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What is "Racism" in Antiracist Education?


by Lawrence Blum — 1999

Antiracist education must operate with a conception of "racism." A commonly held definition is that racism is a system of advantage of power of white people over people of color. Reviewing this set of recent books on anti-racist education, I argue that this definition is both too broad (white privilege is an important race-related injustice yet is not racism) and too narrow (not all racist actions contribute to a system of advantage or power). The definition's focus on effects rather than individual prejudice paradoxically blinds us to the manifold racial and non-racial causes of racial disparity and injustice, and constricts educational inquiry. The definition also masks the range and plurality of moral, civic, and social aims of anti-racist education -- reducing racial stereotypes, learning respect for persons of different races, intervening in racist incidents, promoting interracial tolerance and understanding, recognizing one's racial privilege and responding constructively to that recognition, committing oneself to making one's local environment a more hospitable place for persons of all races, battling racial injustice. A broadened conception of antiracist education goes hand in hand with a more complex understanding of racism itself.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 4, 1999, p. 860-880
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10345, Date Accessed: 11/24/2017 5:20:30 PM

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About the Author
  • Lawrence Blum
    University of Massachusetts, Boston
    E-mail Author
    Lawrence Blum is Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Education, and Professor of Philosophy, at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He is the author of “Multicultural Education as Values Education,” distributed by Harvard (University) Children’s Initiative.
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