Last week, I had a consulting call with a potential client (a white teacher), who teaches in a predominantly white school/neighborhood and wants to engage in more meaningful anti-racist work this coming school year. But she isn’t sure how exactly to approach the work within her school. Quite frankly, she isn’t the first teacher who has expressed concern around this issue. Right now, we have many teachers in this predicament, trying to answer this question for the upcoming school year. In contrast, there are others who believe they are exempt from this work because there are no students of color in their classrooms and their white students are not impacted by racism.
So, what does non-performative anti-racist work look like in a school where the teaching staff, student body, and the surrounding neighborhood are predominantly white?
Although I have never taught in a predominantly white school, I did, however, attend a predominantly white high school, so this question definitely hits home. Rather than provide you with a prescriptive list of things to do, I’m going to draw from my own high school experience and challenge you to think critically about the following questions as you prepare to engage in anti-racist work this school year:
- What unceded Native land is your school/neighborhood occupying?
- What specific efforts are being made to increase teacher diversity within your school district?
- Does your school provide affinity spaces where students of color can connect and share their experiences about race and racism?
- Has your school done a full equity audit to identify institutional practices that are producing trends of discrimination towards students of color?
- Has your school done a full audit of their student handbook or code of conduct to identify which policies are perpetuating racial harm?
- Does your school library have a wide selection of children’s books and other literature that authentically connects to the cultural, historical, and lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander, and Latinx folx?
- What structures does your school/district have in place to ensure that teachers are receiving continuous and meaningful professional development around anti-racist practices throughout the school year?
- Does your school district’s teacher performance evaluation rubric include clear indicators for culturally sustaining and anti-racist practices?
- What supports have been put in place to accommodate the emergent bilingual learners in your school, as well as their parents?
- Does the school prioritize and actively engage in restorative practices and social-emotional learning with an anti-racist lens?
- What anti-racist learning resources available that the White teachers can refer to for self-education around race and racism?
- Is there a racial disproportionality that exists within your school’s special education program? If so, why is that the case?
- Does your school provide a welcoming environment that affirms, respects, and center LGBTQ+ students?
Please do not view these questions as a prescription to racism. Rather, look at them as opportunities for growth as your school embarks on its journey toward creating an anti-racist learning environment for teachers and students. This is far from a complete list, as there are so many more questions I could’ve posed. But this list should get your school off to a great start this school year.