Tue, Mar 2, 2021
A major part of being an anti-racist educator is making sure that all of your students feel represented. Some White educators may feel overwhelmed, and maybe even nervous, when trying to create a space where students feel that they’re being seen and heard, because you want to make sure you ‘get it right’. You may think, “What if this is the wrong book?” or “I don’t want to say anything wrong or inappropriate, so maybe it’s best I don’t say anything at all.”
But discomfort is good, and it’s part of the growth that needs to happen on your journey to becoming an anti-racist educator. BIPOC students don’t have time for White educators to get comfortable, and it’s on White educators to take those first steps.
In this video, we talk to educators Gail Bertram and Marguerite Penick-Parks about the things you can do immediately to begin creating anti-racist learning environments, from the books you read to your students, to the physical spaces in which learning takes place.
The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge: A Journey to Becoming an Antiracist Educator
by Marguerite W. Penick-Parks
I am a white woman who was born in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. I was bussed to an all Black school in 4th grade. My parents firmly believed in equity for all. But when I started teaching in a low-income urban high school, equity is not what I saw, not even close. Each of these events were stages in my journey towards becoming an antiracist educator. And part of continuing the journey means I am always looking for tools.
One tool I have found to be extremely helpful is The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.. He noticed that in all the places he worked, people always asked, “So what can I DO?” To answer this question, Dr. Moore and Debby Irving created the original version of The Challenge. They invited me to join the journey. The idea of The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge grows from the research of Maxwell Maltz (1960) in Psycho Cybernetics, where Maxwell first claimed that it takes people 21 days to make or break a habit. According to research in the field of psychology, “habits are defined as behavioral patterns enacted automatically in response to a situation in which the behaviour has been performed repeatedly and consistently in the past” (Lally & Gardner, 2013, p. 137).
The creation of The Challenge was based on this idea: that if individuals can engage in social justice on a consistent basis for a continuous time frame, they may be able to change their ideas and attitudes and, ultimately, increase their cultural competency.
Four years ago, I implemented The Challenge in a graduate level course I teach, Dialogues in Social Justice. Throughout the years, students have called it the most transformational and significant learning opportunity of their graduate school career, supporting the need for such a tool. One past student wrote:
Through this project I was able to have conversations with my own students about race, sexual orientation and those with (dis)abilities. All of these conversations came up naturally and since social justice was on my mind, I didn’t push their questions to the side but was able to answer them truthfully to help them understand differences all around them.
This experience has shed light on the inequalities in our everyday lives. I have realized I can either be part of the problem, or work actively against the injustices in our society. After seeing so many ways in which I can participate in fighting against injustice, I can no longer un-see racist, sexist, ageist and other [prejudices]—in the media, educational settings, and in the stories we tell to our youngest citizens.
What began as an assignment, being completed for compliance and a grade proved to be life-changing. I am finding ‘social justice’ everywhere and feeling a passion for action.
Starting the Challenge:
The Challenge asks participants to reflect before beginning to establish a baseline and then reflect at the end on what they have learned. Individual challenges explore personal strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas. The choices provided in The Challenge are just examples and recommendations, and participants are encouraged to bring additional resources to the program.
The Challenge requires participation in a variety of ways: Read, Watch, Connect, Notice, Engage and Act. All choices provided for participants are designed to be short but insightful activities.
For the Read section, participants are provided with readings that will challenge their learning. The act of reading engages participants in gaining new information and participating in critical reflection.
The Watch section is divided into multiple parts. Participants can watch a 15 minute TEDTalk, a 30-40 minute Youtube video, or a longer documentary. Watching in this context engages the participant in multimodal learning.
Connecting is a critical component of The Challenge because it helps those on their antiracist journey find sources and organizations with which they can collaborate. Connections can be at the national level, but one of the most important parts of connection is connecting with local social justice organizations, which often support the most action.
In her seminal work Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Dr. Beverly Tatum talks about learning to “spot the stuff.” Although she is talking about teaching children the skills, educators cannot be blind to the racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism that surrounds their students.They must notice the inequities in their schools. Noticing is a critical skill of an antiracist educator.
Engaging is central to learning. Antiracist work does not happen in isolation, it happens when we disagree, challenge, debate, and reflect with one another. And when we listen. Becoming an antiracist is a constant journey of learning, which never ends because educators are lifelong learners. Engage with others, listen to others, and collaborate to build strong relationships and classrooms.
The goal of becoming an antiracist educator is always about how to make actionable change. The action we take may change the life of one student, or it may inspire change in our institutions and change the pathways for all students. But it is always essential to take critical action if one is working towards becoming an antiracist educator.
My involvement has led to the creation of new direct versions, The 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge – Educators Edition, The 21 Day Racial Equity Indigenous Challenge, The 21 Race, Youth, Faith, Race and Moore, The 21 Day Racial Habit Building Challenge – Protest and Rebellion and The 21 Day Plan #MooreSelfCare. This summer, ProHabits, a platform that provides organizations and communities with custom, daily bite-sized actionable tips, translated the 21 Day Racial Habit framework into an app, allowing participants to daily receive daily activities on their phone. The road to becoming an antiracist educator requires deep and abiding commitment, and The 21 Day Racial Habit Building Challenge is an excellent way to start the journey.
My journey continues each and every day, in working with my teacher and administrative candidates, in my children whose paths all include social justice themes, and in the eyes of my twin grandaughters as they read Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. The journey impacts us all, one person at a time.
–Marguerite W. Penick-Parks
Maltz, Maxwell (1960). Psycho-Cybernetics. Simon & Schuster
Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7, 137–S158.