by Nicol R. Howard, PhD - University of Redlands and Betina Hsieh, PhD - University of LaVerne
Senseless acts of violence and racism against Black people have permeated our society for over 400 years, since the arrival of enslaved Africans to the English colony of Virginia in 1619. In the seven weeks following the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd on May 25 by Minneapolis police officers, the legacy of institutional violence against Black men, women, and children has come to the forefront of public attention, sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. The momentum created by the Black Lives Matter movement has also led many institutions, including educational organizations and school districts, to release statements ranging from affirmations of the value of diversity to explicit anti-Black racism stances that promise action.
While these statements are important symbolic gestures, it is clear that words are not enough and more needs to be done. Many individuals and institutions agree that enough is enough, however determining “what” to do, “when”, and “how” can be a challenge. The challenge exists for educators new to anti-racist work who may not know where to start and for educators who have been doing this work long before it came to the national forefront. Educators who have been doing this work are finding themselves taxed with additional, often unpaid, labor to educate colleagues who are newly interested in anti-racist work.
In a recent conversation with one of our colleagues, Dr. Ernest Black in preparation for a webinar on “Building a Pipeline for Black Male Teachers”, we each shared our thoughts about the importance of condemning anti-Black racism with a commitment to going beyond words. As former K-12 educators who are now teacher educators, our commitment to anti-racist work has been a hallmark of our personal and professional lives for many years. We all saw the opportunity, in this particular moment, of using our positions in various educational organizations to push anti-racist, justice-oriented work forward, but we also recognized potential challenges to sustaining the current momentum to build a transformative movement.
We are teacher educators who guide our own students who will soon be K-12 teachers, but we recognize that their preparation and passion to do the work that demonstrates Black lives matter may be met with resistance. We’re also teachers, scholars, and researchers, so we acknowledge the importance of grounding our work in reading and having resources that inform our thinking. However, the book studies and action statements we were seeing everywhere were simply not enough to affect the change to which we hope our colleagues and our educational organizations and institutions are truly committed, particularly as educators navigate potentially hostile climates.
So what do we do about it? If you are reading this blog and asking this question, you are ready to get to work. In the spirit of supporting our colleagues, we offer what we call a Do 1, Watch/Listen 2, Read/Explore 3 Protocol to support individuals with moving toward informed action(s). You will see that we have developed a Google form designed to encourage commitment with an element of accountability built-in. The recommended actions we have outlined in our protocol are aligned with possible actions for understanding and addressing anti-Black racism. The Do 1, Watch/Listen 2, Read/Explore 2 Protocol can be redesigned and used as a starting point that can provide some ideas for specific actions that individuals can take, along with resources, to inform their own anti-racist work.
As mentioned above, we recommend a commitment to action (and follow through) as a key step towards addressing racism. Whether you are thinking about the personal actions you will take, or considering how to support colleagues considering the same, the Do 1 phase of this protocol is imperative. Below are examples of the Do 1s from our own protocol:
Write a letter to a government official to advocate (e.g. for increased educational funding focused on affirming and building from Black students' strengths, curricular change, removing police from schools, etc.)
