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Centering Race

January 11, 2022

Where we once used the term “anti-bias education,” we now are using the term “anti-bias/anti-racist education”.  Why the change?  And, why are we centering race?

Racism in the United States integrates economic, political, social and institutional actions and beliefs that maintain an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between white people and peoples of color (Center for Anti-racist Education). We see this throughout all aspects of our society, including in schools and classrooms. 

In early childhood classrooms, we may see inequitable access to images, stories, histories, books and materials that reflect people of color – thus centering whiteness.  We may see inequitable practices of ‘calling on students to speak’ or behavioral expectations. We may hear songs(or math word problems) whose characters’ names, settings, and props reflect predominantly white culture. 

Though, in our teaching, we also see and acknowledge inequities around a myriad of intersectional social identities, we center race as the core of our lens and our thinking – acknowledging the historic, foundational, and systemic impact of racism on all of us and on all of the other forms of oppression found in our society.    

When educators center race, do our own personal reflecting and learning about racism, and discuss race and racism with young children we are developing and teaching foundational skills, and giving children tools to apply when they encounter other forms of injustice. When educators have a strong understanding of how racism works in our society and how racialized identities impact all of our learners and their families, we are able to then consider how this social construct might influence our teaching, leading us to make change and teach children to make change

Anti-bias/Anti-racist education is about change.

  • It pays attention to, reflects and integrates the realities of students’ and families’ lives.
  • It embraces stories, literature and conversations about identity, (in)justice, activism,and de-centering the majority.
  • It values and creates a community that seeks to include all dimensions of human diversity.
  • It provides children with tools to identify and respond to bias and injustice. 
  • It asks educator to engage in self-reflection and ongoing learning.. 
  • It asks us to engage in adult dialogue with colleagues, families, and the community.
  • It asks us to take risks and build safe spaces to deepen our understanding and connections with our broader community.

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