15 Questions That Predominantly White Schools Should Ask When Engaging in Non-Performative Anti-Racist Work

Jul 27, 2021 12:00:00 AM


Last week, I had a consulting call with a potential client (a white teacher), who teaches in a predominantly white school/neighborhood and wants to engage in more meaningful anti-racist work this coming school year. But she isn’t sure how exactly to approach the work within her school. Quite frankly, she isn’t the first teacher who has expressed concern around this issue. Right now, we have many teachers in this predicament, trying to answer this question for the upcoming school year. In contrast, there are others who believe they are exempt from this work because there are no students of color in their classrooms and their white students are not impacted by racism.  

So, [pullquote]what does non-performative anti-racist work look like in a school where the teaching staff, student body, and the surrounding neighborhood are predominantly white?[/pullquote]


Although I have never taught in a predominantly white school, I did, however, attend a predominantly white high school, so this question definitely hits home. Rather than provide you with a prescriptive list of things to do, I’m going to draw from my own high school experience and challenge you to think critically about the following questions as you prepare to engage in anti-racist work this school year:

  • Does your school provide affinity spaces where students of color can connect and share their experiences about race and racism?
  • Has your school done a full equity audit to identify institutional practices that are producing trends of discrimination towards students of color?
  • Does your school district’s teacher performance evaluation rubric include clear indicators for culturally sustaining and anti-racist practices?

Please do not view these questions as a prescription to racism. Rather, look at them as opportunities for growth as your school embarks on its journey toward creating an anti-racist learning environment for teachers and students. This is far from a complete list, as there are so many more questions I could’ve posed. But this list should get your school off to a great start this school year.

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You" and his latest, "From Inaction to 'In Action': Creating a New Normal for Urban Educators". Throughout his 14-year career as a middle school math educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and around the world. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color chosen by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in education. He was honored as the 2019 National Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession.

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