White Privilege in the Classroom: How to Teach Racial Equality as a White Teacher


Unless you've pulled a Rip Van Winkle, you're probably acutely aware of the heightened state of racial inequality brought to light in the past few months. If you're a white teacher (and statistics show that 79% of teachers in 2017-2018 were white), you may be wondering how you can teach black history and discuss current events in your classroom with any sense of authority.

Short answer? You can't! As a white teacher, you do not know how your black students or students of color are feeling. You haven't been in their shoes. You haven't experienced their struggles and inequalities intimately. You cannot fathom the fear and injustice they face in their daily lives.
If you're a white teacher (and statistics show that 79% of teachers in 2017-2018 were white), you may be wondering how you can teach black history and discuss current events in your classroom with any sense of authority. #teachingblackhistory #teachingracialequality #race #racialinequality #blacklivesmatter #blm #teachinghistory

But, while you can't speak from a position of authority, you can amplify black voices that are eloquently handling the conversations that you are not uniquely qualified to address. You can share resources, you can educate yourself, and you can avoid shying away from uncomfortable topics in the classroom, thus empowering your students of color and helping your entire class to understand history through a black-colored lens.

5 Tips for Teaching Anti-Racism as a White Teacher

1. Educate yourself! In light of recent events, we've all been exposed to history with which we were unfamiliar. Especially as a white teacher, familiarize yourself with books, movies, and other resources that address racism in America. Even if you already consider yourself anti-racist, find another resource. Browse another black-created memoir. Digest another movie about racism to better understand the experiences of those suffering right now.

2. Remember that anti-racism is not political rhetoric. Taking a stand against racism does not mean endorsing either political party. Being anti-racism is about tackling adversities and disparities faced by people of color. As a teacher, you should be willing to shut down any racist rhetoric without moral hesitation. Don't forget - if your classroom is not a safe space for your students of color, then why are you teaching?

3. Do not tip toe around race. While you should always use correct terminology and arm yourself with accurate historical facts, don't shy away from teaching about racism, people of color, and uncomfortable topics. Even though they're just that - uncomfortable - avoiding racism discussions in the classroom can make your students of color feel ashamed, less-than, and persecuted. This can also enable your inwardly racist students by validating their feelings that we should only discuss race in whispers. Talk loudly and proudly about people of color!

4. Avoid color blindness. Yes, of course we want our students to love one another regardless of race. However, the reality is that saying we are all the same, or that we are alike regardless of racial differences, undermines the struggles that people of color have faced. Instead, empower students of all races to recognize differences while treating everyone with respect.

5. Amplify black voices. As a white teacher, you are not uniquely qualified to talk on the topic of racial inequality. But, there are countless resources available in the wonderful world of the Internet that can both inform you as a teacher, and uplift black voices and creations to share with your students. Refrain from comparing the experiences of POC to those of yourself (unless you're highlighting white privilege) and instead, empower those who have actually walked the walk. By amplifying black voices in your classroom, you will also relay to your students that they too have a voice and you're willing to empower and support them as well.

By amplifying black voices in your classroom, you will also relay to your students that they too have a voice and you're willing to empower and support them as well. #empowerstudents #teachhistory #teachsocialstudies #blackhistory #blacklivesmatter #blm #justiceforbreonnataylor #justiceforgeorgefloyd
One of my previous students stands with the team of organizers that led the March on Frankfort, KY for #blacklivesmatter to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. This was one of my proudest moments as a teacher!

Anti-Racism Resources & Media 

Books to Read

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo ✦ How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi ✦ The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander ✦ Divided Sisters by Midge Wilson and Kathy Russell ✦ The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison ✦ Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston ✦ They Can't Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery ✦ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou ✦ Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts ✦ Locking Up Our Own by James Forman ✦ The Miner's Canary by Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres ✦ The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Podcasts and Recordings to Listen To

1619 (New York Times) ✦ About Race ✦ Code Switch (NPR) ✦ Intersectionality Matters! hosted by KimberlĂ© Crenshaw ✦ Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast ✦ Pod for the Cause (Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights) ✦ Pod Save the People (Crooked Media) ✦ Seeing White ✦ Parenting Forward Podcast Episode 'Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang Brandt' ✦ Fare of the Free Child Podcast

Social Media Accounts to Follow (Instagram Tags)

Antiracism Center (@AntiracismCtr) ✦ Black Women's Blueprint (@blackwomensbp) ✦ Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) ✦ Colorlines (@Colorlines) ✦ Equal Justice Initiative (@eji_org) ✦ The Conscious Kid (@consciouskidlib @theconsciouskid) ✦ RAICES (@raicestexas) ✦ SisterSong (@SisterStrong_WOC) ✦ United We Dream (@UnitedWeDream)

Extensive Website Resources for Educating Yourself on Anti-Racism

A Detailed List of Anti-Racism Resources by Wake-Up Call
Black Life Matters: Anti-Racism Resources for Social Workers and Therapists by Social Work Career
Anti-racism Resources for White Allies (Google doc)
Anti-racism resources for white people (Google doc)

Don't shy away from difficult conversations; instead, teach your students how to respectfully dive into the tough stuff. Teach with love, with respect, and with empowerment. Teach history, and help your students change the world so we can avoid repeating it again. #teachhistory #civilrightsmovement #racialequality #mlk #martinlutherkingjr #teachequality
Though you may be inclined to breeze over current events in your classroom, I encourage you to educate yourself and familiarize yourself with black struggles instead. Amplify black voices, empower your black students, and teach history as you were trained to do! Don't shy away from difficult conversations; instead, teach your students how to respectfully dive into the tough stuff. Teach with love, with respect, and with empowerment. Teach history, and help your students change the world so we can avoid repeating it again.

I'd normally wish you happy teaching, but in light of the pain felt by our black friends, students, and coworkers, I'll instead wish you Compassionate Teaching!

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Brittany Cloyd
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