Category Archives: Racism

10 Ways Well-Meaning White Teachers Bring Racism Into Our Schools



Teachers are some of my favorite people in the world. I mean I really love teachers! They tend to be enthusiastic about changing society, and more often than not, they care so deeply about their work and their students. What’s not to like?

As a former teacher myself, I feel so very fortunate to meet teachers from all over the United States in my work. Despite all of the BS that teachers have to deal with in our political climate, they remain optimistic about the state of education, which honestly blows my mind.

It is from this place of love that I work with teachers to help them improve their practice. And with the realities of the “education debt” and considering that 80% of our teachers are Whitewhile nearly half (and growing) of our students are youth of Color, part of improving teaching practice means paying more critical attention to race in our schools.

Though I know there are actively racist teachers out there, most White teachers mean well and have no intention of being racist. Yet as people who are inscribed with Whiteness, it is possible for us to act in racist ways no matter our intentions. Uprooting racism from our daily actions takes a lifetime of work.

Thus, as we head into the first weeks of school all over the US, here are 10 ways that White teachers introduce racism into our schools paired with things we can do instead.

1. Lowering or Raising Achievement Expectations Based on Race/Ethnicity

It’s probably best to start with one of the more common and obvious ways that racism can enter teaching practice: our expectations of student ability and achievement.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are constantly inundated with racist messaging about what students can and can’t achieve.

Whether we see media narratives about the math prodigy Asian students or the “ghetto” Black students who are reading 5 grade levels behind, we end up getting pretty clear messages long before we start teaching about what our student can handle.

In my own teaching, I know that I had a hard time actually teaching my students within theirZPDs because I was told from before I even started teaching that they simply weren’t capable of writing complex papers about world events. But they could! All it took was coordinated effort from multiple teachers pushing them as hard as we could!

We know that the expectations students are held to often correlate less to their ability than their race and class, so what should we do about it?

What to Do Instead  – read more 


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A White Woman And A Black Man Swapped Voices. It’s Overwhelmingly Powerful.

In the video below, captured at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, poets Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley passionately deliver their poem “Lost Voices.” Their performance is particularly timely in light of the conversations surrounding race and racism with the recent hate-fueled Charleston murders and Rachel Dolezal, a White woman who lied about being Black but claims to “identify as Black.”

The Eastern Michigan University students’ poem hits on the struggles and experiences of Simpson, a Black man and Scout, a White woman. The delivery was particularly impactful as the two poets switched places and passionately delivered each other’s verses through the other person’s narrative.

Simpson delivered Bostley’s poem as she mouthed the words revealing experiences tied to being a woman such as,

“…My body has become cause to write legislation, cause for a** smacks in the back of a class, my body has demanded everything except respect…”

Similarly, Bostley speaks through Simpson’s narrative, touching on his experiences being Black like,

“The first day I realized I was Black, it was 2000, we had just learned about Blacks for the first time in 2nd grade, at recess, all the White kids chased me into the woods chanting ‘slave’…”

The impactful visual of seeing Bostley and Simpson deliver experiences through the other person’s narrative, powerfully tied together in the end when the pair brought home their point that being an “ally” is welcomed as opposed to speaking on another group’s behalf.

“Never will I turn away an ally… but when a man speaks on my behalf, that only proves my point. Movements are driven by passion, not by asserting yourself dominant by a world that already puts you there,” the duo asserted together.

They switch back to their original places and proudly end their piece by speaking through their personal narrative and maintaining their “voice.”


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