Are You An Anti-Racist Educator? Here are Seven Questions to Help You Decide.

Last week, something in my spirit told me to create an Instagram post on Canva that stated the following: 

Okay people, the jury is out!  What’s the verdict? Are you ANTIRACIST or AUNTIE RACIST?

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What say you? #EducatorsInAction #IdentityTalk

A post shared by Kwame Sarfo-Mensah (@kwam_the_identity_shaper) on

I must admit that the use of the term “Auntie” was a comical, yet intentional move. To calm my Black rage, I needed to incorporate a dose of comedy to help balance the weight of the increasing racial tension that has shaken our nation to its core. 

As I created the post, I couldn’t help but think about the stories of Lisa Alexander, Amy Cooper, and countless “Karens” in the recent past who have used their White privilege to dehumanize and belittle Black folks. The harsh reality is that we have “Karens” in our school system who traumatize young Black students and, too often, are not held accountable for their actions.

This all-star educator roster of “Karens” includes student teachers, lead teachers, principals and superintendents. And I would be remiss if I didn’t include the head coach of the squad who certainly needs no introduction, Secretary Betsy DeVos.

As with every successful team, the chemistry between the players is key. In this case, the chemistry that binds these women together is grounded in a foundation of racism, White supremacy and White privilege. It is with this championship formula that they are able to keep the school-to-prison pipeline running. 

Conversely, we have another group of White female educators who are well-intentioned in their efforts to build strong, positive relationships with their Black students. However, their efforts to connect may come off as positioning themselves as White saviors or “White teacher heroes.” For those who need a crash course on the “White savior,” I strongly recommend you watch Dangerous Minds, which is arguably the greatest White savior teacher movie of all-time!  

The women in this group subconsciously allow their implicit biases to dictate their instructional and disciplinary approaches toward Black students. As a result, it’s no surprise when they’re in denial about their actions and make unsubstantiated claims about colorblindness and equality. 

The “Karens” I mentioned earlier in this piece are clearly a lost cause, but this particular group is worth saving. And that is why I’d like to provide them with seven key questions to help them determine where they fall on the anti-racist scale.

Where Do You Fall On the Anti-Racism Scale?

  1. Have you acknowledged your White privilege?
  1. Are you aware that your implicit biases play an integral role in the way that you teach, engage with and discipline your Black students?
  1. Are you aware that your implicit biases can impact your ability to actively engage and partner with parents of your Black students? 
  1. In what ways do you incorporate the cultural diversity of your Black students into your lesson planning, curriculum work and instructional practice?
  1. When determining learning resources (ex. books, articles) to use with your Black students, do you take the time to assess the historical accuracy or cultural validity of the content? 
  1. In what ways are you building positive relationships your Black students and educating yourself about the realities of your Black students’ lives outside of school?
  1. Do you assess the intellectual capabilities of your Black students through a deficit-based lens or focus more on their potential to thrive academically?

To the White female educators who are reading this post: I ask that you review the questions and please be honest in your responses. Also, keep in mind that you all make up approximately 80% of the nation’s teacher workforce. Therefore, the fate of Black students in this nation is very much in your hands. They need you more than ever!

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