Civics Education Resource Site

Anti-Racism for Parents

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

Angela Y. Davis

WHAT IS RACISM AND ANTI-RACISM?

Racism is a learned behavior. Racism is also a complex system of advantage. Racism can be unlearned. Racist systems can also be dismantled.

Your goal is to unlearn and dismantle racism where it shows up around you.

Anti-racism is the process of unlearning racist ideas; co-learning new ways of seeing the world; engaging in the challenging work required to make meaningful change; enacting policies that manifest the changes needed to make our communities equitable for all. We will not solve the social plague of racism overnight, after all, it took hundreds of years to get here. However, that does not mean we give up! Each individual, each family, each school, each community must commit to the work required of eliminating racism. This includes:

  • Building cross-racial coalitions
  • Learning full and complete historical accounts
  • Understanding how our justice system is experienced differently by different groups
  • Eliminating the inequities that impact some groups disproportionately

Kids see color and learn to become silent about it or attribute negative connotations to it when parents are silent or are not explicit about discussing race. Although we are not born racist, our communities, our school curriculum, and our environments inform and fuel the biases and prejudices present in each of us.

If we’re going to start the journey of unlearning racism, we must commit ourselves to the hard work ahead. This toolkit will provide action steps, encouragement, a bit of history, and insight into how families can get started on their anti-racism journey.

Naming Racism

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde

Racism is not the same as hatred, discrimination, or prejudice. Racism is not black versus white. Racism is rooted in systems of power: who has power and who does not; how people, knowingly and unknowingly, practice their power over others; and how society and cultures create a hierarchy of value based on race. Racism can show up in ourselves, our families, our schools, our communities, our policies, and our systems. The first step toward anti-racism is learning where racism shows up so that you can eliminate it.

Individual racism manifests as the privately held beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism in intentional or unintentional ways.

Examples:

  • Using a racial epithet or making a racist statement
  • Believing whites to be superior over other groups of people

Interpersonal racism happens when we take our individual racism and act on it against others. Individual and interpersonal racism are the most recognized forms of racism as they focus on negative engagements between people.

Examples:

  • Following an African American person around a store because you believe black people steal
  • Believing whites to be superior over other groups of people and starting or joining an organization to celebrate that superiority

Internalized racism occurs when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominant group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and ideologies that uphold the dominant group's power.

Examples:

  • A student of color making racist jokes about themselves or others in their racial group in order to impress or make white peers feel comfortable.
  • A group believing that their status in life is based on being born into their racial group and that they cannot or should not expect better.

Institutional racism also called systemic racism influences how our society does or does not function for all people based on race. Institutional racism is the result of present and historic policies and practices that when carried out, create inequitable outcomes for different racial groups. Although the policies and practices do not mention racial groups, they provide advantages for whites and disproportionately impact non-white groups negatively.

Example:

  • Hazardous waste sites located in communities where the majority of residents are people of color
  • Closing or moving polling places in predominately African-American communities

Institutional racism can be understood best through statistical data and includes everything from net worth to infant mortality rates. Watch these 50-second explanatory "What is Systemic Racism?" Videos by Race Forward.

Structural racism influences how our society is structured to benefit the narrative that non-white people are criminal, pathological, or broken. Structural racism relies heavily on the recycling of racist ideas (individual racism), racist cultural norms (interpersonal racism), and systems of advantage (institutional racism) to perpetuate new forms of the same narrative.

Examples:

  • The portrayal of people of color as criminals, undesirable characters, or villains in movies
  • Heterosexual, white, and/or maleness, as the “norm” standard benchmark in medicine, education, economics, politics, religion, etc.

All definitions based on definitions provided in the Racial Equity Tools Glossary.

Anti-Racism Action Plan for Families and Educators

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin

Conversations on race must be age-appropriate, bite-sized, ongoing conversations.

  • Educate yourself on the present and historic impact of institutional and structural racism on our society.
  • Embody anti-racist attitudes and behaviors through modeling and non-verbal behaviors.
  • Embrace race by affirming and acknowledging the racial and cultural differences in others.
  • Engage in open intergenerational dialogue about race and racism and discuss how it shows up in media, online, in school, or between individuals.
  • Expand your circle beyond a homogenous or semi-homogenous group of friends, coworkers, and community members.
  • Expose your family to as many diverse books, media, cultural experiences, and cultural celebrations as possible.
  • Expect mistakes, mishaps, and missteps. Humility and apologies are always the best way forward.

Start the Journey to Anti-Racism

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

Maya Angelou

Our History

When we begin our anti-racism journey, we must look at how history is told and who is not included. We must have the courage to welcome the complexity of the founding and building of the United States so that we may move forward.

Here is a bit of reading to help expand the narrative of the United States to include voices that are underrepresented and have been historically ignored.

