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Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Equity is the condition of fairness of opportunity as measured by outcomes.

Author's note: The is the third post in a 7-part series in which I respond to questions raised about Antiracism© written in an opinion piece by Robert Pondiscio and published by the Fordham Institute titled: I believe “antiracism” is misguided. Can I still teach Black children? My goal in composing this series of opinion essays is to flesh out my own thinking. My goal in posting this series of opinion essays is to encourage others to push past any constraints they may be encountering to also consider issues thoughtfully and with the dutiful embrace of nuance. If you are interested in answering these questions, you are invited to do so by recording your thoughts on a survey which can be accessed at

Mr. Pondiscio asks:

"If I define 'equity' as working toward an America where race no longer describes or limits us; if I reject the idea expressed by White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo and others that to be White is to be inherently racist and a beneficiary of unearned privileges; if I hold to a definition of racism that is manifested in behavior, not an immutable characteristic of my race over which I have no control, am I no longer fit to teach Black and Brown children?"

I am an antiracist with concerns about Antiracism©, and my response to Mr. Pondiscio's question is a question: What do we mean by Equity? And I suppose, relatedly, What do we mean by racism? Unfortunately, I believe that many who use the term Equity are either misinformed or disingenuous. It is also true that the original idea of Equity has experienced some measure of "concept creep," which warrants, from my perspective, a good-faith clarification of a concept that has been carefully cultivated through thoughtful consideration for more than a half-century.

I am fully aware that I do not have answers to all the questions currently being asked about Equity and/or racial justice. In fact, I have found that my work as an Equity-focused professional development provider is greatly enhanced when I enter into coaching, planning, co-teaching, and reflecting spaces with a learner's mindset. For me, that means I remind myself that I am not married to ideology over the promotion of practices that center and empower students to pursue their goals with the necessary tools to navigate society. I engage, of course, with core beliefs, but the questions of Equity in Education are answered only in part by theory. In Education generally and classroom teaching more specifically, we have a rubber-meets-the-road measure for the efficacy of our ideas. We can ask ourselves if our practices are creating improved opportunities for our students to learn. That which yields rich and meaningful opportunities for our most vulnerable learners to engage are those that will close Equity gaps.

I am an antiracist who espouses to improve the outcomes for students from traditionally underserved and marginalized communities by dismantling racist and inequitable practices that marginalize the vulnerable. Outcomes are the measure of efficacy which do not require a particular idealogical alignment. My adherence to any ideological perspective is secondary to the demonstrated ability to serve the historically underserved. In fact, the limitations of ideology are often exposed when implemented in classroom practice; and if/when I prioritize ideology, I am likely limiting my view of the nuance and context that is necessarily required in working toward the goals of Equity.

There is an inherent misnomer in Mr. Pondiscio's question which is a misrepresentation of the antiracist premise that privileged (adj) groups are the beneficiaries in systems that privilege (v) particular identities to the disadvantage of others. The idea of unearned privilege given one's racial positioning in a society that has historically and systemically advantaged some relative to others is a central tenet of antiracism and pivotal in the sense that it allows everyone to see that we cannot (or rather, should not) view ourselves as indifferent bystanders in larger racialized, societal injustices. All of us are either benefited or harmed by oppressive systems. This is merely a starting point in our antiracist understandings. There is nuance necessary in order to build further from this understanding the implications for the task(s) of classroom-based teaching and learning. Antiracism© (and not antiracism), however, takes this premise one step further by proclaiming all privileged individuals in a privileged racial group (in this case, White people) to be racists. I find this to be too brutish and blunt an assessment to be taken seriously. What’s more, even if this were true, in a society in which being called a racist is akin to being called a pedophile—some profoundly uncivil and untoward thing—one would expect a certain kind of recoil at such a charge. The fact that the expected defensiveness is dismissed under Antiracism© as evidence of "White fragility" is so willfully obtuse that is raises the question of the intention behind such a sentiment. It certainly doesn't prioritize understanding; rather, it seems designed to stoke a kind of emotional reaction, or compliance, or even outright division amongst those whom it proposes (ostensibly) to support toward a greater awareness for the ultimate benefit of racial- and ethnic-minority students. (In the Antiracism© way of thinking, the previous sentence is called "accommodationist" thinking which is dismissed as a kind of passive and naive approach to the larger problems of racial inequity at hand.)

