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What does it mean to be Antiracist?

Background text pattern concept wordcloud illustration of racial profiling glowing light
Racial profiling word cloud (iStockPhoto.com/kgtoh, 2015). (c) iStock by Getty Images. Purchased for use by standard licensing agreement.


“What do Black People need saving from?”

(asked by a Black seminary professor during a white fragility discussion group that I co-facilitate)


We were talking about DiAngelo’s (2018) analysis of the movie, The Blind Side (Hancock, 2009), in response to a question on white people’s motives when helping Black people. Often, even though white people think our motives are noble and pure, we may actually be operating from a posture of systemic racism. There was much discussion on how can we help Black people and not be seen as racists? It was an honest question from a church group who wanted to act in the way of Christ, and didn’t want that action to be viewed from a position of white beneficence. They did not want to be perceived as trying to “save” a Black or Brown person from racism.

That question rattled around in my brain. “Saving” Black people from themselves is a white supremacist, colonialist and imperialistic concept (García, 2017), directly rooted in chattel slavery. While García (2017) does not support the black/white paradigm of racism because he argues it excludes Mexican American’s [(García’s self-labeling)] and brown skinned persons, the question of the seminary professor hit home, as did García’s comment with regards to “saving”. It struck a chord of truth within my psyche.


Had I been doing antiracist work to save Black people from the effects of racism, or had I been doing this work to expose white people to their systemic racists biases?


I realized I had been doing this from the position of the former, and not the latter. While consciously trying not to be a white messiah of Black deliverance from white racism, I was subconsciously acting as one. This experience continues to remind me how deeply racism is embedded within white culture. It reminds me that even as an antiracist educator, I need to be called out when my racism rears its ugly head.

Since then, I have been grappling with the question of what it means to be an antiracist white person and an antiracist educator. While my answer is not quite congealed into a philosophy of antiracist education, it’s a start.


My antiracist educator role is to expose white minds to the truth of the systemic racism embedded deep within white culture. It is to challenge the status quo of white conservative and liberal minds and transform them into a mindset of active liberation. It is to advocate for change in the policies and practices white culture continues to use to keep Black and BIPOC bodies and minds oppressed. And it is to stand up, stand out, and stand with, all persons fighting for equality.


References

DiAngelo, R. (2018) White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

García, R. (2017). Unmaking gringo-centers. The Writing Center Journal 36(1), 29-60.

Hancock, J. L. (Director). (2009). The blind side [Film]. Warner Bros. Pictures.

iStockPhoto.com/kgtoh. (2015). Racial profiling word cloud [Photograph]. © iStock by Getty Images. Used by standard licensing purchase agreement.

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Researching Antiracist Instructional Strategies

Dr. Brett Cook-Snell standing out to stand up at Old Dominion University in his kilt, black lives matter mask, and white silence equals white consent t-shirt. (Cook-Snell, 2020).

It’s been a while since I blogged, only because I take a break between semesters. The semester has started, and I am back to blogging. But this time with a twist.

This semester, a black female colleague and I are working on a research project for a book chapter. The research question for the study and that I will be using in an information literacy course I teach is:


How can antiracist instructional design strategies be incorporated into an existing white instructor’s course to push both the professor and the students to critically examine the impact of racism and its systemic nature on our own personal racial biases”?


I am that white instructor. My colleague will document my journey as the qualitative portion of the study. She will use homework examples I provide to students on antiracism and systemic racism. She will also have access to my personal journal as I work through Me and white supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestor (Saad, 2020). Saad (2020) includes a journal writing process asking pointed questions on white racial awareness. I have made the conscious decision to publish my personal journal on my public blog. The process requires me to be blatantly honest about the discomfort I feel in my own white fragility, white supremacy, and white privilege. My blog also includes those examples of research writing I provide my students. I have been publicly posting these entries for the past year as my commitment to fight systemic racism.

For the quantitative portion of the study, my colleague will recruit students from my information literacy courses to participate and then randomly assign them to control and treatment groups. Control group students will receive homework examples using the topic of accessible instruction and treatment group students will receive homework examples on systemic racism.  Instruction will be the same across groups. I will not know who is participating nor to which group they belong. Two surveys will be administered at the beginning and end of the semester to measure any changes in racial self-awareness and systemic racism based upon group membership (control or treatment).  It is not without credentialing that I approach this investigation. With a PhD in Education concentrated in instructional design, the literature suggests exposure to homework examples may promote vicarious learning (Gholson & Craig, 2006).

I’m hoping by chronicling my journey, forthrightly, and honestly, and providing research based and supported facts with regard to racism, white privilege, white fragility and white supremacy, my students who read my homework examples I provide them, and my readers who follow my public blog, will be challenged to examine their own racial awareness within the greater picture of system racism and work towards changing the status quo.

References

Cook-Snell, B. (2020). Dr. Brett Cook-Snell standing out to stand up in his kilt, black lives matter mask, and white silence equals white consent t-shirt [Photograph].

Gholson, B., & Craig, S. D. (2006). Promoting constructive activities that support vicarious learning during computer-based instruction. Educational Psychology Review, (18)2, 119-139. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1007/s10648-006-9006-3

Saad, L. F. (2020). Me and white supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, become a good ancestor. Sourcebooks.