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Becoming an Antiracist Educator

What is Antiracism?

No one is born racist or antiracist, nor does anyone become a racist or antiracist. It is about the choices we make on a daily basis. "Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination," (Kendi, 2019, p. 23). 

Definitions, per Dr. Ibram X. Kendi (2019): 

  • Racist: "One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea," (p. 22).
  • Antiracist: "One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea," (p. 22).
  • Assimilationist: "One who is expressing the racist idea that a racial group is culturally or behaviorally inferior and is supporting cultural or behavioral enrichment programs to develop that racial group," (p. 24). 
  • Segregationist: "One who is expressing the racist idea that a permanently inferior racial group can never be developed and is supporting policy that segregates away that racial group," (p. 24). 
  • Race: "A power construct of collected or merged difference that lives socially," (p. 35). 



Additional Definitions of Key Terms & Concepts

Through the Lens of Education

The definitions below are derived from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, available at:

  • Bias: Attitudes or stereotypes that favor one group over another. Explicit biases are conscious beliefs and stereotypes that affect one’s understanding, actions, and decisions; implicit biases also affect one’s understanding, actions, and decisions but in an unconscious manner. Implicit biases reflect an individual’s socialization and experiences within broader systemic structures that work to perpetuate existing systems of privilege and oppression. An anti-bias approach to education explicitly works to end all forms of bias and discrimination.
  • Diversity: Variation among individuals, as well as within and across groups of individuals, in terms of their backgrounds and lived experiences. These experiences are related to social identities, including race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, social and economic status, religion, ability status, and country of origin. The terms diverse and diversity are sometimes used as euphemisms for non-White. NAEYC specifically rejects this usage, which implies that Whiteness is the norm against which diversity is defined.
  • Equity: The state that would be achieved if individuals fared the same way in society regardless of race, gender, class, language, disability, or any other social or cultural characteristic. In practice, equity means all children and families receive necessary supports in a timely fashion so they can develop their full intellectual, social, and physical potential.
    • Equity is not the same as equality. Equal treatment given to individuals at unequal starting points is inequitable. Instead of equal treatment, NAEYC aims for equal opportunity. This requires considering individuals’ and groups’ starting points, then distributing resources equitably (not equally) to meet needs. Attempting to achieve equality of opportunity without considering historic and present inequities is ineffective, unjust, and unfair.
  • Inclusion: Embodied by the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and their family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to help them reach their full potential.79 Although the traditional focus of inclusion has been on addressing the exclusion of children with disabilities, full inclusion seeks to promote justice by ensuring equitable participation of all historically marginalized children.
  • Intersectionality: The overlapping and interdependent systems of oppression across, for example, race, gender, ability, and social status. Intersectionality encourages us to embrace and celebrate individuals’ multiple social identities. It also highlights the complex and cumulative effects of different forms of structural inequity that can arise for members of multiple marginalized groups.
  • Marginalization: The process by which specific social groups are pushed to the edges or margins of society. Marginalized groups are treated as less important or inferior through policies or practices that reduce their members’ economic, social, and political power.
  • Microaggressions: Everyday verbal, nonverbal, or environmental messages that implicitly contain a negative stereotype or are in some way dehumanizing or othering. These hidden messages serve to invalidate the recipients’ group identity, to question their experience, to threaten them, or to demean them on a personal or group level. Microaggressions may result from implicit or explicit biases. People who commit microaggressions may view their remarks as casual observations or even compliments and may not recognize the harm they can cause.
  • Norm, normative: The definition of certain actions, identities, and outcomes as the standard (“the norm” or “normal”), with everything else as outside the norm. For example, the terms White normativity or heteronormative refer to instances in which Whiteness and heterosexuality are considered normal or preferred. Such norms wrongly suggest that all other races and sexual orientations are outside the norm or are less preferable. Art activities focused on filling out a family tree, with designated spaces for “mommy,” “daddy,” “grandma,” and “grandpa,” for example, may assume a two-parent, heterosexual household as the normative family structure. (While some research-based norms provide guidance regarding healthy child development and appropriate educational activities and expectations, these norms have too often been derived through research that has only or primarily included nonrepresentative samples of children or has been conducted primarily by nonrepresentative researchers. Additional research, by a more representative selection of researchers and theorists, is needed to develop new norms that will support equitably educating all children.)
  • Oppression: The systematic and prolonged mistreatment of a group of people.
  • Privilege: Unearned advantages that result from being a member of a socially preferred or dominant social identity group. Because it is deeply embedded, privilege is often invisible to those who experience it without ongoing self-reflection. Privilege is the opposite of marginalization or oppression that results from racism and other forms of bias.
  • Structural inequities: The systemic disadvantage of one or more social groups compared to systemic advantage for other groups with whom they coexist. The term encompasses policy, law, governance, and culture and refers to race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, class, sexual orientation, and other domains. 
  • White fragility: A concept based on the observation that White people in North America and other parts of the world live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress, heightening their expectations for racial comfort and lowering their ability to tolerate racial stress. Even small amounts of racial stress can be intolerable to White people and can trigger defensive actions designed to restore the previous equilibrium and comfort.