Since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Arbery and subsequent protests, anti-racism has been in public discourse Played a more important role. This debate is not new, but only recently popular. It involves institutions and individuals, including universities and the educators they hire.
At the University of Southern California, organizations around anti-racism, especially anti-racism pedagogy, have emerged through multiple channels, including a small group of doctoral students. Fearing the resurgence of alternative right and nationalist agitation after the 2016 presidential election, these students planned and led a forum to exchange views on various approaches to anti-racism pedagogy. By reviewing the successes and shortcomings of this exchange in the subsequent years of development, we will promote a bottom-up anti-racism work model among university professionals.
In the initial forum, some contributors proposed methods that focused on eliminating white supremacy, while others emphasized cross-analysis of race, class, gender, and sexual behavior. Based on the participants’ identities and experiences as early professional scholars, Dialogue acknowledged the need to change university policies and curricula, while deliberately making anti-racism pedagogy a practice that any educator willing to participate can use.
After the forum, doctoral students also cooperated with university librarians to create a Library guide With a brief text summary, such as James Baldwin’s “Talks with Teachers”, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Drawing the Edge: Intersection, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” and Robin DiAngelo’s White fragile. In the next academic year, the 2018-19 academic year, the group aims to increase cross-departmental cooperation through chairing Community discussion This involves topics such as diversity, alliances, and structural racism.
As an early group participant who helped obtain funding for community discussions through USC Libraries Dean’s Challenge grants, we first considered setting up a reading group, just like many other institutions and departments have done. But we want to reduce the barriers to joining the conversation as much as possible, because as far as we know, this type of conversation is not common in our universities. Designed to create an entry point for key concepts while still inviting analytical reflection, each discussion moderator will read in depth or borrow prior knowledge of a given topic. All topics are defined as specific but open questions, such as “What is a real ally, and does it really exist?” After introducing the ideas of thinkers trying to answer related questions, the coordinator then introduced a series of discussion prompts. For group communication.
Using this format, counselors can find expertise in the reading and research they participate in, rather than themselves.For example, in the discussion about allies, the range of references includes such things as Race War Fatigue in Higher Education Event organization, such as Indigenous Action Media. Rather than providing simple definitions or detailed checklists, research-based methods can also help promote informed and nuanced reflection among colleagues.
The symposium publicly invited all kinds of new and old teachers who “want to make the classroom not only safe but also fair”. Each meeting has many faculty, staff, doctoral students and teaching assistants. In a group that meets regularly, the discussion norms are usually formulated and strengthened by the group in its initial meeting. Since our attendance numbers vary, we build this process into each event separately. When participants responded to the discussion, they were asked to come up with a discussion guide or dialogue norm to create a comfortable space for them to listen and speak. They were then asked to check the box next to “By participating, I agree to abide by the norms set by the participants in this discussion.”
At the beginning of each discussion, the host introduced the specifications suggested by the participants, and the discussion continued after everyone agreed again. Common norms include using “I” statements, avoiding personal attacks, and practicing active listening. Such norms seem to minimize misconduct, but unfortunately it does not eliminate misconduct, because a counselor did encounter an interrogation from an uninvited guest. In our experience, limiting discussions to university professionals with teaching responsibilities is most effective in ensuring collaboration and productive communication.
We planned the topics for each discussion at the beginning of the year so as not to overlap too much or not enough; however, the facilitators choose specific issues for discussion based on their interests and work areas. In the 2018-19 school year, we discussed:
- What is the anti-racism pedagogy in the era of diversity?
- What is a real ally, does it really exist?
- How can teachers encourage and value diverse knowledge?
- How do we recognize and strive to change the racist structure of academia in the classroom?
- How do we deal with racist texts in the anti-racism classroom?
