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Antiracist Praxis

Antiracist Pedagogy and Praxis in Higher Education by Amaarah DeCuir, Ed.D. and Qudsia Saeed

Antiracist pedagogy in higher education consists of mindsets and practices that disrupt racism and advance equity across institutions.  Racism is defined as “the combination of values, beliefs, and actions that uphold the ‘norms and needs of Whiteness’” (Oyler, 2011, p. 3).  It is systemic in nature: “it is, perhaps, a readily accepted fact that ‘racism is endemic in U.S. society, deeply ingrained legally, culturally, and even psychologically’” (Tate, 1997, p. 234-235).  Antiracism can then be asserted as “the practice of resisting or opposing racism and/or intervening in ways that subvert its impact and relax its hegemonic clasp on persons, institutions, schools, and other such entities in society” (Ohito, 2021, p. 19). As racism operates as a set of values, beliefs, and actions, so too is antiracism conceived as resistance to racism through its own set of transformative values, beliefs, and actions.

Pedagogies structure the social change and advancement that transforms how schools function in our society.  Beyond simply teaching practices, pedagogies are “the interplay among teachers, students, curricular texts, and knowledges” (Ohito, 2021, p. 19). Antiracist pedagogies move beyond simply adding racial content into classes; it is a set of practices that disrupt racism in both the classroom and broader society.  It shapes how one teaches, includes critical self-reflection, and serves to organize for change beyond the classroom (Kishimoto, 2018; and Phillips, 2013). Antiracist pedagogies are needed to counter and address racism in all forms, including dismantling systemic racial inequalities and demystifying whiteness in education (Blakeney, 2005; Smith et. al, 2021; and Dutro & Caasi, 2021).

Through my research and applied practices as a Senior Inclusive Pedagogy Fellow with American University’s Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning, I have had numerous opportunities to lead faculty to advance antiracist pedagogies in their departments and classrooms.  Drawing upon this knowledge, I assert a model of antiracist pedagogy for higher education that structures the mindsets and practices needed to dismantle racism in our institution and in society broadly.  Each of the core components are described in the following sections.

Humanizing Others

Antiracist work begins with humanizing others in our classrooms and across campus. “Humanizing pedagogies are a stance wherein instruction ceases to be an instrument by which teachers can manipulate students, but rather expresses the consciousness of the students themselves” (Chong and Orr, 2023, p. 167). When educators enact humanizing practices with students who are marginalized in our society, we begin “by examining our own assumptions and biases…[so we] can create space for more thoughtful curriculum and instruction to evolve” (Ellis, 2017, p. 69). Humanization occurs when we seek to learn about our students’ lives outside of the classroom to truly know them better. It happens when we make space to discuss the impacts of current events and their lived experiences on their humanity, in addition to what is impacting their academic achievement. Humanizing students disrupts racism by responding meaningfully to the ways in which our social identities shape our experiences in life and in classrooms.   

Incorporating Race, Racism, and Inequity

Antiracist pedagogy transforms curriculum to incorporate race, racism, and inequity into the core content.  In all subjects, students should learn about people from multiple racial backgrounds and study the impacts of racism and inequity in the discipline they are examining. Educators can add diverse personal narratives to their syllabi to help shape students’ engagement with concepts of race, racism, and inequity (Reinke et al, 2023). They can also include content knowledge that is shaped by the experiences of racism and inequity in society, like learning about redlining and residential segregation to illustrate the enduring impact of racist policies (Smith et al, 2021), or by studying harmful medical research enacted upon racialized minorities that continues to impact communities today. Antiracist educators should be prepared that white students may have “emotional reactions” to the inclusion of content that centers race, racism, and inequity because their psychological and social responses are likely to be “infused with shame, fatigue, ambivalence and confusion, moral crises, performative fragility, and rage” (Reinke et al, 2023, p. 12). These responses can be addressed in humanizing practices that support students but advances commitments to antiracist practices that shape curriculum.

Disrupting Injustices

Injustices exist in our classrooms, in our course material, and across campus. Antiracist pedagogy requires disrupting injustices, “...beyond simply acknowledging diversity; it can actively disrupt stereotypes, challenge discriminatory practices, and empower students to become agents of change” (Upadhyay et al, 2021, p. 523). We do this by exploring experiences of race and racism as they exist in classroom interactions, highlighting the importance of identifying and disrupting them (Dutro and Caasi, 2021). We must call out racist discourse in course material, or inequitable practices in academic disciplines. Educators who adopt antiracist pedagogy create space in their classrooms for students to name injustices they are facing and be empowered to address changes they seek. Some educators choose to help students create counter narratives, experiential exercises and assignments that challenge biased narratives and center marginalized experiences (Bloom, 2022). Antiracist pedagogy cannot thrive in an unjust classroom environment; educators and students must work collaboratively to disrupt injustices and challenge the permanence of racism in higher education spaces.  

Social Justice

Antiracist pedagogy seeks to advance social justice by transforming policies, leadership, systems, and commitments to marginalized communities. This work demands active participation in the dismantling of unjust systems and the establishment of justice in our social institutions (Teel, 2014). Antiracist educators mobilize collective responsibilities to achieve racial equity beyond their classrooms by engaging with communities to promote shared social justice priorities (Williams et al, 2021). We cannot limit our antiracist practices to our classrooms, instead they must shape the work in our academic departments, influence our research agendas, and guide our service commitments. All aspects of our professional and personal lives should reflect ongoing responsibilities to disrupt racism and advance equity. The goal of antiracist pedagogy is the establishment of freedom and liberation for all marginalized communities by transforming our classrooms and society broadly.  