But I digress. What do we mean by Equity? In short, Equity is the condition of fairness of opportunity as measured by outcomes. The investigation of Equity requires the isolation of race (among other factors) in the study of outcomes because this country has a particularly racist history in that at the time of the drafting of the United States Constitution and the founding of the three branches of federal government—an executive, judicial, and legislative system designed to protect the freedoms of its citizens—millions of human beings of African descent lived in bondage, their freedom denied as a function of the state. This contradiction, justified by the evil rationalizations of racism, made it a duty of the American experiment to maintain the racial caste system. After chattel slavery, there was Jim Crow, and Black codes, and redlining and a litany of other offenses played out in the structural, institutional, and interpersonal spheres of American life. When I think about Equity, I am not minimizing the effects of racism; rather, I'm looking to see how race fits into a complex meta-analysis of the story of American opportunity—one that includes multiple systems and interwoven threads.

What do we mean by Equity?

The concept of Equity is comprised of three pillared principles. Here I will only briefly outline them though I am currently composing a full-length manuscript which includes a more detailed discussion of the points I present here:

(1) Equity is not equality—in terms of sameness of inputs. Equality assumes that fair means sameness. Equity, however, posits that equality isn’t necessarily fair because the social, economic, historical, and political contexts in which students learn impact how they perceive and are able to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them in school.

Though Equity is not the same as equality, they are, of course, related concepts. In its earliest iterations, what we now refer to as Equity was first termed as "Equal Educational Opportunity" (Tesconi, 1974), a concept which justifies differential treatment in the interest of fairness in opportunity. Equity takes into consideration that social and environmental conditions in which people live and grow affect readiness for learning. We know that our systems have created and sustained racially inequitable social realities that directly impact school outcomes, systems and social realities like racially segregated neighborhoods (often with concentrated affluence/poverty) that reinforce both privilege and disadvantage. Further, students have historically attended racially segregated schools that codify and formalize students' social status so that it is argued that the underserved are disadvantaged because they deserve to be so. Equity requires the consideration of the context which influences not only the offerings available to students in school but also the likelihood that students will perceive school opportunities as worthwhile of their effort.

Given that schools function in systems that are aligned and cooperate with institutions and other societal systems, Equity must entail more than merely the work to improve school-based pedagogy. It requires the consideration of the larger societal context or it may otherwise result in the competing among underserved populations for resources and social status without challenging the inequities that serve the inequitable status quo. This context is critical because without it, underserved populations may be blamed for the injustices they endure, or they may be inclined to fight amongst themselves for improved opportunities by contending for the claim of most aggrieved. This would require a jockeying for position that, Equity argues, risks denying the humanity of other groups, which is short-sighted and ultimately counterproductive.

(2) Equity does not mean that everyone must reach the same level of achievement (outputs). It means that the range of achievement and the distribution within that range should be comparable for each social group.

Think about the bell curve, a graphic representation of the range and relationship of individual instances inside of a total data set. When calculating the standard deviation within the various sub-groups of our total student population, we should see a more-or-less comparable distribution of achievement (i.e. similar bell curves). If there isn't a commensurate distribution among the subgroups, it's because of either one of three reasons:

a) groups are inherently inferior/superior relative to another (i.e. the eugenics' claim);

b) groups are culturally handicapped relative to another (i.e. the cultural deficit claim);

c) groups are advantaged/disadvantaged by the practices and policy environment of the school (i.e. school itself is contributing to achievement gaps).

The concept of Equity rejects the eugenics' claim of racial superiority/inferiority because it has been proven that race is a social construct with no biological merit; and thus, there can be no racial explanation for achievement because there is no essential, irreducible, and immutable characteristic of race. The cultural deficit claim falls short in any rigorous investigation because: (i) one's cultural lens creates biases in the interpretation of other groups’ cultures; (ii) there is no such thing as a culturally neutral space to measure or substantiate the claim of cultural deficit; and (iii) the belief in the cultural deficit of students is in itself a limiting factor in students’ achievement. In short, the investigation of the claim of cultural deficit as an explanation for underperformance is methodologically doomed by human bias, impossible to measure empirically, and ultimately underscored by attitudes we know to be harmful to vulnerable student populations as a prerequisite for consideration.

