Tyrone Howard: Schools on the Front Lines in Ending Anti-Black Racism

Commentary for Education Week highlights the need for educators to create and support schools that push against anti-Black racism and its specific injustices.

In a new commentary for Education Week, UCLA Professor of Education Tyrone Howard outlines proactive ways to work against anti-Black racism in schools. He writes that educators need to address this now, and to not respond with the status quo. 

“First and foremost, educators, even in this stay-at-home moment, you must address racism in America in your schools and classrooms,” writes Howard, who is the director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families. “You must let students talk about what they feel, encourage them to write about their emotions, and create space for students to emote—even as all of that will have to be done virtually. This is an emotionally fragile time for many Black students and other students of color. For many students, the fear is real, their anger is palpable, anxiety is high, and sadness is running deep. Do not expect that you will have all the answers. Just listen to and affirm your students. Please do not make things business as usual.”

Howard, who founded the Black Male Institute at UCLA in 2009, states in his commentary that, anti-Black racism must be dealt with specifically due to its historic roots in America, which set it apart from other forms of racism.

“Anti-Black racism challenges the idea that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling racism,” he writes. “Yes, racism affects all people of color in a multitude of ways, and Black people are part of that vociferous and untangled web. But anti-Black racism speaks to the specific ways in which Black people are seen, targeted, dehumanized, and often killed in a manner that is unlike any other group of people in the United States.”

Professor Howard outlines four steps that educators can take to keep anti-Black racism out of their schools, including naming anti-Black racism for its specific injustice toward Black people; believing Black students who have been been subjected to lower expectations, hostile teachers, different standards, and unfair discipline; stop challenging the Black Lives Matter movement; and identifying Black excellence in students, parents, and communities.

“… Individual acts must transform into collective action, and educators can be part of that change,” writes Howard. “Schools are not immune from the perpetuation of anti-Black racism. Schools can and should be better. And they must be part of the solution in racial reckoning and healing. If deliberate steps are not taken to end anti-Black racism, it will continue to cause irreparable harm to Black students. It will also leave an indelible imprint on the minds and psyches of non-Black students.”

“Anti-Black racism needs to be understood, addressed, and ultimately uprooted in schools and society. The fact that countless people are marching, protesting, and risking their safety in the midst of a global pandemic to end anti-Black racism speaks to the sense of urgency to eliminate it.”

To read, “How to Root Out Anti-Black Racism from Your School” by Professor Howard, visit this link.