Like all teachers, I have my educational passions. Social-emotional learning and global awareness have always been my passions. This past year, with all that is going on in our county and the world, I made it a personal goal to educate myself as much as I could on anti-racist teaching practices. I want to ensure that I am doing everything I can as an educator to not only be non-racist, but actively antiracist. The more I learn and do in my classroom, the more passionate I have grown about antiracist teaching as well.
In my research and studying, I came across Ibram X. Kendi. Ibram X. Kendi is a writer, activist, and the Director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. I began following Ibram X. Kendi on Instagram and found that his posts made me examine my own privilege and bias in a way I had not previously experienced. It was through his Instagram account that I learned he was publishing a children’s book Antiracist Baby. I immediately purchased it and anxiously awaited its arrival.
I love that the back of the book has a section for teachers and parents that lists activities and discussion to have to accompany the book. I was so happy to see these activities. As I learned and continue to learn to navigate true antiracist teaching, this became an essential tool to aid in that journey. I decided that I wanted to start with the first activity. I gave each child in my class a piece of paper and asked them to draw a picture of either an astronaut, scientist, teacher, or farmer. I asked my students to include as much detail as possible in their pictures of their person.
After, we analyzed our drawings. We talked about how many were male or female, white or black. We found that our pictures mostly mirrored what we knew. The girls in the class drew girls, the boys drew boys, and they all drew white people. We then talked about the word bias. What does it mean to have bias? We discussed why these might be the images that popped into our head. This led to a very passionate discussion about what the students should do next.
That is where Antiracist Baby came into play. We read the book and examined the 9 steps Ibram X. Kenti outlined for a baby to be antiracist. We talked about how we could incorporate those into our lives even as 7, 8 and 9 year olds. Through the book, students (and teachers) learn the ways that they can be actively antiracist humans. For each step, we stopped and discussed as a group what these practices might look like and what examples we could imagine. It was such an important conversation and I would highly recommend this book. My 7, 8, and 9 year olds were discussing how to call out racist behavior and how a person becomes racist. They were very thoughtful and candid with their thoughts and feelings. I realized how much they had needed this opportunity to discuss their questions. This was the first, but certainly not my last lesson on antiracism.
On a personal note, I will be honest that I was nervous before the lesson. I have discussed racism in my class before, but always from the perspective of history. Through my active learning and research this year, I understand the importance of having our students understand the racism that exists in today’s society and to know how to identify it and what to do about it. However, I had never had an open conversation with students around antiracism practices. What if something came up I wasn’t prepared for? What if I said something wrong? This is where my research and personal learning really helped me. I knew from reading texts for teachers and students that the important thing when talking about racism isn’t perfection. The important thing is having the conversations and constantly evaluating our own racism and bias. There’s no way for students to start this if we as teachers are not willing to have the conversations. If you have not yet started active antiracist teachings in your classroom, no matter the age group, I encourage you to educate yourself and find yourself tools like Antiracist Baby to give you a jumping off point!
Thank you Ibram X. Kendi for helping me to continue to grow into the educator and human my students need.