Antiracist Curriculum: Racism-It’s Not OK!
Antiracist curriculum is something that unlike the one the news is often not taught in the classroom. Anti-Racist Workbook (Full lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers) curriculum is crucial to creating young adults that are not biased, racist, or prejudice. I personally teach and sell curriculum for tolerance and anti-racism for the older students such as middle or high school, but I recognize the importance of starting in earlier years. Opal Tometi, community organizer, human rights activist, and co-founder of #blacklivesmatter shared, “What we need now more than ever is a human rights movement that challenges systemic racism in every single context.” We CAN do this! And it’s easiest and best to start young.
The first thing to understand is that kindness won’t end racism. It is a start but we need more action. Anti-racism is lifelong work, and is worth the sweat and tears it takes to provide a better future for our children.
Antiracist Curriculum: History
The second thing we need to teach students is to learn the history of this land we live in. I chuckle every time I hear a close member of my family (a Canadian citizen) grumble about refugees or immigrants coming into the United States. Something so obviously hypocritical is lost to some adults. This is why we need to teach young children about immigration, Native Americans, Ellis Island, etc. There are many resources such as the NativeLand app, or you can google search “Who were the inhabitants of….” and enter your city name. Learning about the history of the land we live on will help us to accept the past and become better messengers for those who will come long after us. Have students talk about re-writing history books. What could be taken out, what could be added. Take some time to look at some online resources asking questions such as, is this true? How reliable is this resource? An additional activity is to have students interview a family member (preferably the eldest member of the family to gain context into their ancestral history)
Antiracist Curriculum: Values
Elementary school is not too early to teach students about values. Even at a young age students know what it is important to them, to their family, friends, and at school. Provide students with a list of values and have them choose seven of the values that are important in their lives. Next have them narrow it down to three values that are most important to them. This leaves out school, family and others and helps them to find their own identities. You then address how these values will help keep students anchored when anti-racism feels overwhelming, or exciting.
Students will learn the difference between race and ethnicity. Have students next create an anti-racist vision. What would our world be like, look like, feel like as an anti-racist world? How does this affect students directly in our state? country? and world? How will we get there and what is their role as a person or citizen in this process?
Antiracist Curriculum: Identity
Students will create a diagram about themselves that will help to make-up and include topics such as: what is your favorite color, food, friends, pastime, places to visit? Once students have identified simple questions and answers about themselves, you will get into more complex questions such as: education, family, nationality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation (use best judgment here), religion, language, and talents? This is a great assignment to do at the start of the year so that students learn about each other!
Let students know that no matter what age they are, their voice matters. Give examples of young activists, such as Mari Copeny who has been advocating for racial justice since she was eight-years-old. She states, “If they don’t want to listen to you at first, keep talking, they will eventually have to hear you out. And once they hear you out, they will see that you have a unique view of the world and that your opinion matters.”
Anti-Racist Curriculum: Diversity
Students will take some time to look at their own world in relation to diversity. So, what nationality, race, religion etc. are your friends, teachers, family, author’s you read, historical figures they learn about, etc. Once they have established answers to these questions they can gauge how diverse their world is. This is an assignment for the older elementary such as fourth and fifth grade.
Provide students opportunities to reflect and process the material they are learning. This curriculum can be daunting for some students, so try and keep the assignments light, and never condemn a student for having a less diverse world. This is strictly for reflective purposes at this age group. There is no victory in shaming a student for being any particular race. Mindfulness activities are great ways to take breaks and clear the mind of anything that frustrates students. A great self-affirming activity can be to have students create a comic strip of themselves and their super powers.
Study a Historical Activist
Have students study a historical activist. Prior to studying an activist, have them look at their own history. This is a great chance to address the narrative standard. Have students talk about who they would want to have an interview with and what questions they would ask them. They can create a mock interview on video, or paper depending on their level of comfort with technology. Have students write about what they would have done if they could have supported this particular activist.
Anti-Racist Curriculum: Self-Care
Self-care: have students create self-affirmations about how great they are throughout the anti-racist curriculum unit. As mentioned earlier, this can be a daunting curriculum for some, and the idea is not to shame, guilt, or make anyone feel bad about who they or who their family is. Do check-ins, journaling, mindfulness, and self-care activities throughout the unit. Be mindful of students who have already been dealing with or learning about the effects of racism. Michelle Obama once stated, “Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us-black, white, everyone-no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.”
Anti-Racist Curriculum: Power
It’s important to teach students about power. Who has it…who doesn’t…how some is corrupt. To do this take a look at different institutions that hold power: government, education, adults, teachers, etc. You must be careful in this portion of the curriculum because you do not want to scare children into a paranoia of adults. You want to instill a healthy amount questioning of procedures, policies, rules, etc. Start with using an arbitrary rule at another elementary school and have a collaborative discussion about the rule.
Have students practice creativity throughout the lesson to keep it engaging. Some ideas are to create buttons with slogans on them such as things that need to be changed on campus such as bullying. Write a letter and put it in a time capsule for their future selves, write notes to themselves about information they choose at this time not to share with others (some kids hide things like a second language, or their ethnicity). The Whiteness Project is a great resource for older students. Create an anti-racist toolbox with items they need to calm themselves in times of racist strife.
Create Possible Scenarios
Create scenarios for students on strips of paper where racism occurs. Pair students up and have them practice with a partner on how to respond. Have students who are comfortable act out their scenarios. Take notes on how to handle racist scenarios, and create additional scenarios students can be ready for.
Positive Role Models
Provide excerpts and images of current activists, who they are, what their race is, what they do to make the world a better place. Students need examples of what they can do today. Some students only have seen violence on television, or perceived violence on television as examples of how to change the world. This is not the way. Some examples of young-positive-role-model-activists are: Winona Guo, Priya Vulchi, Zyahna Bryant, Mari Copeny, and Marley Dias. Talk to students about their comfort levels and safety zones.
Safety is important to address in that we wouldn’t want a student to confront a racist without support or safety measures. An example of a bad time to confront racism is in a scenario such as at a location, with an adult when they are alone. A safe time would be to stand up to a friend who tells a racist joke, bullies a student who they perceive as “different.” Do NOT complete this unit without going over safety scenarios and safety measures.
To finalize the unit have students create an anti-racist routine or schedule for each day. The topics to include are: wake up each day and observe. Know who you are by knowing your history. Choose a path and take action-respond to racism. Work alone and with others to combat racism-sometimes it can be a student’s best friend who is racist. Build relationships with those who are not racist, learn self-care, and wake up each day and repeat.
I would love to hear ideas and comments about how you use anti-racist curriculum in your classroom! Please respond below in the comments section!
Curriculum on Teachers Pay Teachers:
To visit the “African American Novel Study” shop, click HERE
To visit the “Teach for Inclusion” shop, click HERE
For a blog post on Tolerance Anti Bias Curriculum, click HERE