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Tips for teaching about racism

A sign reading "Stop Sugarcoating American History" at march against racism in Milton on June 19.Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

Things to do:

1. Create a classroom community where students feel comfortable having difficult conversations.

2. Set parameters for conversations on race. Remind students to only speak for themselves and not for their entire race or ethnicity.

3. Before teaching about race, explore and recognize your own racial or ethnic identity.

4. Cast a wide net to develop instructional materials, including resources from Facing History & Ourselves, Teaching Tolerance, Black Lives Matter at School, Colorful Pages (resources particularly for elementary teachers), and education schools at universities.

5. Help create a schoolwide culture that supports conversations about race and racism.


Things not to do:

6. Don’t single out students of color and ask them to share experiences with racism unless they ask to do so.

7. Don’t share personal opinions. Focus instead on guiding students, using history and facts, to reach their own conclusions about what constitutes racism.

8. Don’t use simulations, such as slave auctions, as a teaching tool. They can be traumatic for students of color.

9. Don’t think of race and racism as a topic for only history classes. It can be taught as a part of literature, science, and many other subjects.

10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. But be sure to own them if they happen.

Sources: Interviews with history scholars and teachers who teach about racism.

Linda K. Wertheimer