Using research and experience to solve these problems, participants solve classroom challenges, discuss homework ideas, and exchange suggestions and questions on an equal footing. For example, we considered Bell Hooks’ concept of “education is a free practice”, which reflects the expression of traditional and digital publishing, and brainstormed ways to solicit personal and analytical criticism in writing prompts. Because we don’t need to participate often, and each discussion topic attracts different participants, the group dynamics are constantly changing. This, coupled with our discussion norms and frequent division into smaller groups, prevents any kind of voice, topic, or dialogue mode from dominating.
In each community discussion, group members will take notes on the conversation and post slides and notes to our website Soon after. We hope that posting anonymous discussion notes can lower the barriers to participation because it allows people to participate asynchronously and catch up before the next discussion.
At the end of the 2018-19 school year, we met to discuss how to move forward. Although the community discussion successfully created an opt-in learning community, these educators are considered non-experts in anti-racism pedagogy and are willing to participate in meaningful and influential conversations, but we hope to deepen and expand our influence range. In order to connect more deeply with students, we designed a quantitative and qualitative study to ask undergraduates their views on the best practices of our university’s anti-racism pedagogy. As we continue to seek sufficient funding for this project, we insist that this type of student feedback will help ensure the actual relevance and effectiveness of our work.
In order to connect with colleagues more widely, many of our members have also begun to lead dialogues within their respective departments as part of graduate seminars, staff training and teaching seminars. In addition, we continue to maintain the research guide, which has seen a surge in online views since anti-racism discussions became mainstream in mid-2020.
With the surge in interest in anti-racism pedagogy from multiple institutions, which often leads to related quick fixes, we want to provide some guidelines to start a university group committed to long-term, sustainable change. They are as follows:
- Integrate the discussion of anti-racism pedagogy into the existing framework. We provided free on-campus lunches during community discussions, but if remote work continues to be the new normal for your institution, please consider starting an online group at lunchtime, as people may eat at home. Or, consider incorporating anti-racism teaching discussions into established, usually mandatory departmental meetings.
- Be prepared to respond to external demands for professional knowledge and specific takeaways. The diversity of university brands is usually prescriptive; it deals with numbers, rules, and predetermined results. In contrast, we view anti-racism pedagogy as a practice of constantly questioning and honing our own teaching concepts so that new classroom practices can emerge naturally and truthfully. This method is an important part of our advocacy.
- Think creatively when building partnerships and organizing groups. At first, we thought the institutional offices and training centers on campus were our ideal partners, but in the end our best conversations and partners came from those who were also considered non-experts-such as writing project faculty, librarians, and graduate students . When the teaching expert was also present, the situation changed. We recommend dividing large groups into smaller groups, so that people with similar levels of expertise can talk freely.
- Acknowledge that people have the ability to create the reality of change. Many teachers participating in the discussion are part-time teachers or teaching parts of the course, where the course outline is predetermined. Although large-scale structural changes are the ultimate goal, the group specifically encourages members to devote their energy to things they are capable of changing, such as structuring classroom discussions, how they interact with students, or establishing classroom norms and communities.
- Start with a shared teaching concept and put the focus there. The people in our discussion come from very different knowledge bases on anti-racism pedagogy and related concepts. We chose reading materials that we think can be read by people who lack experience on the subject, while still providing growth for people with a lot of knowledge. Anchoring our discussion to a specific argument or set of principles—for example, a safe/brave space or personalized guidance—also helps us focus our discussion without leading to despair or circular discussions.
- Be careful to re-establish the hierarchy you are trying to demolish. A university is a hierarchical institution built around the student/professor or novice/expert gap. To avoid such disagreements in community discussions, we recommend that participants collectively establish discussion norms every time. In our experience, such regulations can prevent any person or type of person from leading the conversation, including the facilitator.
As colleges and universities respond to the continuing need for anti-racism efforts through major administrative reforms, we maintain the equal importance of the bottom-up approach. Instead of assigning individuals, especially people of color, to be responsible for reinventing the entire system, anti-racism education groups can help resolve racism as a community problem that requires the same public solutions.