Learning About Racism

This is a guest post by Becky.

As I’ve become more involved in the professional math teacher world, I’ve seen a lot of conversation and action around equity and specifically around addressing anti-black racism in and beyond the math classroom, and I’ve noticed many white teachers under-prepared to participate.

As a white person, I spent much of my life shielded from racial awareness. Once I started to tune in, I felt intimidated by my own ignorance. I have found that educating myself through a lot of reading and listening has been (and always will be) a vital component of my equity work, so that my friends and colleagues of color don’t bear the burden of teaching me the basics and I can build up the analysis guiding my action.

Something that I love about the #mtbos is our shared passion for continuous learning and growth. Here’s a very non-exhaustive list of some of my favorite resources on anti-black racism and anti-racist action. They are each good starting points or good deepening points, and I find myself referencing each of them often.

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In this article, Coates masterfully lays out our history of systemic property-based discrimination against black people, and how that dictates our present reality. Absolutely central to my current understanding of institutional racism and wealth disparities.

@prisonculture Mariame Kaba’s Twitter feed
By far my #1 most favorite Twitter follow, from whom I am constantly learning. I had picked out one of her blog posts to share but really I just want you to follow her. I learn a ton of activist history, theory, and strategy from Kaba, especially around prisons and policing. One idea she tweets about regularly: hope as a discipline.

“Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” by Nikole Hannah-Jones
A reporter on segregation in education reports on her own decision and experience as the parent of a black child. Through this article and her consistent voice on Twitter, Hannah-Jones pushes me to question, “If I wouldn’t accept this for my child, why is it acceptable for other children?”

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Dr. Tatum patiently and clearly explains developmental stages of racial identity formation in ways that have helped me understand both my own past experiences and what is happening for my students.

“Greening the Ghetto” Ted Talk by Majora Carter
Carter explains environmental justice and some of the disparate impacts of environmental degradation and city planning alongside her personal story and vision for change. I have an extra soft spot for her because after my students in New Orleans wrote her letters about their related experiences she flew out to meet them (!!!).

Meridian by Alice Walker
I am constantly trying to talk about this novel with people who turn out not to have read it, so if you do read it please hit me up to discuss! Warning that it includes sexual and racial violence.

No-Man’s-Land” by Eula Biss
Biss, a white woman, has shaped the way I think about whiteness and the meaning of fear through this essay.

If you give one or many of these a try and have thoughts or questions or criticisms or epiphanies, I would love to discuss them here or on Twitter. These are just a few of my favorite teachers-from-afar and I LOVE giving personalized reading and listening recommendations, so feel free to reach out for that too. What are some of your favorite resources for self-education about race?

(While it’s the focus of this post, I want to note that of course race and racism in the United States are not just black and white, and I hope that we’ll also have a lot of learning, conversation and action around other racial identities and oppressions.)

4 thoughts on “Learning About Racism

  1. goldenoj

    Currently, Ta Nehisi Coates – I’ll read anything he writes. Between the World and Me was devastating. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, too. Fiction and lecture, Danger of a Single Story.
    Classically, James Baldwin. The documentary I Am Not Your Negro was excellent, and, again, everything he writes is amazing.
    Educationally, Dr Tatum and Gloria Ladson Billings.
    Inspirationally, Dr King.
    Fictionally, Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler.

    1. becky

      I think the movie I Am Not Your Negro is my top example of a piece of media I didn’t appreciate that much when I first took it in but got a lot more out of it with time and reflection on its view of white leisure. Still, my favorite parts were the direct clips of Baldwin and it led to me reading The Fire Next Time, which was one of those books where I just wanted to dog-ear every page.

  2. Amy Zimmer

    Love your openness to having the conversation. Reading Javier Zamora’s poetry, “Unaccompanied,” is provocative and raw. I have Deray Mckesson’s, “A Case for Hope,” on my bedside. Have you read, “The 57 Bus?” It is the book I ask EVERYONE to read and would love a discussion.

    1. Becky

      I loved the original article The 57 Bus was based on, but I had mixed feelings about the book. Which aspects made you most eager for a discussion?


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