Speak at a local school board meeting (during open comment period) in favor of a Black Lives Matter resolution
Author a resolution for Black Lives Matter at School Week in your local school or district
Amplify the voices of Black teaches/teacher educators by citing their works and giving appropriate credit
Invite/hire (for pay) Black teachers/ teacher educators to facilitate professional learning (note: these do not only have to be focused on issues of race)
Actively advocate for (work towards) breaking down oppressive systems, instead of asking how to use your power and privilege (which maintains the status quo)
Contact organizations who sponsor "expert panels" that are composed of all white experts to advocate for inclusion of Black voices and perspectives
Find a mentor to hold you accountable as you learn more about the histories and lived experiences of Black households and communities
Another phase of this protocol involves a commitment to watching and listening as a form of action towards addressing racism. The Watch/Listen 2 phase specifically calls for the use of media (e.g., documentaries, podcasts) to support and enrich your own understanding of the lived experiences of the most vulnerable and/or oppressed peoples of whom you seek to advocate for in your Do 1s. Below are examples of the Watch/Listen 2s from our own protocol:
The Black Gaze Podcast (Also available Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/black-gaze/id1512508384)
When They See Us (Netflix)
Dark Girls (Bill Duke & D. Channsin Berry)
Dark Girls 2 (D. Channsin Berry)
Light Girls (Bill Duke)
This phase of the protocol is likely most familiar as it is all about reading books and other forms of information (e.g., blogs, websites) as a form of action towards understanding the root causes of racism. Although some may begin with the Read/Explore 3 phase, we encourage utilizing what is learned in this phase to further inform the selection of additional Do 1s. Below are examples of the Read/Explore 3s from our own protocol:
Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad
Teaching for Black Lives (ed. by Watson, Hagopian, & Au) (Available from https://rethinkingschools.org/books/teaching-for-black-lives/)
Black Appetite/ White Food by Jamila Lyiscott
Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy by April Baker-Bell
This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany M Jewell
Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
We Want to do More than Survive by Bettina Love
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Shattered Bonds: The Color Of Child Welfare by Dorothy Roberts
How to be an Antiracist Educator by Dena Simmons
Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children by Amos Wilson
How to Root Out Anti-Black Racism from Your School by Tyrone Howard
1619 Project by Nikole Hannah Jones
What is Internalized Racism? by Donna K. Bivens
Resources for Understanding and Supporting #BlackLivesMatter by Tia Madkins
As we note, this is a non-exhaustive list of actions, media and books/websites that can help individuals to enact their journeys towards becoming more anti-racist, which is lifelong work. Additionally, this process is cyclical and does not always call for one to begin with Do 1s. For example, you may already be in the Read/Explore 3 phase so now would be the perfect moment to move into the Do 1s.
Although the focus of the protocol is on individual actions, we would be remiss if we did not also offer a few suggestions for institutional action steps that can be taken in response to anti-Black racism. Perhaps this can be considered collective Do 1s for education organizations:
Support racial affinity groups (for students & faculty)
Remove gatekeepers to student success (e.g. alternatives to standardized testing, gatekeeping program requirements, program counseling)
Support identity work for white educators/ teacher educators
Support program-wide focus on implications of white supremacy in education
Collect, examine, use & act upon multiple forms of data that affirm Black identity as a program/ institution
We want to be clear that “support” as used above, is not in name alone either, but, by support, we mean support that comes in the form of money, physical space, time, and institutional recognition. Taking these steps would begin to alleviate the tax on Black and non-Black faculty of color that often comes with diversity initiatives.
While we need to be informed about the work we do, it is time to move beyond performative wokeness and towards action. We are excited by the movement towards anti-racism that we see in this collective moment and we hope that offering these action steps and resources can continue to move the work forward in ways that are sustainable for educators and support us all to build a better world for our children and communities.
Nicol R. Howard, PhD is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Redlands. Her research foci are STEM and computer science equity for Black girls, parent involvement, and teacher education. Dr. Howard's concern for certain inequities in education has led to publications in educational journals, such as the Urban Education Journal, e-Learning and Digital Media, the International Journal of Educational Technology, and Educause. She is the co-author of three recent publications, Coding+Math: Strengthen K-5 Math Skills with Computer Science, Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs, and Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for the K-12 Classroom. Nicol is also the co-founder and co-editor for the Journal of Computer Science Integration.
Upcoming Book: Prioritizing Parent Engagement in Education will highlight the importance of parent partnerships as it relates to the development of students' identity, educational participation, and achievement.
Betina Hsieh, PhD is a professor and the director of teacher education for the LaFetra College of Education at the University of La Verne. At the heart of Dr. Hsieh’s work is the exploration of how who people are shapes what they do (and the choices they make) as educators. She is deeply committed to creating more equitable spaces as a teacher educator that promotes the success, sustenance, and empowerment of teacher candidates from marginalized subgroups both through their teacher training and as they enter classroom spaces. Her recent publications include articles in Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, Literacy Research and Instruction, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and a forthcoming piece in the Journal of Teacher Education.
Upcoming Book: Reflection, Relationships, and Resources: Using Technology to Build Sustainability focuses on how educators can use technology to meet their educational goals and thrive in their classrooms and professional lives.