White Educators | Anti-Racist Educators

This endeavor started with some complicated questions: What's the role of white* people in a conversation about education and racial equity? How can we be better allies and co-conspirators in that work, which should be centered on the lives and experiences of communities we do not represent? The questions seemed even more complicated when we realized that our colleagues of color had been raising these questions for years, and many of us had not been listening.

There are no easy answers to these questions, but we heard a consistent theme from experts in the field, particularly those of color, when we started raising them: talk with other white people.

 The message was clear, so we listened. As we had more and more conversations about race with other white educators, we unearthed a mix of fear, guilt, shame, confusion, and apprehension, all of which seemed like barriers to speaking publicly, and forcefully, about issues of race and equity.

Despite all of that, we made the judgment that the only thing worse than speaking clumsily about race was not speaking at all. This initiative is our attempt to choose action over silence.

Our Principles

As a group of white people working in education, we recognize that our country is at a critical point in its ongoing struggle to be a more just nation. Education is central to that endeavor. Improving public schools requires a deep focus on race and equity, and leaders in the field of public education must be responsible for considering racial justice, both in the field and beyond. We know that racism is a problem that was created by white people, and that racism can only continue through active sustenance by those in positions of privilege – most notably white people. As white leaders in public education, we are committed to the idea that we must dismantle systems of oppression. We believe that:

1.     Anti-racism efforts must be active work. A passive approach to racism will only perpetuate the inequities in both our education systems and culture.

2.     Educators are leaders in their communities and are uniquely positioned to be hubs of anti-racist activities.

3.     In order to achieve true educational equity and excellence, we must dismantle racism. Indeed our work for educational equity is part of a broader effort for justice.

4.     We believe that anti-racism begins with the self, through deep exploration our own racial identities and experiences as part of our work towards educational and racial justice.

5.     We also believe that, as white people, we are in a privileged position to educate other white people about these issues and build a commitment among white people to anti-racism.

6.     Our work towards racial justice must be accountable to, and in partnership with, people of color, recognizing that people of color should be the central leaders in the movement for racial justice, in education and beyond.

It is the responsibility of white leaders in the education sector to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in schools and support organizations and engage in the dismantling of said racism. We should welcome a conversation that makes the connections between other social justice movements and education reform.I, for one, am in this work to close persistent opportunity gaps and pay down the educational debt we have amassed. This cannot be done without a discussion of racist structures and systems that perpetuate inequity.
— Jonas Chartock, Leading Educators
I don’t think we need to choose between supporting meaningful change in public education and working to counter institutional racism. Rather, I think the fastest and most sustainable path to ensuring strong public schools that serve all students well is to ensure that the voices of students and leaders of color are driving the change.
— Maura Marino, Education Forward DC

*A note on the language we use: terminology is important, and when it comes to conversations about race, racism, equity, justice, and privilege, there are enormous barriers to productive conversations. Language, unfortunately, is one of those barriers. In particular, we use the word "racism" to refer to systemic mechanisms for maintaining power differentials between white people and people of color. This definition often is shorthanded as "Power plus prejudice equals racism."  We do not use the term "racism" to identify personal acts of prejudice. Where applicable, we have included links to the glossary at Racial Equity Tools to clarify meaning.