(3) The goal of Equity in education is to remove educational disparities as a hindrance to the American ethos of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We will know that we have achieved Equity when neither race, nor class, nor income, nor gender, nor language background, nor physical (dis)ability—when no social disparity or measure of identity—is a barrier to or predictor of educational achievement.

Equity is measured by outcomes, but it is engineered through opportunity. Equity is not served by merely enhancing for BIPOC students the traditional school opportunities that typically serve White and affluent student populations. Rather, Equity says that fairness is the differentiating process through which opportunities are designed. In terms of Equity, the work of school-based instruction requires that we consider the social and environment factors to tailor the opportunities for students without compromising the integrity of the learning targets.

One rather remedial framing of Equity goes that the students who are furthest behind—most often low-income students and students of color—require more of those same resources available to privileged groups to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the achievement gap. This argument says that giving students from disadvantaged groups who come to school lagging academically the exact same resources as students in more privileged, higher income schools alone will not close the achievement gap, but making sure that underserved students have access to those resources in greater quantity will provide them with the kind of high-quality education they need to succeed which will, in turn, narrow the gaps we see currently.

I say this is a remedial perception of the Equity problems we face because this assumes that the policies, models, and pedagogical practices currently utilized in schools are equally effective in teaching all students—a claim I find to be wrong-headed and overlooking the complexity of context and considerations necessary for supporting all students and especially those most vulnerable to underperformance. Equity requires a careful consideration of the social, cultural, historical, and pedagogical context in which students learn so as to be effective in quantitatively and qualitatively calibrating the inputs and opportunities afforded to students.

In terms of Equity, we are asked to give thought to a range of issues which may contribute to the disparities in the offerings of schools including but not limited to:

· environmental circumstances which shape growth and development;

· the financial ability of communities to complement the funding and support of their schools;

· racial mix in the schools;

· the socioeconomic background of the student population;

· social class mix in the classroom;

· achievement across racial and social sub-groups;

· tracking and ability grouping;

· teacher expectations and collective teacher efficacy;

· diversity of educational programs; and

· curricular inputs reflecting the social/historical/political context of the diversity within the American experience;

Again, Equity is measured by outputs. We can confirm our progress toward Equity when neither race, nor class, nor income, nor gender, nor language background, nor physical (dis)ability—when no social disparity or measure of identity—is a barrier to or predictor of educational achievement.

Equity is a broader concept under which antiracism serves to identify and close gaps that persist across racial categories. Equity is an inclusive (and not a segregating) concept. It should expand rather than limit our perception of opportunity. Equity doesn't direct us to stereotype or pigeonhole students based on identity; rather it requires us to identify and challenge racism as an inhibiting factor in the opportunities of students. Equity espouses that fairness is achieved through the differentiating process of designing meaningful and context-considering opportunities that leverage the experiences, assets, and identities of students and their communities.

This cannot be said enough: Equity is not accomplished through some kind of gerrymandering of outputs. Equity is not a function of manipulating outcomes. The problems of Equity are served by the design of improved opportunities—the kinds that build on students’ assets and identities in ways that allow for everyone to see school as a space for learning that offers fair, relevant, and meaningful opportunities to learn. In this way, students can be successful not in spite of their background but because of it. (This is a core idea in what I think of as Culturally Responsive Education).

What is racism?

Mr. Pondiscio asks: "If I hold to a definition of racism that is manifested in behavior, not an immutable characteristic of my race over which I have no control, am I no longer fit to teach Black and Brown children?"

Whether or not one might agree or disagree with Mr. Pondiscio's representation of how racism is defined in Antiracism© trainings doesn't prevent the answering of his question. While it is essential, in my view, that all teachers recognize the ways in which race and racism (of the interpersonal, institutional, and structural variety) have historically and presently shaped the American landscape of educational opportunity, the view that all White people are inherently racist as a result of an immutable characteristic is an unmerited, slippery-slope argument that lacks rigor and worse, in turn gives permission to justify racist beliefs about members of non-White groups.

I see the notion of "White fragility" as poorly conceptualized because it fails to consider several plausible alternate explanations for the reluctance of White teachers to accept the Antiracism© premise that any resistance to the premise that all White people are racists is either evidence of internalized racism or the unconscious inclination to protect whiteness. There are many other potential explanations for a resistance to the Antiracism© claims of White fragility. The way Antiracism© is often promoted in schools leaves little room for the individual redemption of teachers considering the stain of racism is proposed to be a function of immutable characteristics. I would argue that this isn't an effective methodological approach to actually redress racism in schools. It is a speculative theoretical precept that more often than not alienates many teachers who might otherwise be willing to enter into the very conversations about race and racism that can yield actionable insights that will benefit BIPOC students.

