If you want to get real about race, you have to also be willing to talk about racism and racial equity. Here are some concepts that you can introduce to add clarity and context to your discussions:

Race is not simply an individual characteristic or cultural identity. More significantly, it is a social category and a power dynamic—a marker of a racial group’s positional power in society. Racial identities are socially assigned, regardless of how you self-identify. While attention to diversity (variety) is important, it is even more critical to address equity (fairness or justice), since racism is fundamentally about power.

Racial equity is not just the absence of discrimination but also the presence of values and systems that ensure fairness and justice.

Systemic racism — inequities and ideas about race based on history, institutions and culture — routinely advantages white people and disadvantages people of color. Some racism is conscious and intentional, but a lot of racism is unconscious and unintentional (also known as implicit bias). Racism can be intensified by other intersecting inequities, such as gender and class, thus race requires explicit, but not exclusive attention.

Racial equity (or racial justice) is the systematic fair treatment of all people, resulting in fair opportunities and outcomes for everyone. Racial equity is not just the absence of discrimination but also the presence of values and systems that ensure fairness and justice. Systematic equity, which affirmatively and continually supports and ensures the fair treatment of all people, is needed to supplant the system of racism.

Racism is experienced at many levels—internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural. Interpersonal manifestations of racism get a lot of our attention because they are more visible and visceral. But they are often just the superficial symptoms of broader systems with deeper root causes. Engaging in a systems analysis, can help students identify deeper causes and generate options for solutions.

This can provide a productive path for your discussions, beginning with the sharing of personal experiences and observations of racism, then working through some analysis and arriving at proposed solutions and strategies to advance racial equity.

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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

Download the Full Resource Guide:

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.