A letter to students and alumni of the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College, from Professors Stefanie Wong and Jack Dougherty:
During these recent days of protest against police brutality, we have heard from some of you who are seeking resources about anti-racist education. One alumna wrote to ask for book recommendations about race and education to share with other teachers at their school. Another wrote to ask for readings about systemic racism and white privilege to advance their own learning and to better educate white folks around them.
In response, we offer this list of resources, which are drawn from courses we have taught at Trinity, or from other educators and activists who have kindly shared their recommendations. First, let’s recognize some key principles:
• We all start from different places when learning about race and power. The paths we follow depend on our prior experiences and knowledge, how we identify ourselves racially and how other people identify us.
• We must recognize the dimensions of privilege and power we hold, especially in relation to systems of racism, white supremacy, and anti-blackness. If we have privilege, we should listen most closely to the voices of those most affected by oppression.
• At different points along our paths, we may not agree with each other. But genuine learning requires us to respect one another, and also for each of us to grow in understanding of ourselves and others.
• Reading can promote deeper reflection and insight into other people’s perspectives. But reading alone does not alter racism. We also need dialogue, experience, and thoughtful action.
Black lives matter.
Provocative readings on anti-racism and education:
Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (One World/Random House, 2019), preview at https://books.google.com/books?id=lbqkDwAAQBAJ. — When updating my Educ 309 Race Class and Ed Policy seminar a year ago, I added the introduction and first chapter from this autobiographical reflection by Kendi, whose first publication won the National Book Award. Kendi seeks to shift our focus from opposing “racist people” to challenging “racist policies,” and whether or not you agree with his approach, it will make you think. To dig further, pair his book with a critical review by Kelefa Sanneh, “The Fight to Redefine Racism,” The New Yorker, August 12, 2019. – JD
Bettina Love, We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (Beacon Press, 2019) — I assigned this book in my Educ 312: Education for Justice course in Spring 2020, and students really enjoyed it. Love pushes her readers to interrogate how our current education systems, as well as the reforms we often hear of to improve education, are rooted in racism and anti-blackness. Instead, she argues that educators should engage in abolitionist teaching, working in solidarity with communities of color to understand and resist oppression and nurturing joy, creativity, and resistance in young people of color. – SW
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Penguin Random House, 2015) — Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates reflects on the hopes and fears of being black in the United States. – SW
Video clips to promote deeper discussion:
Trevor Noah, “George Floyd and the Dominos of Racial Injustice,” The Daily Show, May 29, 2020, https://youtu.be/v4amCfVbA_c. — Recent protests across the globe were sparked by a series of videos that captured racism on camera, such as the shooting of jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the Central Park woman who phoned police against bird watcher Christian Cooper, and the Minneapolis police homicide of George Floyd. Speaking directly to the camera, commentator Trevor Noah explains the domino effect of these videos, and how to interpret news coverage of Black Lives Matter protests. Current educators and future historians need to draw on videos like these to make sense of this video-driven movement. – JD
Anti-racist teaching resources for K-12 education:
Teaching for Black Lives, edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au. (Rethinking Schools Publication, 2018). https://rethinkingschools.org/books/title/teaching-for-black-lives. — The Rethinking Schools organization continually impresses me with the quality of classroom teachers’ reflections and curricular materials for engaging young people with challenging issues. I’ve assigned their materials in my courses and also handed them directly to Trinity students who are headed into teaching. See also this recent Washington Post recommendation with excerpts from the book. – JD
— To encourage educators to engage with the text, Rethinking Schools is currently offering the book at a 40% discount with code T4BL40, until June 11, 2020. — SW
Black Lives Matter at School — In 2016, educators in Seattle launched a Black Lives Matter day of action at their schools. The movement has since expanded to a week of action at various schools and districts across the country. The website includes lesson plans and other classroom resources, including ways to participate in the week of action. — SW
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones and contributors for the New York Times received a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for its account of the legacy of slavery on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to the American continent. The Pulitzer Center created The 1619 Project Curriculum with reading guides and activities to engage K-12 learners, and also a full PDF version of the original publication. — JD
Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race In School, edited by Mica Pollock (The New Press, 2008) — An edited volume designed to reach educators and parents. Each chapter is short and encourages readers to consider everyday implications. — SW
Resources that may be especially important for white educators:
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo (2018), with publisher’s discussion guide for educators
Feeling White: Whiteness, Emotionality, and Education, by Cheryl Matias (2016)
For White Folks Who Teach In The Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, by Christopher Emdin (2016)
We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools, 3rd edition, by Gary Howard (2016)
Other resources to understand racism, white supremacy, and anti-blackness in the current moment:
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (2016)
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, by Angela Davis (2016)
Take Action Steps:
Investigate our institutions — Thoughtfully designing and carrying out a research project can be a good way to understand and draw attention to structural problems and potential solutions. For example, we recently shared our findings from a First-Generation/Low-Income Student Focus Group at Trinity (January 2020). Also, the Educ 309 Race Class & Ed Policy students presented their findings from interviews with first-year students about perceptions of race and social class in Hartford and Trinity (October 2019).
Change your teaching practice — What concrete curricular and/or pedagogical changes can you make to center black lives and anti-racism in your teaching? How can you push your colleagues, department, school, and/or district to do the same?
Talk to people in your life, particularly if you and they have privilege — How can you challenge family members, friends, neighbors, and loved ones to think differently about oppression, race, and racism?
Buy from people of color owned businesses — If you are making purchases, consider buying from businesses owned by people of color. For example, if you plan to buy any of the books on this list, check out these lists of black-owned bookstores.
Protest or support protestors — If you are able, consider attending protests or marches for causes you support. But remember that protests are not the only ways to support anti-racist activism. See, for example, this resource, 26 Ways To Be In The Struggle Beyond the Streets, developed by disability rights activists.
Donate — If you are able, consider making financial contributions to organizations doing anti-racist work, especially organizations that are led by people of color.
Share more resources:
Expand on our starter list by sharing more anti-racist educational resources that you value, and tell us why. We encourage you to share these on Twitter and tag both of us: @stefaniejwong and @doughertyjack.