Dear CRT: How to Be Anti-Racist & Anti-Bias

Dear CRT: How to Be Anti-Racist & Anti-Bias

In the fifth installment of her series Dear CRT, Dr. Tonia Durden provides educators with resources and tools for reflecting on what anti-bias teaching means to them, taking them one step further on their journey to become a Culturally Relevant Teacher. Explore the rest of her series here.

Dear CRT,

When you hear the words anti-racism what do you think? When you hear the word anti-bias what do you think?

Let me ask the question differently. When you hear the words anti-racism how do you feel? When you hear the word anti-bias how do you feel?

For more than 20 years, I have focused on implementing anti-racism and anti-bias teaching practices and have taught thousands of teachers how to be anti-racist and anti-bias when teaching young children. During these two decades, I have learned how learning about and becoming an anti-racist and anti-bias teacher is just as much a social/emotional experience for the teacher as it is a professional development opportunity. Therefore, before I explicitly define these terms, I encourage you to first sit with these two words.

When you hear them, what is your immediate reaction? Note the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that come to mind. What do they prompt you to do? Learn more? Question their appropriateness in an early childhood classroom? Fatigue about the implications of the term? Cautious intrigue?

In simple terms, bias refers to our prejudice in favor for or against one person, group, or thing compared to another, usually in a way that is considered unfair.

For example:

Belief: My bias towards children who speak English fluently and clearly.

Action: English only programs and educational supports.

Racism, a form of negative bias, refers to antagonism, discrimination, and prejudice directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group.

For example:

Belief: Racist beliefs of the Black boys in my classroom is that they can't sit still, are loud and aggressive.

Action: Early identification in special education or subjected to disciplinary actions such as expulsion or suspension.

In anti-racism and anti-bias work, unfortunately, we know when a teacher, practice, or policy is bias or racist by critically examining the experience and outcome of all racial groups in our classrooms and beyond. Let's imagine that we first own, then address the beliefs before they develop into practices, policies, and programs that are harmful to Black and Brown children.

I now challenge you to own and continue to reflect on why you have your reactions towards just hearing the terms anti-bias and anti-racist. It could be that you have experienced bias and racism in your life. It could be that you often feel attacked when these conversations are discussed even though you don't feel you've ever been intentionally racist or bias. It may be that you believe that racism and bias occurs in society and our educational system but feel stuck on how to do something about it. Once you have identified your what, then your why, you can prepare to move forward in addressing the how towards being anti-bias and anti-racist in early childhood.

But here is where I ask us to pause a moment.

Reflect on these three important statements:

  1. Racism and bias exists in our schools and early learning programs.
  2. Racism and bias has negatively impacted Black and Brown children and families.
  3. I can make a positive difference in my work as an anti-bias and anti-racist teacher.

It is important that your beliefs about teaching and learning are aligned with these three statements. If you have doubt or challenge that racism and bias even exists or have impacted Black and brown children you cannot begin this work as an anti-bias and anti-racist teacher. If you believe that racism and/or bias only exist outside of your classroom, school, or early learning program, you are not prepared to be an anti-bias or anti-racist teacher. If you believe you can make a difference but unsure what next steps to take, you are prepared to be an anti-bias or anti-racist teacher and reading this blog along with the following resources will help you in your journey!

Explore these Resources:

Stay tuned for the next blog which will focus on working with families and communities as a Culturally Relevant Teacher!

Onward and Upward,

T. Durden

About the Author

Tonia Durden, PhD, is a clinical associate professor of early childhood and elementary education and is a program coordinator at the Georgia State University College of Education and Human Development. She is also a co-author of the book Don't Look Away: Embracing Anti-Bias Classrooms.

Explore this Series

Dear CRT: Creating Culturally Relevant Classroom Environments
Dear CRT: Responsive Interactions
Dear CRT: Guiding and Nurturing Children
Dear CRT: Approaches to Learning