Antiracist Activism for Teachers and Students/White Activists/Role Model
“We have tremendous power as citizens of a democratic society and, if we choose to use it, we can wield that power to elect leaders who are committed to overcoming global inequality. We can only take these actions if we refuse to divide ‘us’ and ‘them,’ if we recognize ourselves as part of a fundamentally connected humanity, if we embrace the power we have to shape the world.” --Holly Hanson
Anti-racism involves taking action against racism that is woven into the fabric of society. Many white individuals have become white allies and anti-racist activists. In order for white individuals to become an anti-racist they must first confront their own prejudice and gain an understanding of the ways in which having white privilege may play a role in inequalities that people of color face on a daily basis. Often times white people come to realize they have unconsciously contributed to perpetuate racism in society. Many white students are able to confront these challenges with the help of Professors. Professor Holly Hanson could be seen as an anti-racist in today’s society. Holly Hanson is a white anti-racist Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College. She has served as a role model to many students empowering them to advocate for social justice. Hanson, however does not associate herself with the term anti-racist. To Hanson the term anti does not fully transmit the idea of activism. She feels that many just put a label or “button” on themselves saying that they are anti-racist but do not actively ponder the question, “what does a society look like that’s not characterized by racism?” To challenge the cycle of racism and create equality is the main aim of an anti-racist or one who is actively against racism.
In order to do this one must look at the racism in society and then become aware of what they can do to change this in their personal lives. This reflection is called viewing society through an “anti-racist lens.” For many, anti-racism comes through self-exploration. For Holly Hanson her “lens” came through her upbringing. She saw racial disparities and diversities as a young child. Her parents were both college Professors and made sure that she was able to recognize the inequalities in society. Her mother was part of the first generation to receive head start training which changed the lives of her entire family.
These experiences formed her desire to see the world and how political inequalities effect the development and depression in the world. She believes that the educational system is not entirely at fault for creating inequalities but rather the social injustice of society. In order to change the system as a whole the people within the society need to become aware of the racism that is still prevalent. As an educator Hanson has become a model for her students. In order to help us further understand the extent to which one can use anti-racism to make a difference, we have interviewed anti-racist educator Holly Hanson, a professor from Mount Holyoke, whose views helped us gain some insight to how we, as individuals, could somehow make a difference.
In modern society, it is difficult to completely eradicate racism due to the incomplete understanding of what racism is. Before we can consider ourselves anti-racists, we must look at our society and see how we can make a difference, however minimal it may be. People can make a difference by the everyday choices they make. For instance supporting local business owned by people of color. Changing one's course of actions and choices can impact how society is made up and how individuals within society perceive one another. Immediate and gradual resistance to institutionalized racism can help with the development of positive societal perceptions of people of color. Holly Hanson has made it her mission to do so as observed in the following quote:
“One thing I think is really important is economy, so I try to buy from minority owned businesses, businesspeople. Before I came to South Hadley, my dentist and my doctor were people of color. In South Hadley, my dentist isn't, but my doctor is.”
Through this action, Dr. Hanson is directly influencing the performance of people of color in her surroundings. She recommends these businesses to her friends, peers, and colleagues to further support the economic livelihood of the people who own them. Word of mouth and direct participation is often the most reliable and effective method of support for minority owned businesses. Dr. Hanson's decision not only to buy from minority owned businesses, but to make sure she made use of local professionals of color is a testament to her desire for fairness in modern society. Through her actions she is helping to create systematic change.
Dr. Hanson has been a role model for her students to follow. On an individual level students can make a difference through their actions and aid in creating change. To make a difference in government students can write letters to Congress and other legislators to make them aware of racial discrimination and how it affects not just people of color, but society as a whole by molding them into one mindset. For example, in Massachusetts the transitional living program application still uses Negroid for African Americans to check for race and Yellow for people of Asian descent. Students can call the individual transitional housing programs to raise their concern and educate them on the harmful effects this language has on society.
Role of Educators
Professors can implement multicultural curriculum and serve as role models to their students and provide support and encouragement when working through issues of race. First educators have to explore and identify their own cultural preconceptions by carefully and truthfully engaging in reflective self-analysis. Until that step has been reached there will not be productive multicultural education, because being an anti-racist educator means much more than providing content and knowledge. Anti-racist education is about building a cultural climate or safe zone for the classroom, for students to feel secure to learn and communicate and reach their full development.
Educators must look beyond content integration where an occasional hero or holiday is added to a curriculum to represent diversity. Educators need to make clear to students that all knowledge is socially constructed, just as race is, and therefore ideas in society change over time. Teachers should become familiar with and use practices of equity pedagogy, where teachers alter their teaching methods to accommodate the various cultural differences of their students to help inspire academic achievement. This practice can happen at all grade levels and in fact the younger the better as children will be able to recognize the stereotypes and biases that they are constantly being exposed to in this world. There are programs such as Teaching Tolerance that help teachers integrate multicultural education into their curriculums, providing lesson plans and guidance needed in doing so. In higher education, professors can look at the systemic forms of racism on campus and then try to create change through a more constructive curriculum and programs which will enable students to take action. Institutions should aim to influence their students to become the catalysts for change.
“YOU SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO TAKE A FIRST YEAR SEMINAR TAUGHT BY VARIOUS FACULTY MEMBERS OF THE MULTI-CULTURALISM AND ANTI-RACISM PRACTICES. THIS WOULD LEAD TO STUDENTS’ AWARENESS OF DIFFERENT RACIST ATTITUDES IN MODERN SOCIETY AND NOT JUST A SELECT FEW AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.” HOLLY HANSON
Resources: www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/20_02/orga202.shtml Banks, J.A. Teaching strategies for ethnic studies www.teachingtolerance.org (10 Ways to Fight Hate on Campus)
Ending Racism on a Personal Level
It is true that racism cannot be eradicated by any one individual but it is equally true that it takes the personal responsibility of each person in order to advance equality. Listed below are some simple steps one can take to ending racism on a personal level.
• *Make it your personal obligation to recognize how racism is denied, ignored or justified in your community.
• *Realize that it's your responsibility to speak out against racist comments or jokes, regardless of whether or not your racial group is the target.
• *Become more involved in cultural events that do not usually attract your own racial/ethnic group. Include family and friends in an effort to promote understanding and appreciation.
• *Support institutions that are currently or historically owned by minorities. (Dr. Hanson made this a priority in her own life by consciously visiting doctors and professionals that were people of color).
• *Participate in a diversity program.
• *Be proactive in eliminating the gaps that exist between whites and minority groups. For more information on finding a chapter in your area, visit http://www.nul.org/howtogetinvolved.html
• *Encourage and speak openly about the importance of minority representation in all leadership positions. Don't underestimate the power of your vote and voice. If you are a parent, form a coalition with other parents to stress the importance of a diverse student and teacher population. Demand to see equality working in action.
• *Educate yourself. Many influential writers and scholars have produced work for the purpose of educating whites on their privilege and in recognizing the inequalities that exist past the Civil Rights Movement. An impressive compilation of work, including selections on anti-racism for children, can be found at: http://www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk/books/DisplayCategoryBooklist.php?CatID=20 as well as http://www.tolerance.org.
• *Network with other anti-racist groups. Sign petitions, raise money or just be aware. Inspiration for an idea or help for getting starting can be found below: Resources: http://www.nul.org/howtogetinvolved.html http://www.now.org/chapters/index.html - designed specifically for women http://www.blink.org.uk/act_now.asp http://apex-ny.org/content/index.php?page=programs