Racial Justice in Education – Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: How can I get people to talk about race when they always want to change the subject?
People are more willing to talk about issues when conversations:
- Stress values that unite rather than divide (e.g., “opportunity,” “community” instead of “to each his/her own”).
- Bundle solutions with any problem description, in order to avoid “compassion fatigue” and helplessness.
- Focus on situations that anyone might find themselves in, like the loss of a job).
- Use images that offer shorthand for complex issues, such as competing in a race but having to begin it from behind the starting line as an image suggesting unequal opportunity and ongoing disadvantage).
They are also more likely to turn off conversations that:
- Criticize people instead of policies, practices, and proposals. It’s better to focus on Policy X rather than Senator Y)
- Use too many numbers without a storyline for understanding them. For example, it’s better to focus on the harm to children from under-resourced schools rather than a stand-alone litany of numbers reflecting inequitable resources.
- Use a rhetorical rather than practical tone. Up-front accusations of racist intent typically make people defensive and unwilling to reason with you.
In This Section:
- Intro: Racial Justice in Education - Frequently Asked Questions
- Q1: How can I get people to talk about race when they always want to change the subject?
- Q2: Race is always so sensitive to talk about. How can I keep a conversation focused and productive?
- Q3: When people do talk about race, and they use the dominant model of thinking, how can I get them to focus on policies, programs, and practices as sources of racial disparities?
- Q4: Data make a strong case about embedded racial inequities, but some people still don’t get it. Why?
- Q5: Could you give me an example of how to apply all of these points?
- Q6: No matter what I do, people don’t understand. Help!
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.