Back to school with antiracism education
Lucretia Berry, August 26, 2021
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to design and teach a high school elective to offer students an analytical framework for examining race and racism in the United States.
Through the course content, assignments and projects, students are equipped with a historical, political and social context for understanding race/ism and how it is sustained, and build a sound knowledge base that transcends popular discourse and uninformed opinions.
With a practical understanding of contributing ideologies–like white supremacy, meritocracy, colorblindness–and interpersonal and systemic dynamics—like unconscious bias, and power and privilege—students gain a broadened awareness of themselves, “others,” and our interconnected society.
This year, some folks in the political-sphere have armed themselves with mis- and disinformation regarding the effects that teaching and learning about race and racism have on students. They contend
“Teaching kids the history of racism in our country makes white kids feel bad!”
Because their mis-informed opinions have gotten attention and gained measurable traction, I prepared myself to see a decrease in my course enrollment.
Instead, Antiracism 101 enrollment more than doubled!! I am embarrassed to say that I was shocked. But I should not have been shaken or shocked. I begin each school year with the question, ‘Why did you enroll in this course?’ Read some of their answers.
I want to have an open my mind
I want to be EDUCATED and know how I can HELP
I want to be an advocate for justice
I no longer want to be blind
I want to seek answers and understanding
To see different perspectives
I want to get involved
I want to learn more
I want to do more than disagree
I want to open my mind to make the world better
I want to prevent ignorance
I realize that ‘normal’ may be harmful
I want to be empowered to make a difference and do something
I want to gain awareness
This sounds like a cool class
I want to be EDUCATED so I know what I’m talking about
I want to know more about racism
I want to persuade others
I want to advocate for equality
I am passionate about the topic
This sounds interesting
I want to understand why my adopted brother will face discrimination
Considering all of the recent events around the world, and because I do not know too much about racism, this class seemed to stand out as something I should take
I hope to learn more about different races and how to feel comfortable talking about racism.
I want to learn more about how racism affects people’s actions, and the history of it.
I want to better understand racism.
I think it’s important and I want to be a better ally. I want to know how to ensure I am being anti-racist and can help others become anti-racist too.
I hope to get a better understanding on how to dismantle white supremacy and how it impacts me.
I want to learn more about racism than just what the society I live in teaches me.
I want to learn about how it affects people I don’t get to meet and how it affects the people I know and love.
I hope to get a more complete picture about racism: the policies it affects, the people it affects, how it affects them, and what we can do to stop this.
It’s different and I thought it would be fun
I want to know how I can help dismantle racism
I think it’s good to take courses like this to get a better understanding of how much racism can impact our society and improve ourselves if necessary as well.
I want to maybe make a difference, even if it is small
I want more understanding about the struggles of minorities and white fragility
Their WHY’s are rooted in CURIOSITY, a healthy human desire. However, regarding race, racism, and other complex social constructs, the popular uninformed opinion prefers that they suppress their inquiries and interests rather than explore them. Amid public attempts to prioritize the imagined ‘comfort of White students’, all of these students — most of whom are White — choose to follow their curiosity. They bravely break from the complicit status quo. Instinctively, they sense that something greater is on the other side of a shared understanding.
I am honored to hold space for their courageous curiosity.