My response to Mr. Pondiscio's question would be that the recognition of race and racism is a requirement of all teachers, as well as is the effort to develop one's own racial consciousness given that our identities are complex, fluid, and developed in the racialized social context of America. In the classroom, however, teachers don't work with populations but rather individual students; and this requires that teachers are deeply aware of how their own behaviors contribute to and/or detract from the quality of the educational opportunities available to their students. This is the most important quality of an antiracist teacher. The antiracist teacher is unwilling to exacerbate the racialized opportunity gaps because of their own blind spots and poorly considered behaviors.

In conclusion.

The work of the antiracist teacher requires that we put our own ideas and practices to the test. Thankfully, we have a bottom-line that serves as our conclusive Equity measure and that is the performance and achievement of our students. The ideologies we bring to bear are less significant than the evidence we can point to which confirms or disconfirms that our students are receiving the kinds of opportunities that they can perceive as responsive to their needs and identities. The efforts of antiracism under the conceptual umbrella of Equity should center students. As an antiracist educator, I object to any methods that distract from the ultimate goal of Equity of removing obstacles that stand in the way of the opportunities for our most vulnerable learners.

Equity is defined by working towards the outcomes where race and identity no longer limit educational opportunities which is different than eliminating the discussion of race and racism. The work of antiracism requires the isolation and investigation of racism in all forms, but it is unnecessary and unproductive to embed personal accusations of fragility when human beings may understandably resist being labeled as racist without the consideration of their own unique life story and individual track record. The idea that all White people are by definition racists requires a fundamental redefinition of what we understand racism to mean which serves as a diversion. The Antiracism© re-definition potentially renders the term ‘racism’ devoid of any meaningful power in its description and analysis at the level of the individual where teaching and learning occurs.


Tesconi, Charles. Education for Whom: The Question of Equal Educational Opportunity, (1974).


Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Author's note: The is the second post in a 7-part series in which I respond to questions raised about Antiracism© written in an opinion piece by Robert Pondiscio and published by the Fordham Institute titled: I believe “antiracism” is misguided. Can I still teach Black children? My goal in composing this series of opinion essays is to flesh out my own thinking. My goal in posting this series of opinion essays is to encourage others to push past any constraints they may be encountering to also consider issues thoughtfully and with the dutiful embrace of nuance. If you are interested in answering these questions, you are invited to do so by recording your thoughts on a survey which can be accessed at


  1. Is a professed commitment to the tenets of "Antiracism" now non-negotiable in the teaching profession? Are those who hold different views and ideals (e.g. colorblindness) about student expectations, pedagogical practice, and school culture no longer welcome to lead classrooms with Black and Brown children?

I am an antiracist with concerns about Antiracism©, and as I consider the above questions, it occurs to me that I have my own fundamental question which is: Is there only one way to be an antiracist (i.e. to consciously act toward bringing greater awareness to one's own racial biases and to work toward broader social justice and racial reconciliation and the redress of historical and current racial inequities)?

One might ask in this current environment, How can any self-respecting Black man take any position which even remotely places him in opposition to antiracism? Wouldn't that make him pro-racism? How could that possibly be?

Like many who may be reading this, I am a person who seeks to understand myself in relation to the world in which I live. I see this as a kind of philosophizing; or said differently, I consciously try to live in a way that my view of the world—my beliefs and core values—are something more than mere abstractions but rather an operationalized expression of my being. I am not an ant driven by mere instinct and group membership. I can and do think for myself, though often in err, but always in pursuit of that which I can reliably claim to be justified beliefs based on some measure of epistemological demand.

To be clear, I think of it as a privilege to be Black... not in the same historical and material way that American citizenship is privileged by having white skin. Rather, I am in love with the culture, history, and sense of comradery that I experience as an African American. I could say much about this: from our cuisine to our music to our communication styles to our quest for liberation to our swag…. I am not a self-loathing Black person. I love being Black, and I love Black people.

In different ways both formally and informally, I've been a student of what W.E.B. DuBois and others called "The Negro Problem" for decades. I believe that race and racism are defining concepts in the American opportunity story, and that the denial of equal protections for non-White persons can be argued to be the greatest blemish on this nation's record.

