1st Edition

Becoming a White Antiracist A Practical Guide for Educators, Leaders, and Activists

By Stephen D. Brookfield, Mary E. Hess Copyright 2021
    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    As this book was being written, the United States exploded in outrage against the murder by police of people of color across the country. Corporations, branches of state and local government, and educational institutions all pledged to work for racial justice and the Black Lives Matters movement moved into the mainstream as people from multiple racial and class identities pledged their support to its message. Diversity initiatives abounded, mission statements everywhere were changed to incorporate references to racial justice, and the rampant anti-blackness endemic to US culture was brought strikingly to the surface. Everywhere, it seemed, white people were looking to learn about race. “What do we do?” “How can we help?” These were the cries the authors heard most frequently from those whites whose consciousness of racism was being raised.This book is their answer to those cries. It’s grounded in the idea that white people need to start with themselves, with understanding that they have a white racial identity. Once you’ve learned about what it means to be white in a white supremacist world, the answer of "what can I do" becomes clear. Sometimes you work in multiracial alliances, but more often you work with white colleagues and friends. In this book the authors explore what it means for whites to move from becoming aware of the extent of their unwitting collusion in racism, towards developing a committed antiracist white identity. They create a road map, or series of paths, that people can consider traveling as they work to develop a positive white identity centered around enacting antiracism.The book will be useful to anyone trying to create conversations around race, teach about white supremacy, arrange staff and development workshops on racism, and help colleagues explore how to create an antiracist culture or environment. This work happens in schools, colleges and universities, and we suspect many readers will be located in K-12 and higher education. But helping people develop an antiracist identity is a project that occurs in corporations, congregations, community groups, health care, state and local government, arts organizations, and the military as well. Essentially, if you have an interest in helping the whites you interact with become antiracist, then this book is written very specifically for you.Watch our BWAR YouTube playlist, where authors Stephen Brookfield and Mary Hess chat about some common themes from the book.

    Foreword Preface Intoduction. Our Racial Stories 1. Why We Need White Antiracism 2. What is a White Antiracist Identity? 3. What it Means to be White 4. Helping People Become Aware of Their Whiteness 5. Using Stories to Uncover Racism 6. Embracing the Discomfort of Race Talk 7. Running ‘Real’ Discussions Around Race 8. Getting People to Think Structurally about Race 9. Using Your Power to Empower White Antiracism 10. Sharing the Powerful History of Antiracist Work 11. Responding to Resistance Against Antiracist Efforts 12. Being an Antiracist White Ally References About the Authors Index


    Stephen D. Brookfield is Distinguished Scholar at Antioch University, Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Professor Emeritus at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota). He has written, co-written or edited nineteen books on adult learning, teaching, critical thinking, discussion methods, critical theory, leadership, and teaching race, six of which have won the Houle World Award for Literature in Adult Education. His academic appointments have included positions at the University of British Columbia, Teachers College Columbia University (New York), Harvard University and the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

    Mary E. Hess is Professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary, where she has taught since 2000. During the 2016-2017 year she held the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Visiting Chair in Religious Education at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. She is affiliated faculty at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, as well as at the San Francisco Theological Seminary/Graduate School of Theology in the University of Redlands. Hess has degrees from Yale, Harvard and Boston College, and is a past president of the Religious Education Association. She is a consultant with the Wabash Center on Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious Studies, is a member of the Faculty Development Committee of the Association of Theological Schools, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals.

    “This is a book born out of passion, learning, and reflection. The many insights Brookfield and Hess offer their readers originate from their own attentiveness to sociocultural realities, their substantial knowledge of work countering racism, and their wide experience in collaborating with educators to foster just educational processes. I highly recommend Becoming a White Antiracist as a book to be read and put into practice.”

    "Written with empathy and deep knowledge of adult learning theory, Brookfield and Hess expertly demystify critical race theory and offer a highly accessible step-by-step guide for those who seek to foster discussion and create curricula related to systemic racism. As a woman of color, I found their frameworks highly useful to my teaching about antiracism within a predominantly white institution."

    Hetty Cunningham

    Associate Vice Chair for Education and the Learning Environment, Department of Pediatrics, and Director for Equity and Justice in Curricular Affairs, Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University

    “Becoming a White Antiracist is a long-essential and timely contribution to antiracist scholarship and practice. This book is the next best thing to Stephen Brookfield's informed and effective facilitation of conversations designed to develop racial literacy in predominantly white spaces. Becoming a White Antiracist is an important invitation and resource, especially for people committed to discovering their white racial identity towards becoming an authentic and active agent for inclusive change.”

    Nicole Brittingham Furlonge

    Professor of Practice and Director, Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University

    “Hess and Brookfield strike a delightfully unapologetic tone in Becoming a White Antiracist, calling white people to task for perpetuating anti-Black racist behaviors and attitudes. Through honest and raw engagement with challenging issues, the authors provide an accessible guide to developing a white antiracist identity, reminding readers of its foundational importance for effective diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Becoming a White Antiracist is a must-read for educators and leaders desiring to become agents for positive change in our contemporary society rife with racialized turmoil.”

    Lisa R. Merriweather

    Associate Professor of Adult Education, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and Cofounder & Senior Editor, Dialogues in Social Justice: An Adult Education Journal

    “Brookfield and Hess offer a range of strategies and methods for liberating white imaginations from the debilitating and life draining legacies of white supremacy and racism in America. Through storytelling and truth-sharing dialogical methods, they provide readers with roadmaps by which individuals and groups might begin to dismantle structural racism in the United States. The book provides white readers with tools and tactics that can aid them in their efforts to engage systemic racism and dismantle white supremacy.”

    Paul O. Myhre

    Senior Associate Director, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion

    "As a white antiracist educator, this book was exactly the resource that I needed to sharpen my craft. Brookfield and Hess honor the rigor this important topic deserves, while also creating an accessible entry point for readers at varying levels of development. This is just the right book for just the right time."

    David Scherer

    Artist and Educator With JUSTmove Consulting

    "As expert teachers of teachers, Hess and Brookfield model the humility and courage needed in the messy and complicated work of white people entangled in white supremacy inviting other white people to recognize their embeddedness in it and to develop a collective commitment to actively dismantling systemic racism. They share concrete approaches, wise counsel, useful resources, and hard-won insights about how to engage in the practice of teaching antiracist white identity. The book demonstrates their characteristic strengths of pedagogies that evoke critical thinking and structural awareness, strategies for forging and holding brave spaces in the midst of resistance, and use of technology and storytelling. For those who are stepping up to the critical work of teaching and learning about how to live into an antiracist white identity, Brookfield and Hess will help them avoid the beginner’s errors that we all are tempted to replicate, to gain critical footing as they wade into the fray, and to benefit from the experience of these two wise mentors as they set out to further develop their own skills in this shared critical work."

    Katherine Turpin

    Professor of Practical Theology and Religious Education, Iliff School of Theology

    "Becoming a White Antiracist removes the mask of white innocence and raises a painful and disagreeable mirror to white people. Brookfield and Hess share James Baldwin's rejection of love in the American sense of infantilism or just being made happy. Rather, the book that you hold deploys love as a painful process whereby it is unequivocally demanded that white people see themselves as they are; it is a powerful text that is steadfast in its pedagogical, conceptual, and discursive passion and courage to lay bare the lie and the mythopoetic structure of white identity. In doing so, the text effectively creates a robust dialogical space for profound generative white discomfort, disorientation, and loss. There is no space for 'white heroes' here, but a call to white unsuturing, which involves the death of conscious and unconscious white fictions that are tied to white systemic structures, and toxic white racist habits. Becoming a White Antiracist is a daring book that demands action, that instructs white people to be in danger, to risk themselves, to undo their power and privilege, and to rethink the category of the 'human' outside the white order of things."

    George Yancy

    The Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy at Emory University

    "Bringing so many rich and valuable resources together in one document is of immense benefit to anyone engaged in or interested in anti-racism work. Living up to its title as a ‘Practical Guide’, the book goes beyond the what and addresses the how in anti-racism practice. While a lot of the themes discussed in the book are not novel, the presentation, resources and guidelines are. The book is written with skillful simplicity (making it very easy to read) and buttressed with easily replicable steps and detailed guidelines for practitioners to follow.

    . . .

    Overall, I found the guidelines and frameworks presented in the book very useful in my own practice as a Black woman who engages in anti-racism interventions in predominantly white spaces. The book is both informative and illuminative and is presented with an uncanny combination of rigour and comprehensiveness but also with skillful simplicity. This attribute makes it accessible to any kind of reader – whether in academia or not. In a world increasingly ladened with the inequities of racism, Becoming a White Antiracist is a must read for everyone – white or Black.”

    Studies in the Education of Adults

    "Becoming a White Antiracist offers helpful advice and pedagogical moves to those who are inexperienced with facilitating groups to develop antiracist identities but are committed to doing so, as well as new ways of approaching this work for those who are more experienced. The book offers many resources for facilitators to use that are accessible, as well as clear illustrations of how racism impacts BIPOC individuals, including TED Talks, YouTube videos, popular music, and movies. These different activities provide flexibility for facilitators to make decisions based on their individual contexts rather than presenting a one-size-fits-all method. Further, the chapters that provide common scenarios in which facilitators might meet individual and organizational resistance, and broad solutions to those scenarios, allow facilitators to be more prepared to react to that resistance."

    Jenna Kamrass Morvay

    Teachers College Record