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Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education: Activism for Equity in Digital Spaces

reviewed by Katherine Rieser - October 11, 2021

coverTitle: Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education: Activism for Equity in Digital Spaces
Author(s): Detra Price-Dennis and Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807765511, Pages: 144, Year: 2021
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In Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education, Detra Price-Dennis and Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz argue that prioritizing both racial and digital literacies in teacher education prepares teacher-activists who fight for racial justice and effect change for students. The authors’ Racial Literacy for Activism (#RL4A) framework provides a blueprint for teachers and teacher educators who wish to “advance racial literacy across technologies toward meaningful change” (p. 8). Price-Dennis and Sealey-Ruiz move toward a new vision of racial literacy which must include digital literacy to be relevant to students and effective as activism. Their compelling and concrete examples push forward current scholarship at the intersection of culturally relevant pedagogy, racial literacy, and digital literacy, and successfully lay the groundwork for a new set of priorities in teacher education.

Price-Dennis and Sealey-Ruiz leverage their own practice as teacher educators and the scholarship of critical race theorists, education scholars, and young people to provide a theoretical framework that promotes “development of racial literacies in the digital age” (p. 3). By inviting readers into their own classrooms and the classrooms of the teachers they work with, Price-Dennis and Sealey-Ruiz intervene meaningfully into a set of scholarly conversations with a concrete and specific manual for practitioners who are interested in expanding their students’ ability to leverage “racial literacy as resistance” (p. 23) through work in schools.   

Chapters 1 and 2 lay a strong theoretical and historical foundation for readers. The authors define and situate the terms “racial literacy” and “digital literacy” in academic and political contexts. Chapter 1 embeds racial literacy in a long tradition of educators and activists fighting against White supremacy and structural racism, arguing that “citizen educators—must build their historical literacy” (p. 15) to effectively understand and contribute to racial justice movements. They argue that educators must “question assumptions, engage in critical conversations, and practice reflexivity” (p. 22) to enact racial literacy in their work. In Chapter 2, the authors define the digital literacy space and highlight ways in which technology has the potential to be a powerful tool in racial justice movements. Price-Dennis and Sealey-Ruiz argue that “technology is not colorblind or race-neutral” (p. 42) and that an understanding of technology is paramount given its outsized influence in shaping conversations about racism. They offer examples of ways in which technological platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have both decontextualized and publicized acts of racial violence. Their framework, Racial Literacy for Activism (#RL4A) aids teacher educators in unpacking such digital expressions of racial violence and engaging pre-service teachers in the use of digital tools to become “critically astute consumers and producers of content about race in our digital world” (p. 53).

In Chapters 3 and 4, Price-Dennis and Sealy-Ruiz use myriad examples from classrooms to powerfully illustrate the combined power of racial and digital literacy in practice. Chapter 3 highlights the voices of pre-service teachers and walks teacher educators through the process of facilitating racially literate conversations with students. These examples, pulled from the powerful practice of the authors themselves, paint a rich picture of how to sustain racial literacy in teacher education programs. The authors help readers see that racism is “an ever-shifting yet ever-present structure in the lives of teachers and students” (p. 76) and provide ways to promote meaningful healing in classrooms. In Chapter 4, the authors exemplify how digital and racial literacies can be combined in classroom spaces at all levels, from elementary school to higher education classrooms. This chapter weaves together artifacts created on a variety of online platforms. In the book’s most impactful section, the authors display the multimodal digital creations of students and demonstrate how these artifacts educate about racial violence and celebrate the lives of BIPOC and other marginalized groups.  

In a moment of racial reckoning with a global pandemic as backdrop, Price-Dennis and Sealy-Ruiz offer a new way to “envision how digital tools can forward racial literacy” (p. 71) in today’s classrooms. The authors aid teachers in making sense of how these two ideas can work together to build classrooms that are more antiracist and humanizing, and reflectively urge teachers and teacher educators to lead with both “heart and headspace” (p. 71) as they embark on the work. Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education concludes with a vision of education spaces that show “dismantling White supremacy as the rule and not the exception” (p. 104). The authors make this vision accessible, clear, and compelling to practitioners.  

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 11, 2021
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23868, Date Accessed: 10/16/2021 11:58:07 AM

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About the Author
  • Katherine Rieser
    Harvard University
    E-mail Author
    KATHERINE RIESER is a lecturer on education in the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program and Teacher Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received her A.B. in English from Harvard University and her Master’s in urban education policy from Brown University. Before teaching at Harvard, she taught middle and high school humanities for seven years and spent three years as the dean of curriculum and program at a small charter school in Cambridge, MA. Her research and teaching interests include anti-racism in classroom practice, best practices in hiring and retaining of teachers of color, developing culturally competent and relevant English curricula, and achieving “day one” readiness for pre-service teachers.
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