As we navigate the path towards combating racism, it is essential to recognise that the responsibility falls not only on the shoulders of educators who are part of the global majority, but also on white educators. Acknowledging this requires that white educators consciously seek to adopt a new narrative for themselves and their roles in standing up for racial justice and a fairer world for all. In this blog, we delve into why anti-racist work is not optional and the steps white educators can take towards claiming their agency and being a part of the change.
Acknowledging the Journey
Embarking on the journey of anti-racist work can be both enlightening and uncomfortable. The invitation for you, if you are a white educator, is for you to consciously step into a space to explore your own racial identity and biases, which undoubtedly will have been ingrained from an early age. Consequently, this is a process of unlearning and challenging deeply embedded societal norms. This journey requires self-reflection, vulnerability, and a willingness to confront uncomfortable personal truths about intra and interpersonal relationships and the systems surrounding them.
Navigating Unfamiliar Terrain
For many white educators, understanding whiteness as a social construct and its impact on anti-racist practices may be uncharted territory. Traditional teacher training and leadership development programmes have not typically emphasised the importance of this critical self-reflection. As a result, many white educators find themselves grappling with unfamiliar concepts and navigating new dimensions of racial awareness. Acknowledging the discomfort and uncertainty that may arise during this process is okay. The most important thing is to lean in. Not to fight, flight, or flee. But to stay with the discomfort and appreciate that new learning can only arise when we remain at our growing edges.
Understanding our own racial identity is an ongoing journey. Our identities are such precious parts of who we are, how we engage with the world, and how we see ourselves. Yet, if you have been racialised as white, it’s highly likely that your own racial identity has never been explored. Why? Because there is a predominant narrative in our society that says, “Race belongs to those who are ‘not white’. To be white is to be raceless.” But this is a fiction created to try and cement centuries of colonialism and racist thinking. Race only exists because of racism and if you can comprehend that, then you may begin to understand how if you are white, you, too, have a race. In this context, understanding your own race identity development/consciousness is critical if you are to claim agency as an anti-racist educator.
Embracing Growth and Learning
Engaging in anti-racist work is a life-long pursuit requiring continuous learning commitment. We must be willing to make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt our approach. This work is not about perfection, but progress and actively working towards creating an environment that promotes equity, justice, and inclusivity. Embrace the discomfort and challenges along the way, knowing that this journey’s personal and professional growth is invaluable.
Supporting Collective Transformation
Most of our School Leaders here in the UK are white and if you are reading this and identify as white, then I hope that you, too, recognise that you have a unique position of influence and power within your school communities. By actively engaging in anti-racist work, you can contribute to collective transformation. This work is not about seeking recognition or absolving guilt; it is about dismantling systems of oppression and fostering an environment where all students feel seen, heard, and valued. By standing up against racism, you can become an advocate for change and an ally to all those who want to create a better tomorrow for everyone!
These steps are just the beginning, but by embracing them and consciously addressing the invisibility of whiteness, white educators can become confident anti-racist practitioners.
Need some help furthering your reflections?
If you’d like to go further on your journey of reflection, we invite you to engage in our seven steps to becoming an effective anti-racist School Leader self-assessment tool. This assessment will enable you to reflect on your current practices, identify areas for growth, and chart your progress as you work towards becoming an anti-racist leader in your school community.
By taking the self-assessment, you will gain valuable insights into your strengths and areas that require further attention. It will serve as a roadmap, guiding you towards meaningful actions and strategies for moving forward.
To access the self-assessment tool, click here. Upon completion, you will receive a personalised report summarising your results and providing recommendations for the next steps. Remember, this self-assessment is not a one-time activity but an ongoing process. Revisit it periodically to gauge your growth and reassess your efforts. Together, let’s commit to being agents of transformation within our schools and communities.