FEATURE

Toolkit for "Excerpt: Getting Real About Race"

Educators often have a hard time getting real about race. This toolkit for "Excerpt: Getting Real About Race" provides questions to guide reflection and discussion on how the physical, social, legal and historical constructions of race impact students and educators. 

Introduction

In Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms, H. Richard Milner IV writes, “Educators tend to struggle to address race and how it informs their work with students, parents, communities, and colleagues.” He proposes a nuanced way to conceptualize race as physical, social, legal and historical constructions. What follows are short excerpts from Rac(e)ing to Class and guiding questions. You can use these excerpts and questions to help you and your colleagues engage in more substantive discussions on how race affects your school community.

 

Essential Question

  1. How do the physical, social, legal and historical constructions of race affect my school, students and me?

 

Procedure

Each excerpt below is followed by a set of four questions. You can use the four questions as prompts for journal writing and silent reflection. Or, have the questions available to help facilitate a group discussion about race among colleagues. Or, you can do both.

 

Race is physically constructed.

In Rac(e)ing to Class, Milner writes:

Based on skin pigmentation, people in society construct ideas, characteristics, images, and belief systems about themselves and others. These physical constructions are sometimes inaccurate, but they remain nevertheless. It is important to note that physical constructions of race vary from one society to the next. For instance, constructions of race in Africa and Asia are different from constructions of race based on phenotype in North America.

1. Give an example of how race is physically constructed in your life/culture/society.
2. How does the physical construction of race affect you?
3. How does the physical construction of race affect your students?
4. How does the physical construction of race impact your school?

 

Race is socially constructed.

In Rac(e)ing to Class, Milner writes:

Based on a range of societal information and messages, people categorize themselves and others. These social constructions are linked to preferences, worldviews, and how groups of people perform. They are based on a range of perspectives drawn from people’s interpretation of history and law, and they shape how we think about individuals and groups of people.

1. Give an example of how race is socially constructed in your life/culture/society.
2. How does the social construction of race affect you?
3. How does the social construction of race affect your students?
4. How does the social construction of race impact your school?

 

Race is legally constructed.

In Rac(e)ing to Class, Milner writes:

U.S. laws have helped us construct what race is. Landmark cases and legal policies such as the Naturalization Law (1790), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and Milliken v. Bradley (1974) have all influenced our constructions and definitions of race in U.S. society.

1. Give an example of how race is legally constructed in your life/culture/society.
2. How does the legal construction of race affect you?
3. How does the legal construction of race affect your students?
4. How does the legal construction of race impact your school?

 

Race is historically constructed.

In Rac(e)ing to Class, Milner writes:

Historical realties of how people have been treated and have fared in a society steeped in racism and oppression also shape the ways in which people understand, talk about, and conceptualize race. For instance, Jim Crow laws, slavery, and racial discrimination influence how people conceptualize and understand race.

1. Give an example of how race is historically constructed in your life/culture/society.
2. How does the historical construction of race affect you?
3. How does the historical construction of race affect your students?
4. How does the historical construction of race impact your school?