Actually Teaching Racism to White People is Kind of Like Teaching Anything to Anyone: Hard as Fuck. Here is Some help from ACTUAL Educators.
I’ve been seeing posts about how hard it is to teach racism to white people.
And I just want to validate this: teaching is really hard. Teaching racism is just as hard as teaching anything else, though I’ll take it over teaching math, which is why I was a history teacher and not a math teacher.
There is actually A LOT of great anti-racism curriculum out that has been made. Unsurprisingly, it has been made through churches, small state and private schools that normally don’t get attention, and private organizations that don’t get the backing from big names like Stanford. Here are just four who have resources online which are available to you, IF you CHOOSE to do this work. No one HAS to.
It is a choice and it is work. If you are truly interested in learning about how to teach anti-racist curriculum to white people, I’m always happy to be a resource or direct you to resources. I have watched MANY people across disciplines do this work successfully.
We all understand that it is extra hard to teach adults. Some things calcify overtime and adults are less inclined to sit through lessons given by other adults. The people who choose to do that work are special angels. If that is beyond you, that is ok! Focus on the kids. Try to remember that children are what they are taught and that there is nothing inherent to racism. Children need all the mentors who will tell them the truth that they can get.
Here are those resources (and a big ups to the many grassroots organizers and unsung heroes of the people that put these together, that was work too!)
1) Howard Zinn, the writer of A People’s History of the United States, got his start with SNCC as one of the curriculum designers for Freedom Summer. Before he died, he and his students and disciples started putting that work together and expanding his curriculum. Those resources are here.
2) If you are more interested in teaching through art, Barnard has it’s own curriculum for that. It is pretty comprehensive and has clear lesson plans. A rare blessing indeed. You can find their work here.
3) I’m personally extremely partial to the work done by Teaching for Change. Their resources and readings are some of the best I’ve seen and though they don’t have lesson plans yet, I worked with A LOT of their curriculum and would be happy to share that with anyone because I am a dirty socialist who doesn’t care about getting credit for my work. Their book is beautiful, and they are backed by a lot of really important thinkers around these issues. You can start here.
4) I wanted to find a faith-based organization for those working in more rural and religious areas. Christianity and Catholicism both have deep strands in their ideology that are anti-racist. Christian and Catholic leaders have both been at the forefront of fighting against other people who would claim to do these things in their lord’s name. If you aren’t sure how to put anti-racist curriculum into terms the religious might understand, I suggest that you look for a progressive religious leader in your area. I’m also happy to help with this, because even though I am an atheist, I was fortunate to be surrounded by that strand of Christianity throughout my life. Fortunately, some resources are already online for this work, here is one example.
I hope the comforting news in the midst of what must look like a mountain of work is twofold:
1) There ARE resources and help available and you are not alone in this struggle. You are not new to it and there are people doing this work successfully, even if you don’t know their names.
2) This country already has the basis to convince people not to be racist, we just need to get better at making those arguments.
Which isn’t to say that you will successfully reach everyone, every time. Some people will be too angry to learn. Some will be too hungry to learn. Some will just be enormous douchebags you can’t control, but if all of us are trying our best we’ll make some progress.
That’s how ideological change happens.
That’s how you change hearts and minds.
And remember that if you were lucky enough to encounter anti-racist curriculum in your school experience, that someone had to go through a lot to put it in front of you. Be grateful, and pay it forward.
All my anti-racist teachers deserve a medal and a parade. And ain’t none of them have asked for one.