I am an antiracist, but Antiracism© in today's education lexicon denotes a specific paradigm—a kind of copyrighted brand if you will—for the eradication of racism in Western society. In his book How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi defines what it means to be an antiracist:

“To be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right—inferior or superior—with any of the racial groups. Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or negatively, not representatives of whole races. To be antiracist is to de-racialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype from every racialized body. Behavior is something humans do, not races do.” (Kendi, 2019, p4-5)

This definition (which I appreciate and regularly reference) asks us to confront those stereotypes and assumptions we might make about others based merely on race. In fact, Kendi's definition of an antiracist strikes me as thematically similar to what might also be termed as colorblindness—a concept born out of the 1950s & 60s Civil Rights movement... about which I will say more in the fourth installment of this blog series. This definition, however, is presented differently in many of the educational training spaces which is the basis of my own immediate concern here. My concerns with Antiracism© in many of the school trainings and PD models stem from some of the central arguments that I find to be semantic boobytraps disconnected from the essential tasks of teaching. Antiracism© argues, for example, that the pervasiveness of structural and systemic racism in America renders the discussion of interpersonal racism as a kind of distraction from the broader manifestations of anti-Black prejudices that have been foundational to the development of infrastructure of the United States. Antiracism© argues that there is either antiracism or racism and no such thing as "not racist." Antiracism© argues that White people's reluctance to accept their own personal complicity in anti-Black prejudice is an indicator of the privilege that Whites fiercely protect as a matter of a kind of American birthright. To resist in the discourse, argue Robin DiAngelo and others (*1 see note), is an illustration of the fragility of White people unwilling to hold themselves and the nation accountable for its crimes against Black people.

Antiracism© (as opposed to antiracism) is a kind of executive ideology for much of the race-focused professional development in schools. Whether this is or is not the intent of Antiracism© trainers and professional developers, my concern as an antiracist is that the impact has been hugely problematic and counterproductive in practice. I see many aspects of Antiracism© as lacking cohesion and trafficking in cognitive distortions which are potentially harmful to both individuals and antiracist work alike.

I am an antiracist—meaning that I consciously seek to contribute to racial justice with my thoughts, words, and deeds in both my personal and professional life. As an antiracist, I believe that it is important to isolate race as a contributing factor to patterns of inequity particularly when investigating the differential outcomes and trends of school achievement. As an antiracist, I do believe that we must leave space to pursue these critical conversations about race and inequity as an exercise in American patriotism precisely because I believe in the American ethos of freedom, fairness, and equal protection under the law—but I do not believe that we have achieved a kind of post-racial utopia where we no longer need to confront and talk honestly about how interpersonal, systemic, and institutional racism continue to disproportionally disadvantage some to the advantage of others based on race, ethnicity, and language-background.

But the truth is I could write an entire volume of manuscripts proclaiming my present and life-long commitment to antiracism and still be dismissed by proponents of Antiracism© for having even the slightest measure of objection to its premises or practices... which is what gives me the greatest pause—because anything that can't be questioned and subjected to good-faith debate is dogma; and I'm personally allergic to dogma.

My Problems with Antiracism©

I first became familiar with the term "antiracism" in 2009 when I read the book Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School (2008) edited by Mica Pollock. I thought that book was a brilliant presentation of insightful and digestible perspectives on the actions educators can take in order to counteract racial inequities in schools. I've read and assigned many of the essays therein and have regularly found it useful in promoting thoughtful discourse aimed at supporting the teaching and wellbeing of students. The essential work of antiracism in schools is that which seeks to remove the barriers of racism to the performance and achievement of students and to prepare students from participation in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, linguistically and culturally diverse society. The highest goals of teaching are to educate and empower students with the tools and experiences to create happy, healthy, and productive lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. These are, in my opinion, the goals of a truly antiracist agenda. As such, however, I have found that the practice of Antiracism© has presented conceptual obstacles to these goals, and these are the basis of my concerns (*2 see note).

Problem #1:

Antiracism© is perilously disconnected from the social and material realities of the classroom in a way that promotes the essentializing of identities according to preferred narratives of racial/ethnic/social group experiences. By social realities, I mean the range of identity and experience diversity both in the classroom and also within the groups represented within the learning community. By material realities, I mean the tasks and challenges of teaching.

Antiracism© encourages teachers to look at students as groups rather than individuals, and it inadequately frames the specific context and tasks of schools in general replacing it within a broader narrative of racial injustice. I work primarily with teachers, and as a teacher, the focus of practice is on students, all of whom are individuals and not miniature representations of populations. To treat individuals as a sample size of some population is to stereotype (regardless of intent) and further reduces the likelihood of any individual's success because when one is seen merely as a fractal member of a group, one is less likely to be seen for their own unique assets, interests, and ambitions. A group isn't an individual, and an individual isn't a group. This way of thinking leads to the pigeonholing of the Black experience and restricts the expression of Blackness into stereotypes and tropes. Black people, like every social group, are not a monolith. In much of the Antiracism© PD, though, a particular BIPOC perspective is held to be a kind of authoritative and authenticated proof of argument. As such, Antiracism© encourages a narcissistic embrace of lived-experience for a particular perspective of non-White people toward race and racial equity as a primary ethos and epistemology. As an antiracist and qualitative researcher, I find tremendous value in the accounts of lived experience; but I also recognize the limitations of these kind of data. Whenever possible, individual accounts should be presented alongside empirical data so as to seek objectivity in the report of patterns and conditions in schools and society. I find the practice of essentializing people based on race (i.e. the isolation of race as a predominate self-identifier and the association of that racial identity with a particular package of beliefs and experiences) to be shortsighted and lacking rigor. It is a kind of remedial simplification of identity, a reductionist approach that isolates race to the exclusion of other social factors. Further, it authorizes a sort of "authentifying" of racial expression, a policing of BIPOC identities which I reject outright. No one has permission to declare when another is being appropriately [fill in the racial/ethnic/national designation]. My identity (and yours) is not to be toyed with for the advancement of any agenda. Further, I'm concerned with any ideology or approach to racial justice that centers (i.e. defines) the identity of Black people relative to oppression as opposed to their own agency. Identities predominantly defined by injuries and enemies and also disconnected from pragmatic and empowering change-efforts bear little potential for cohesive antiracist pedagogy.

Problem #2:

Antiracism© discourages most critical inquiry as a tool of white supremacy, including the refusal to entertain good-faith questions and opposing viewpoints, and it summarily dismisses any possibility for full-on debate and disagreement. This is largely embodied in the claims that any resistance to the precepts of Antiracism© are evidence of fragility (or a defense or white supremacy)—a premise that wouldn't pass the bar of any methodological standard in any undergraduate social science program.

Antiracism© in practice is often characterized by a number of multiplicitous precepts that discourage productive dialogue resulting in a contempt for any who would disagree. I am less inspired by initiatives which build an ethos around that to which it is opposed, and this is why my work generally pursues the goal of Equity and the pedagogical principles of Culturally Responsive Education (CRE).

My concerns about the dearth of critical inquiry loop back to my pause regarding the disconnect from the social and material realities of classroom teaching because Antiracism© neglects the careful consideration of the unique and complex context in which specific instances of teaching occur and ignores the range of individual identities, needs, and assets of the students whom teachers are charged to support. The shunning of critical thinking in subjugation to preferred identity narratives limits the capacities of teachers to tailor the fit of rigorous and cognitively engaging learning experiences to the needs of the students they teach. This defeats the purposes of Equity work, and should be challenged.

Problem #3:

Because of its disconnect from the social and material realities of school and its disdain for critical inquiry, the guiding principles and the ways in which Antiracism© play out in trainings are essentially akin to the mass-marketing of cognitive distortions. It promotes the egotistical notion that one's identity is synonymous with the beliefs anchored in their personal experience which encourages people to attack and feel attacked when there is disagreement of beliefs. This is an ultimately unhealthy and unproductive way to dialogue and allows for the demonization, dehumanization, and othering of those with different perspectives which renders good-faith debate to be a near impossibility. This is worth a deeper dive because I see this as the most damaging and dangerous aspect of Antiracism©.

The mass marketing of cognitive distortions...

