Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 06 2012

How To Talk About Race?

Hey Teacher Community,


My school is trying to start dialogue on our staff about race, class, privilege, and how our own identities affect our classrooms. We have an extremely diverse group of students and a predominately white staff, and some of our teachers have expressed interest in gaining more awareness about the various issues that should be considered in a diverse community.


Does anyone have resources on how to most productively engage in these conversations? Many of our staff members have never really thought about these things in a deep way before, so we need to find out how to introduce important ideas in a way that is effective without just making people feel defensive and shutting down.


Resources or just general advice would be really appreciated, either in the comments or to [email protected]


Thank you!

5 Responses

  1. Wess

    The first book that comes to mind about race and identity development is Dr. Beverly Tatum’s “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” I know I had to read parts of it as TFA pre-reading, and I’m not sure whether you did the same. I’ve heard the book criticized for being too gentle to the white audience it’s written for, but I don’t think it leaves anything crucial out (haven’t read it for a while, though). I know also that TFA has a conversation series based on this book that staff members currently take part in–I haven’t seen it and don’t know how to access it, but I wonder whether you could use resources from that?

    You could use pieces from “Critical Race Theory Matters: Education and Ideology” by Margaret Zamudio. The last four chapters have some really deliciously great counter-narratives that bring up a lot of CRT concepts without being too dry or theoretical. Other books on my list (I haven’t read these yet, but I know they’re worth looking at): Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Tim Wise’s “White Like Me: reflections from a privileged son,” and James Loewen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”

    However! There’s a lot of (free) stuff available online, too. You could do a lot by starting with the Invisible Knapsack ( and then looking at some blogs (, (, ( Racism basics are on FAQ pages, usually.

    The struggle, of course, is that anti-racist blogs usually don’t deal with classroom issues specifically (which is part ofTFA’s struggle creating relevant DCA curriculum). And while it’s valuable, I imagine doing strictly non-teaching-related race consciousness-building could lead to a lot of silent moments following the question “so how can we relate this to the classroom?” I wouldn’t want people to feel like it’s not valuable because they don’t see how it directly relates. Or for that matter, to feel like it is valuable but just doesn’t relate. You could do some looking online for anti-racist teacher blogs, maybe, but I haven’t found much:

  2. Here’s a mind blowing speech by Jeff Andrade that relates race and class to what we need to do as educators.

    I found it an incredibly effective introduction to these discussions.

    Powerful stuff.

  3. Dave

    The big eye opener for me was privilege and its relationship to success. I had to have my eyes open for many examples before I could piece together an understanding. For example:

    The people of India simply don’t have access to the turf fields necessary to learn unique skills necessary for Olympic competition.

    Unfortunately, a willingness to accept the concept of “privilege” is not something all people have. It’s often a religious or politically-based belief. If someone comes into this discussion and they firmly believe that every student is able to bootstrap themselves into Magna Cum Laude at Harvard, they’re not being positive or constructive, they’re just ignoring the problems. It’s much better to recognize the problems, prioritize them, and solve the ones that can be solved.

  4. Eva

    Hey! I’m pumped that you’re working on this stuff. I agree with all of the above suggestions. I’d also encourage you to dig deep into literature about white privilege and white antiracism (which goes beyond just valuing diversity). I love Tim Wise’s book “White Like Me”, as well as this YouTube clip that really paints a striking portrait of privilege and the myth of meritocracy:

    The age-old (but eternally awesome and effective) article on “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is also super accessible for folks new to this convo. This link includes a variety of facilitation guides, suggested activities and additional resources:

    Dr. Tatum also has an excellent article about white antiracist allies:

    Lastly, I’d recommend checking out resources for yourself to ensure that you’re supporting staff members of color as they engage in this conversation with a predominantly white team. Whether you’re a person of color or not, this guide may be helpful for you to counter expressions of white privilege among adults in a seminar setting:

  5. I have found this article can be powerful, especially for white educators:

    And as one’s colleagues become more able to talk powerfully about race, it provides a good way to check each other. It’s really easy to fall back into “Discourse One” thinking.

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