Tackling racism, what works? Common missteps to avoid plus resources to help

What does it mean to purposefully and intentionally 'tackle' racism? And how will we hold ourselves accountable to each other and for the young people we serve in international education?

As we all continue to learn, strategise and take action across our community, we asked speakers from our upcoming Tackling Racism Workshop Series to identify some of the common missteps or misconceptions that educational leaders and educators make in their goal to address and tackle racism. They share useful resources too.

 

Describe some of the common missteps or misconceptions that educational leaders and educators make when tackling racism in their schools and universities

headshot of Eeqbal Hassim

Dr Eeqbal Hassim: In my experience working with schools and universities, I have seen two common, recurring misconceptions that educators make when attempting to tackle racism. The first is the notion that a typical formula exists to tackle racism. The problem with this notion is that ‘typical’ borders on being stereotypical. Racism is perpetrated differently by different people in varying contexts; the same may be said about experiences of racism. Yet, a formulaic approach assumes a high degree of commonality and transferability. While many aspects of racism and discrimination are indeed systemic and institutionalised, the research on common, transferable approaches still requires considerable development. Another misconception is wanting to move on quickly to the ‘how’ of tackling racism before spending a good amount of time on the ‘why’, which necessitates critical deep dives into complex issues and intersections of identity, race, culture, ethnicity, language, and religion, from social, psychological, historical and political perspectives. 

From the series of workshops, I would like participants to develop a rich and nuanced understanding of how approaches to tackle racism within schools and universities should be tailored to context and developed organically, building on people’s diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives with respect to race and issues tied to race.

headshot of Cynthia Roberson

Cynthia Roberson: I think one of the most common misconceptions is believing that racism does not exist in international school spaces, where there are few Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) stakeholders or in places outside of America. To say that racism is a global issue is not an exaggeration; it is a fact. If it weren't, colonialism would have never thrived, the Transatlantic Slave Trade would not have been possible, and we would not have countless BIPOC groups fighting for equality and access today. International mindedness cannot be just a performative idea that we tout for optics and convenience. We must align promise with practice within the entire international school community. And all stakeholders need to be included.

headshot of Eleanor Parker

Dr Eleanor Parker: One of the most common missteps is to ask your communities repeatedly for data to evidence there is a problem. We know there is a problem and asking for evidence once more from our communities places unnecessary and traumatic burden on them to relive difficult experiences. Often data already exists and we just haven’t shared it appropriately or acted on it; there are often others in our community who have asked these questions before and they may have been silenced. You will probably have your case for action already; the challenge is to gain traction at all levels of the community, something we will explore in the workshop.

 

There are a lot of resources and information out there, it can be overwhelming. Can you recommend resources that are a good place to start for educational leaders and educators?

headshot of Judith King Calnek

Judith King-Calnek: It seems like my mailbox is increasingly flooded each day with announcements and invitations and links to diversity webinars, newsletters, organizations and such. The amount of information can be overwhelming. Because we are all coming from different degrees of understanding and experience, yet we all harbor some sort of bias(es), whether we are aware of them or not, the article See No Bias (Vedantam, 2005) is a very good starting point to better understand the subtle and persistent power of biases and their potential impact on our actions. Race, The Power of An Illusion is a three-part film that provides an excellent explanation of the fallacy of race as a biological concept and its reality as a social construct in the US. In terms of understanding this particular moment in history, which has been the impetus of many DEI initiatives, Trevor Noah's explanation offers an excellent framework to begin discussions. Lastly, a good number of colleagues has reported that they've gotten a lot from the podcast Nice White Parents.  

headshot of Cynthia Roberson

Cynthia Roberson: Books—Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Talkin' Up to the White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Inglorious Empire: What The British Did To India by Shashi Tharoor
Social Media (Me)—Twitter: Cynthia Roberson and Facebook Group: The Antiracists Collective.

 

An extensive list of resources will be shared with workshop participants too.

 


Related content that helps us to tackle racism together: