Becoming An Anti-racist Instructor

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ . . . One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’.” Ibram X. Kendi

Anti-racist teaching frameworks, like critical pedagogy and decolonization models, share a commitment to active, engaged practices to combat racism and other forms of oppression in education. UConn faculty and staff developed a one-credit U.S. anti-black racism course in 2020, available to anyone affiliated with the university, examining the historical roots and ongoing systems of racialization and oppression in the criminal justice system, health care, housing policy, education, and popular culture. Anti-racist teaching is seen as a cornerstone for life transformative education (LTE). A pillar of inclusive teaching is recognizing that race matters (Tuitt, 2016). It is necessary for teachers to talk about race—no matter what discipline they work within. Fortunately, there are things we can do to prepare ourselves, and the students in our classes, to discuss race openly.

Becoming an anti-racist educator can begin immediately, but it is a lifelong process. And it is one best done alongside others, both for support and accountability. Reach out to your department, library, or local community to see if there are study groups you might join—or consider creating one. If you are reaching out to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) colleagues, please be aware that they may receive many such requests for their time and consultation—and this intellectual labor is often uncompensated, as well as emotionally significant. For your students, too, racial battle fatigue is real. We recommend browsing the bias awareness resources on the web sites of CETL and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion to support your efforts. In the meantime, here are five key guidelines:

  1. Engage in Vigilant Self-Awareness
  2. Acknowledge Racism and the Ideology of White Supremacy
  3. Study and Teach Representative History
  4. Talk about Race with Students
  5. When you See Racism, Do Something

(Dena Simmons, How to Be an Antiracist Educator, ACSD, 2019)

Recognize that self-care is an important part of committed antiracist work, particularly if you are an instructor who is BIPOC at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI).

Here are some additional resources for reflection and action:


To critique my own people’s patterns of thought and behavior, then, is not an act of self-hate or toxic shaming but an act of love, trust, and hope. The roles of colonizers, destroyers, oppressors, slavers, haters, and genocidaires do not exhaust who we can be. Acknowledging personal complicity and collective guilt is constructive: it opens us to repairing harms, engaging in self-change, and transforming our relations. Owning our histories brings self-awareness, and this self-honesty makes our self-evolution as persons and as peoples possible, even likely. Denise C. Breton, “From Win-Lose Thinking to Being Good Relatives

The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Ant-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. — Iljeoma Oluo