Solutions: Build Inclusive Narratives

We need to expose black kids, white kids, and non-black kids of color to a variety of stories authored by and about people from diverse backgrounds.

Educate:

For Starters… Questions to Consider

  1. What voices from history are missing?
  2. Who do I need to learn more about?
  3. Throughout history, how have people fought for equality? How has society benefited from their efforts? How have I benefited from their efforts?
  4. What are examples of engaged civic actors fighting injustice? What can I learn from their effort to aid in the fight against injustice experienced today?
  5. How is justice in the United States experienced differently for different groups?

Our Schools

Our schools are plagued with the same structural and institutional racism present in our larger society; therefore we must actively engage in the work required to make schools more racially equitable. This includes investigating and solving issues like funding, curriculum, teacher and school leader pipelines, and school culture and disciplinary mechanism.

Educate:

  • Why Are American Schools Still So Segregated? KQED video on the unfulfilled promise of Brown v. Board of Education and the impact segregation has on all students
  • Windows and Mirrors, Edutopia video on the importance of diverse texts and curriculum
  • “Push Out” documentary uncovers the criminalization of black girls in schools
  • Institutional racism shows up in the ways in which our schools are funded. The EdBuild 23 Billion report displays the gaps in funding between white and non-white schools across economic class breakdowns

Solutions: Push Your PTA

Is your PTA anti-racist? Find out. Figure out how the PTA partners with your school to promote racial justice and equity within the school and how they work to support (and welcome) families of color in your school and the community.

Engage:

For Starters… Concepts for Individual Parents and the PTA/PTO

  1. Create an inclusive PTA environment that actively reaches out to parents of color in your community
  2. Incorporate a diversity coordinator role on your PTA board. This person is a liaison between families of color and the school/school board
  3. Encourage the school community to dig deeper during cultural celebration months (ie. Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month)
  4. Advocate for equitable school discipline practices
  5. Start an anti-racism book club or reading list for families at your school

For Starters… Questions for Your School

  1. Do you provide anti-racism training for educators and administrators? (not diversity or bias training)
  2. Does the school library include a variety of books where the main characters are people of color?
  3. Does the school curriculum (especially history and language arts) include perspectives of people of color or provide a variety of voices beyond the white-normative narrative?
  4. Does the school have educators of color? Are there strategies in place to hire more educators and administrators of color?
  5. Are the students of color and their families fully supported and heard at the school?

Q - "But I live in a homogeneously white community"
A - How does your school expose white students to accurate, affirming, and positive images and narratives about people of color?

Our Homes

Conversations on race must be age-appropriate, bite-sized, ongoing conversations. Chances are your child knows more about race than you think. Kids are exposed to racist content through their smartphones (racist memes or information shared at school or in group chats). Kids are building their own biases when they interpret images in the media, observe non-verbal cues from family members, and overhear family conversations. It’s important for parents to have discussions before something racist happens and also when something racist happens.

Educate:

Engage:

For Starters… Concepts for Elementary School Kids (PK-4)

  1. Focus on values like empathy, justice, and fairness
  2. Introduce children to people of different races and cultures through books, movies, and cultural celebrations
  3. Discuss consent and respecting boundaries - always ask before touching hair, cultural garments, or cultural artifacts
  4. Teach students to “pass the mic” and seek out the perspectives of other groups (Who is missing? Who didn’t get to speak?)

For Starters… Family Discussion Questions (5-12th grade)

  1. Can you define race and racism? (follow up discussion by reading the Anti-Defamation League definition)
  2. When something racist happens, how would you address it?
  3. In what ways do different people experience society as it is constructed today? How do we make it better?
  4. Is the range of human experiences fair, just, equal, or equitable? Why or why not?
  5. How do we improve race relations between groups of people? What can people do?
  6. Do you think it is a good idea for kids to discuss race at school? Why or why not?
  7. Have you ever witnessed (or experienced) racism at school?
  8. What should you do if racist content is shared over the phone or on social media?
  9. How can you stand in solidarity with another person? What can you do? What should you not do?
  10. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, what do you think that means?

Additional Resources

Webinar: How to Raise a Socially Conscious, Anti-Racist Kid with Amber Coleman-Mortley, Sonia Mathew and Dr. Shawn Healy

Citations

Derman-Sparks, L., Higa, C. T, Sparks, B. https://www.teachingforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ec_childrenraceracism_english.pdf

Hirschfeld, L. A. (2008). Children’s developing conceptions of race. In S. M. Quintana & C.

Kelly et al (2005), "Three-month-olds, but not newborns, prefer own-race faces"

Kinzler, K.D (2016), How Kids Learn Prejudice

McKown (Eds.), Handbook of race, racism, and the developing child (pp. 37–54). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Mann, T. C., Ferguson, M. J. (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4437854/

Racial Equity Tools

Winkler, E. N. (2009) https://inclusions.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Children-are-Not-Colorblind.pdf