Implementing Antiracist Pedagogy Professional Development

It is critical that institutions provide professional development support and resources for faculty to implement antiracist pedagogy (Blakeney, 2005 and Teel, 2014). This involves a continual process of navigating complex social inequities to establish antiracist practices. All academic disciplines can enact antiracist pedagogies by examining oppressive systems and practices, and raising awareness of social conditions impacted by racism, inequities, or injustice. This may include addressing Eurocentrism in your discipline or being inclusive and centering diverse content and perspectives in course materials.  Students’ work can be graded and assessed using practices that reduce bias, such as anonymous or labor-based grading. Instructors can also normalize processes for requesting alternate assessments and alternate deadlines that center students’ humanity and the complexity of their lived experiences. Below are several other multi-disciplinary recommendations of strategies to implement antiracist pedagogy:

  • Communication - shift media education away from cursory explorations of content for aesthetic pleasure to a critical pedagogy that teaches students how to raise their critical consciousness to communicate oppressive social conditions (Walker, 2021).
  • Humanities - design integrated frameworks that incorporate critical inquiry, inclusive teaching, and diverse modes of communication and cultural identities. Examine the impact of artistic methods on discussions about race, ethnicity, and culture. This work is not solely focused on examining racism, but can also center joy, particularly Black joy, that seeks to study Black people’s creativity, imagination, healing, resistance, and cultural expressions as components of antiracist education (Dunn and Love, 2020; Maamuujav and Hardacre, 2022; and Ellis, 2017).
  • Social Sciences – teach students the histories and contemporary realities of communities that describe how they are impacted by social institutions, policies, and leadership practices across time and place, for all cultures and peoples.
  • STEM - engage students in STEM studies that are critical about social, health, and global issues (Upadhyay et al, 2021). Decenter Eurocentric and Western forms of knowledge construction to consider how nondominant communities co-exist in their natural worlds. 
  • Pre-professional schools - train professionals who can challenge racial disparities and systemic inequities (Bloom, 2022). Encourage students to practice self-reflection as a practice to construct their emerging professional identities and promote critical consciousness through the construction of counternarratives.

Further Reflections

Consider how each of the following quotes advances your understanding and expands your capacity to enact antiracist pedagogy.

  • Antiracist pedagogy is often assigned to faculty of color who are perceived as being best positioned to dismantle oppression in college classrooms.  White educators have claimed that they do not know enough about racism to teach it effectively, but this is an inadequate response.  Advancing antiracist pedagogy cannot solely lie as a responsibility of those subjected to racism on campus, it must be shared by all those responsible for classroom climates.  (Wagner, 2005 & 2006)
  • “Changing the course content cannot be an additive approach of adding a few assigned readings to the course as a fulfillment of antiracism, it must be a transformational change in a discipline-specific context.” (Kishimoto, 2018)
  • “It is helpful if educators have some form of support outside of class, when engaged in such demanding pedagogy,”  (Wagner, 2006, p. 269)
  • “The original problem of racism has not been solved by suasion.  Knowledge is only power if knowledge is put to the struggle for power.  Changing minds is not a movement.  Critiquing racism is not activism.  Changing minds is not activism.  An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change.  If a person has no record of power or policy change, then that person is not an activist. ”  (Kendi, p. 209)

Additional Resources


Blakeney, A. M. (2005). Antiracist Pedagogy: Definition, Theory, Purpose and Professional Development. Journal of Curriculum & Pedagogy, 2(1), 119–132.

Bloom, E. M. (2022). Courageous classrooms: Embracing antiracist legal pedagogy. Family Court Review, 60(4), 630–645.

Chong, K. L. & Orr, S. M. (2023) Toward an Antiracist Pedagogy of Humanizing Co-Creatorship in Teacher Education, The Educational Forum, 87:3, 162-176, DOI: 10.1080/00131725.2022.2153188

Dunn, D., & Love, B. L. (2020). Antiracist Language Arts Pedagogy Is Incomplete without Black Joy. Research in the Teaching of English, 55(2), 190–192.

Dutro, E., & Caasi, E. (2021). Embracing the both/and of Antiracist Pedagogies: A Dialogue in Letters. Language Arts, 99(1), 64–67.

Ellis, A. E. (2017). Merging Art and Educative Practice: Using Paintings as an Approach to Developing Antiracist Pedagogy: Merging Art and Educative Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2017(154), 61–70.

Kishimoto, K. (2018) Anti-racist pedagogy: from faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom, Race Ethnicity and Education, 21:4, 540-554, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2016.1248824

Maamuujav, U., & Hardacre, B. (2022). The politics and praxis of academic English: Toward antiracist language pedagogy. TESOL Journal, 13(3).

Reinke, L. T., Miller, E. & Glass, T. S. (2023) ‘It’s something I believe in, but it’s not something I understand’: white teacher educators working towards antiracist pedagogy, Whiteness and Education, 8:1, 1-19, DOI: 10.1080/23793406.2021.1988686

Ohito, E. O. (2021). How to be an antiracist teacher educator in the United States: A sketch of a Black male pedagogic provocateur. Teaching and Teacher Education, 98, 103235.

Oyler, C. (2011). An examination of urban teacher education and the public good: Which public? What good? The missing curriculum of racial literacies. In American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, April (pp. 8-12).

Phillips, A. (2014). Helping White People See White: Creating a Social Movement.

Smith, W. L., Crowley, R. M., Demoiny, S. B. & Cushing-Leubner, J. (2021). Threshold Concept Pedagogy for Antiracist Social Studies Teaching, Multicultural Perspectives, 23:2, 87-94, DOI: 10.1080/15210960.2021.1914047

Tate IV, W. F. (1997). