Table of Contents:

1. Statistical Evidence that Anti-Black Racism is Alive & Well

  • The first (and longer) section of the document is composed of about 75 data charts illustrating racial disparities and discrimination organized in sections on income/wealth, employment, housing, K-12 education, higher education, and the criminal justice system. The data all comes from reputable, highly regarded, scholarly research studies, and the sources are meticulously cited. The conclusions of the studies are briefly summarized in accessible, layman’s terms, and the slides are formatted to be engagement and accessibility. (I was most recently a high school history teacher, but I also have a M.Sc. in applied economics from Cornell University.)
  • The second section of the document is composed of several pages of additional resources-with links-that are helpful for understanding individual racism, systemic racism, and the George Floyd Uprising/protests.

2. A VISUAL History of Racism in the U.S. in Conceptual Diagrams.

  • These conceptual diagrams, geared to high school students and adults, provide a useful outline or map to anchor/guide the student while reading history books or taking a workshop/course on these topics. The diagrams can be used before, after, or throughout reading/studying. They may be particularly useful to visual learners, students who struggle with more complex texts, and those who struggle to distinguish the big ideas from supporting details. 
  • I find it useful to present each of these diagrams in “chunks” at a time, using the animation features of Powerpoint, so that the class can discuss and digest one step or section of the diagram at a time.
  • I sometimes used these diagrams at the end of a unit, to pull together and process the unit and review for the unit test.  I helped each of my classes create their own conceptual diagram (“from scratch”) on the board. This version might or might not look like my version, which my students hadn’t seen yet. This helped the students “actively process” the unit and readings, identify the patterns and relationships, and identify the most important ideas & relationships. (It also helped them learn the skill of creating conceptual diagrams so they could create them on their own in the future). Only then did I give students my polished version, which of course was a bit different from the one we created together. Students used my diagram to help them study for the test. After the test, I hung a poster-sized copy of the diagram on the wall so we could refer back to those developments and time period over the year as we studied later time periods.
  • A colleague is working on a middle school version of these diagrams.

3. A “Perspectives Consciousness” Approach to Discussing Race and Current Issues (Conceptually Speaking podcast.

  • In this Conceptually Speaking podcast I share several great tips and strategies for effectively discussing racism in the classroom. My approach involves developing a classroom culture that encourages students to seek to understand different viewpoints instead of universalizing their personal viewpoints.
  • This approach is consistent with Robert Hanvey’s “Perspectives Consciousness” (1976) approach to education and communicating across difference.  This involves recognizing that others have different viewpoints that are the product of differing geography, culture, identity, and experiences. In order to understand societal issues and problem-solve solutions that promote the problem good, we can neither universalize our personal perspectives on current issues as the “one and absolute truth” nor conceptualize current issues as “single factual narratives”.  Rather, we must seek to understand the perspectives of all major stakeholders.

a.) Blind Men & The Elephant simulation –- Positionality, Teaching students to construct a more complete understanding of complex issues by seeking out, assessing and comparing perspectives of various stakeholder groups, rather than universalizing their personal perspective;

b.) Deliberation rather than Debate — Developing the skills and habits necessary to participate in a deliberative democracy where citizens engage in deliberations (vs. debates) to better understand differing perspectives and find policy solutions that promote the common good; and

c.) Opportunities for “Perspectives-Taking” – e.g. parent-student discussions, public-private school programs, historical and literary narratives..

d.) Changing students’ conception of a “good person” from “Not Racist” to “Continually working on one‘s natural implicit biases” (a growth mindset), teaching students strategies for reducing implicit bias, and providing opportunities to practice some of these strategies.

  • Hess and McAvoy’s “empirical vs. policy question” framework (The Political Classroom, 2014–Erect “safety guardrails” on classroom discussions about race by:

a.) Declining to debate whether systemic racism exists (an empirical question that social scientists largely consider settled). This precludes racist comments that result when students deny that systemic racism exists and instead blame racial disparities on inherent Black inferiority. 

b.) Welcoming (non-racist) conservative opinions into the classroom by inviting discussions on race-related open policy questions such affirmative action and whtt the government should do about systemic racism.

  • Instead of just telling students that social scientists have concluded that systemic racism exists, have them spend a classroom period analyzing the data/research for themselves and letting them come to their own conclusion—showing rather than telling. This is also an excellent opportunity for them to practice interpreting data and graphs on social science issues.

4. Preparing Students to Understand, Discuss and Dismantle Racism (High Tech High’s Unboxed podcast.)

In this podcast interview I elaborate further on of the strategies I describe in the Conceptually Speaking podcast for developing a classroom culture conducive to productive classroom discussions about race and racism.

The CHALLENGES of Discussing Race in the U.S. today:
  1. Lack of basic evidence-based education on the history of racism taught in U.S. History AND lack of data on present-day systemic racism.

a.) Reliance on very partial, superficial “tip of the iceberg” knowledge of the history of racism, scope, and impact of racism;

b.) Assumptions that issues involving racism are “opinion-based” “debates“ on “current-day issues”;

c.) Reliance on easily disproven myths & misconceptions; and

d.) Reliance on anecdotes and personal experiences (and emotions).

  1. Tendency to universalize our limited, personal anecdotal experiences with racism, and assume that they reflect a single, “absolute factual truth” that is experienced by all.
  1. Many (white) conservatives deny the existence of systemic racism—despite overwhelming evidence concluding that it DOES exist—and claim that this is a legitimate ideological position. They instead attribute racial disparities to inherent Black inferiority: lack of intelligence/talent or poor cultural traits. THIS is where racism is most likely to enter the discussion. Others will inevitably counter with accusations of racism, and the conservative(s) will likely protest r that he/she is being attacked because of his conservative ideology….
  1. Weave the history of racism BACK INTO core curriculum U.S. History classes (vs. electives). (This usually involves our U.S. History teachers first learning about it themselves, as this history is often omitted from core-curriculum U.S. History classes in college.)
  • I began my required high school U.S. History class with an initial 6-week unit tracing the development of systemic racism, economic inequality, and political polarization from the 1950s to the present. At the end of the unit, we would scroll back to the Colonial Era and proceed chronologically. (It greatly improved student engagement and comprehension of many issues)
  1. Teach students a “perspectives consciousness” approach to discussing racism and other controversial issues (see details in the description of the Conceptually Speaking podcast above): and
  1. Erect “safety guardrails” on classroom discussions about race by: 

a.) Declining to debate whether systemic racism exists (an empirical question that social scientists largely consider settled). This precludes racist comments that result when students deny that systemic racism exists and instead blame racial disparities on inherent Black inferiority.  

b.) Welcoming (non-racist) conservative opinions into the classroom by inviting discussions on race-related open policy questions such affirmative action and what the government should do about systemic racism.

5. Blind Men and The Elephant Lesson
  • This is the Blind Men and The Elephant lesson I described in both the Conceptually Speaking and Unboxed podcast interviews. I simulated the allegorical parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant in the classroom to remind students that their perspective and lived experience may be very distinct than those of people from other identity groups–particularly as the United States is so racially, income, and ideologically segregated. At the completion of the simulation, we read the parable, and analyzed some maps of racial, income, and partisan segregation in the country. 
  • The elephant represents the United States, and the blind men represent different racial and economic groups who live such segregated lives that we can only see our part of the elephant. When discussing social, racial, political and economic issues, we must keep in mind that our perspectives and ideological positions are often based solely on our personal experiences within our geographically segregated community.. Thus our personal experiences and perspectives make up only one part of the whole picture/puzzle, and cannot be universalized. Like the blind men in the parable, we can construct a more complete understanding of complex issues when we seek to understand the perspectives of all the stakeholder groups affected by the issue. 
  • I taught this lesson in the very first week of class, and attached a poster sized copy of this image on the classroom wall. Students referred to this concept in class discussions throughout the year, reminding each other to consider the perspectives of others. Several alumni have reported that the “the elephant” approach continues to guide them in discussions.
6. Maps of Racial and Economic Segregation
  • This is a Google Slides document containing MAPS of Racial & Economic Segregation for various metro areas in the United States. I provide additional information and links to sources in the “Notes” section under each slide.
  • Please only cite the original author and article; no need to cite my document–I’m just presenting the info in a more convenient fashion.
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