in some cases, people who speak totally differentlanguages. Still, over six centuries of American history and even now, peoplehave been lumped into ranked “races” by others and forged solidarity alongracial-ethnic lines themselves as a means of social empowerment. The Irish“became white” in the nineteenth century, and Jews “became white” in thetwentieth, to gain opportunity in a system that already favored “whites” ofEuropean descent. Lumped together as a “race” to be enslaved by “whites,”Africans and their descendants in America simultaneously forged deep solidarityas “black” people. People from a variety of Asian origins made alliancesas “Asian Americans” starting in the 1960s. “Latinos” converged at that timeas well, voicing the plurality of their origins and the unity of their agendas.Distinct tribes of Native Americans recognized common experiences of displacementand forced assimilation. “Arabs” have shared many U.S.-based experiences,particularly in recent years. All such “racial” groups in the UnitedStates today bring different historic and contemporary experiences to the table,and after several centuries of opportunities being distributed differentiallyalong racial lines, racial group members still have differential access to educationalresources and opportunities for success. Everyday antiracism entailsengaging our own and one another’s experiences as racial group members-particularly of this differential treatment, whether we have benefited from itor been sabotaged by it.Third, everyday antiracism in education involves learning from diversity inhuman experience, and valuing equally the knowledge and activity sharedwithin various “groups.” As Cornel West wrote, for example, being “black” todaycan involve both experiencing stigmatization, particularly from “whites,”and enjoying a community that has bonded through expressive practices andpolitical resistance in the midst of oppression.1 Respecting such shared experiencesand knowledge also involves appreciating the critical lenses that membersof groups can offer-even as we highlight the diversity within groups andemphasize each person’s individuality.Fourth, everyday antiracism in education involves equipping ourselves andothers to challenge racial inequalities of opportunity and outcome, rather thanaccepting racial disparities as normal.

Table of Contents


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


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


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


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
    María 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


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


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

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

Editorial Reviews

"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