We are all anti-racist, but — how do we teach this in our classroom?

29 December 2020 | Hot Topic, Practitioners

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We are all anti-racist, but — how do we teach this in our classroom?  

by Kirsten Waechter 

Not only since Black Lives Matter gained momentum, interculturalists have been tackling issues of bias, prejudice, stereo types and diversity – and thus racism and discrimination in different forms. In this teaching tip, I would like to share with you three ideas of what I do in my classroom to raise aware ness because for me, awareness is always the starting point.  How aware are we of our biases? How aware are we of our own privileges? How aware are we of our part in history? 

1.How aware are we of our biases? 

In this context, I work a lot with pictures. Pictures and images influence us very subtly and often we are not aware of our negative or positive response to this. One of my activities is called “Future biographies”. This exercise is designed to challenge our own perception of what is (stereo) typical. Choose pictures of children from different ethnicities and gender. Ask students to write the biographies of these children. Quite likely, their expectations will be shaped by race and gender. Then show them who these people really were and ask them to do research on them. Have them present their findings to the class and compare the results with their own ideas. In the strip shown above, I used pictures of Amelia Earheart, Katherine Johnson, Alan Turing and Nelson Mandela. 

2.How aware are we of our own privileges?

Like a lot of people, I see myself in a double-bind situation: although I might be discriminated against as a woman, I certainly enjoy privileges of living in a white, Western European country. Sonia Thomas’ quiz about privilege seems to be a bit trivial in the beginning but once you started taking a closer look at the questions it reveals how many aspects influence the way we are seen and how race and racism are connected to the lack of privilege rooted in the lack of money or social opportunities. Once you have asked your students to take it, you should not only discuss their results but also debrief them by analyzing the questions more deeply: it helps to reveal how mechanisms of discrimination work and how often we take things for granted.  

3.How aware are we of our part in history?

Pop songs can make a great vehicle for education. Beyoncé and Jay-Z did that in their video for “Everything is Love”, which was filmed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. They pose against statues of African gods stolen by the French colonial power; they pose in front of a painting of Napoléon who repealed antislavery laws in 1802; they juxtapose the portrait of Madame Récamier with two black women sitting on the floor of the museum, sending the message that it was on the backs of black slaves that people like her were able to enjoy their privileged lives, and so on. Nothing in this video is chance or arbitrary and offers a lot of questions for the classroom. You may find Will Gompertz’ review of the video extremely useful in which he reveals a lot of the references to black history made in the video. 

The SIETAR Journal editorial team invites you to share your ideas: how do you teach about racism in your classroom? For that purpose, we have created a google form where you can add the description of one activity or tool. Help us build a database of teaching tools in the fight against racism. 

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