When racism needs to be addressed but is being avoided, make it your job to initiate and facilitate a constructive conversation.

Racism is perpetuated by silence—and silence is complicity. Being “colorblind” often serves as a pretense to downplay the significance of race, deny the existence of racism, and erase the experience of students of color. Be willing to lead the uncomfortable conversations and turn them into teachable moments. Learn to break through your own discomfort to embrace the tensions and unknowns.

When racism needs to be addressed but is being avoided, make it your job to initiate and facilitate a constructive conversation. Don’t put the burden on students of color to have to bring things up or do all the heavy lifting to help white students learn. Even if you don’t feel confident or fully skilled, challenge yourself and be courageous. At the other end of the spectrum, you also don’t want too heavy-handed about race, where the discussion feels forced or too narrowly framed. Instead, you want to strategically provide the space for students to bring up their own angles onan issue. Let go of perfection and expect some messiness. Like anything else, it gets easier with practice.

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In This Section:

Intro: Creating the Space to Talk About Race
  1. Create a Welcoming Classroom and School
  2. Root Out Biases and Barriers
  3. Encourage Self-Expression
  4. Be Open Yourself
  5. Engage, Don’t Avoid
  6. Create Opportunities for Discussion
  7. Talk About Racism and Racial Equity
  8. Establish and Enforce Group Norms
  9. Process is as Important as Content
  10. Model Your Values and Vision

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This comprehensive NEA resource guide includes tools & resources for talking about race, conducting racial equity assessments, strategic planning, ideas for capacity building and action, FAQs, and a directory of web pages, documents and allied organizations focused on racial justice in education.
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“Creating the Space to Talk About Race in Your School” content on this web site and in our "Racial Justice in Education" resource guide © 2017 National Education Association, in collaboration with Race Forward.