My greatest concern about Antiracism© is with its tendencies to traffic in cognitive distortions which I believe compromise the integrity of antiracism and Equity work and also the wellbeing of individuals whom enthusiastically subscribe to its tenets. What is a cognitive distortion? A cognitive distortion is an unhealthy alternative to reason and logic which, over time, is a recipe for a kind of intra-personal disaster. Here I have included a brief description of ten types of cognitive distortions, but I encourage you to read up on these for yourself because to be aware of these is quite likely to improve the quality of one's own thought-life and relationships with others. I would argue that Antiracism© in its various implementations, as it is promoted in school professional development spaces, indulges in each and every one of these cognitive distortions. If any one person were to individually engage in all of these cognitive distortions, they are surely headed for a dissociative, psychotic break. These are not the mental habits of well-balanced and productive people.


In concluding this piece, I return to the original question I ask in response to Mr. Pondiscio's questions: Is there only one way to be an antiracist? If the answer to this question is "yes," then that means by definition that Antiracism© is a dogmatic ideological approach to addressing the problems of racism in America; and the problem with dogma is that while it can effectively force compliance, it rarely changes hearts. Further, the argument that to not accept the entirety of the Antiracism© argument without questioning any single aspect is to be in support of white supremacy lacks rigor. In fact, it's profoundly inadequate. It fashions the liberation movement of marginalized people as a kind of children's story between good and evil characters. In my opinion, we should be engaging our antiracism work in more nuanced and complex terms than the way a child might. We should be welcoming qualified and competent teachers of all racial and ethnic stripes to classrooms with the commitment to centering Black and Brown and all children in empowering learning experiences that prepare them for full participation in our imperfect society. The extent to which the requirements for accepting teachers into the profession entail the rigid insistence on a particular racial background or ideological approach to redressing racism is a dangerous step in the direction of a dogmatic reinterpretation of the purpose of schools in our society.

The reduction of antiracism to simple premises serves to shape the discourse for particular purposes, and it has become increasingly clear to me that these purposes have less to do with the efforts to empower students and improve their learning opportunities and more about serving some self-serving motivation of consultant-types (i.e. consultants like me) and educators whose goals seem to be more about activism than education. I find these activist causes are increasingly distanced from the kinds of pedagogical practices that center and empower the lives of BIPOC students and cater more to fulfilling the egoic pursuit of the adults who advocate for them instead. (I say more about this in the sixth installment of this blog post series.) Ultimately, I am concerned that Antiracism© is a narrow-sighted approach to antiracism and Equity work that alienates many who would be competent supporters in the cause which we share.

The work of antiracism provides a kind of philosophizing template for teachers, an opportunity for them to level-set their own values with regard to racial justice in the specific context of their pedagogical practice. A coherent and epistemologically sound approach to antiracism is a powerful tool toward that end. I raise these concerns so that we might be better able to develop our antiracism approaches so as to make a more sustainable progress towards racial justice that honors the integrity of the collective liberation movement of America's marginalized peoples. My goal in my antiracism and Equity work is to be effective in creating fairer and greater opportunities for our students which is different from the goal of being seen as right. I do not contend that I have all the correct answers or even the full range of questions, but the stakes are too high for anything less than a robust, good-faith commitment to reaching deeper and more profound insights, and I am concerned that Antiracism© doesn't allow for that level of thoughtfulness.


*1. I think it’s fair to say that currently the two most prominent spokespeople for Antiracism© are Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. I find the work of Kendi to be more deserving than DiAngelo. While I have many substantive concerns with How to be an Antiracist (2019), I think Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017) is an unqualified masterpiece. DiAngelo's major work, White Fragility is, in my view, a simplistic reduction of the Black American experience depicting Black people as spineless, helpless, and hopeless infants warranting the paternalistic protection of White people whom, according to DiAngelo, seem to all secretly despise Black people but have been socialized to not admit to such in polite society. Though I don't view Kendi and DiAngelo as having the same stature, it is both of their works that are most frequently cited in school-based trainings and PD.

*2. Another point of reference: I am not voicing here an opposition to Critical Race Theory (CRT) any more than I would be opposed to the use of Formalism, Modernism, or Structuralism or most any other school of thought as an analytical device to focus the investigation of any text. My concerns with what I will refer to as Antiracism© are not one-and-the-same with my thoughts regarding CRT. I believe that CRT has merit as a tool useful for exploring many of the undiscovered and/or overlooked implications of racialized bias in American history and society.

  • Yemi S.

The saving grace of teaching is its social and material reality.... That, by itself, will prevent your brain from melting. It's the life-jacket that will keep you afloat. It rescues you from the abyss.

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