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Antiracist Work in Schools

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

Article: “What White Colleagues Need to Understand” by Clarice Brazas and Charlie McGeehan in Teaching Tolerance, Spring 2020 (Issue 64, pp. 55-58),
In this article in Teaching Tolerance, Philadelphia high-school teachers Clarice Brazas and Charlie McGeehan (she is black, he is white) share what they learned about antiracism work when they interviewed teachers around the U.S.
• Teachers of color do a disproportionate share of supporting students of color. While black and brown teachers often form bonds with students who look like them, one theme in the interviews was resentment among those teachers that their white colleagues weren’t pulling their weight – and often sent troubled students to their black and brown colleagues.
• Educators of color are expected to take on antiracist work and manage white fragility. “One refrain we heard again and again,” say Brazas and McGeehan, “was that white educators, even those who see themselves as committed to equity, frequently consider antiracist work something outside their responsibility.” Many expected teachers of color to do the heavy lifting in classrooms and in faculty meetings, PD sessions, and other venues. “Educators we spoke with stressed the need for white colleagues to own their discomfort, find places to process their growth that don’t rely on educators of color, and avoid justifying hurtful comments.”
• Educators of color are sometimes driven out. Brazas and McGeehan heard stories of administrators retaliating against those who took on antiracist work in their classrooms and beyond.
• White educators can work to manage white fragility in themselves and among colleagues. One Boston teacher told of a thoughtful and constructive reaction from a white supervisor who was confronted by three black subordinates about a tense supervisory situation. “OK, so what do I need to do to fix this?” she said, and worked to learn and grow and get better at discussing race more directly.
• White colleagues can work to ensure that labor is evenly distributed in their schools. For example, at their Philadelphia high school, Brazos and McGeehan say there’s an advisory structure that matches each student with a caring adult for all four years, with twice-a-day advisory group meetings. “This structure,” they say, “means that the responsibility of supporting our students is shared and ensures that teachers of color are not required to do this work on their own time.”
• White colleagues must educate themselves about race and racism. Here are some suggestions gleaned from the interviews:
- Read, watch, and listen. There are lots of books, articles, videos, and podcasts that provide information and help educators work on their own racial identity.
- Be present with and listen to educators, students, and families of color. A neighborhood walk is a great idea.
- Avoid making conversations about you.
- Connect. “Find or build a group of people for accountability,” say Brazas and McGeehan. “Focus on generating conversations with white colleagues, and make sure you are staying accountable to people of color.”
- Use your power to take action. If there are inequities or people are being left out in your school, speak up.

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07/26/2020 - RR
If only these things really began to happen!
03/06/2020 - Emily Meadows
Excellent suggestions. Thank you for highlighting this work!

For those looking for further resources, I recommend the book 'White Fragility' by Robin DiAngelo.


Emily Meadows