Anti-Racist Pedagogy Part 4: Core Elements of ARP (according to this white girl)

Full disclosure. I am white. When I get my blood drawn, I usually joke with the nurse that I am translucent. So pretty white. And yet, I am doing my best to offer up a list of some of the essential core elements of an anti-racist pedagogy. Make no mistake, I am missing a lot here. For one, this list is extremely U.S. centric as that is my main audience. This is merely a starting point. In addition, there is no “one” ARP. There are many anti-racist pedagogies. At the same time, educators cannot just willy nilly run around claiming they are practicing ARP without any attention to these core elements. At least, that’s my viewpoint on this.

For more on the difference between diversity, inclusive teaching, and ARP, head back to the 3 previous ARP posts.

Core Elements of Anti-Racist Pedagogy

Within higher education contexts including classrooms, campus programs, departmental meetings and events, conferences, research labs, advising and mentoring sessions, etc., anti-racist pedagogy:

  • Analyzes systems, social forces, policies, and procedures that contribute to racial oppression;
  • Consistently questions the role of power in the maintenance of systemic racism and white supremacy;
  • Names white supremacy as foundational to U.S. systems, society, culture, public policy, and daily operations. ARP explicitly names white supremacy as the belief that white people are superior to people of color;
  • Challenges the common belief that an individual or organization can be neutral on racism;
  • Connects individual prejudice and bias to explicit behavioral bias and to white supremacy as a system. ARP addresses individual-level racism without getting bogged down in focusing on individuals;
  • Recognizes and critiques white privilege as a system of advantage based on systemic white supremacy;
  • Promotes anti-racist action to dismantle and rebuild systems;
  • Builds on critical race theory foundations as well as liberatory pedagogy and additional critical pedagogies;
  • Demands that white people step up and take action, but not without careful self-critique and honest self-reflection work around internalized white supremacy;
  • Requires educators to be proactive, brave, and intentional;
  • Addresses myths within the collective psychology of whiteness such as the belief that whiteness is neutral or that good white people cannot be racist;
  • Deconstructs identity politics that promote essentialism: people of color are not a monolith; avoid tokenism in representation or asking one person to speak for their entire race;
  • Makes historical connections and draws upon historical events related to race and racism in application to current ARP;
  • Centers the voices of Latinx, Indigenous, Black, Asian, AMENA, and Multiracial folks and never claims that all viewpoints are equal;
  • Cultivates a brave space and community of learners for white students to grow in their own anti-racism (distinct from centering whiteness);
  • Invites students to co-construct knowledge based on their lived experiences and expertise (decentering instructor power);
  • Requires ongoing educator self-reflection about their own intersectional social location in the matrix of domination and how that location impacts the ARP learning process. This applies to educators of all races;
  • Guides Students of Color in their personal reflections and does not assume all Students of Color understand ARP or all elements of systemic racism;
  • Provides a learning space for white students’ personal reflections to promote growth and ally* development;
  • Infuses deconstruction of systemic white supremacy throughout the curriculum and co-curriculum;
  • Avoids race-silent inclusion, cultural tourism, and diversity of representation that are devoid of critical analysis;
  • Demands a lifelong commitment to ARP, deep self-reflection, growth, and development of intersectional ally behaviors. This applies to white allies and People of Color acting as allies across socially constructed racial lines.

I repeat, this is not an exhaustive list. What do we need to incorporate here for a robust ARP model? As with all things in social justice movements, we will continue to evolve these ideas and core elements as we maintain a critique of the systems that maintain racism and white supremacy.

Letters ARP spelled out with post-it notes (stands for anti-racist pedagogy)

*My soapbox about the term “ally”

I use the term “ally” intentionally. Accomplice and co-conspirator are great terms. However, I disagree with current trends that critique the term ally as representing white saviors or white people claiming they can be “race neutral.” The real problem is the misuse and claiming of an ally identity by white folks not engaging in anti-racist action to dismantle white supremacy. Should we stop using the word “intersectionality” in response to its widespread misuse in the academy and beyond. No. Despite our frustrations, we continue to educate those who engage in its misuse. 

New terms will not correct the widespread misuse and watered-down meanings. The system will simply gobble up each new term and grind it into meaninglessness. Therefore, I continue to use ally in an effort to reclaim a term that was not to promote passive race-neutrality.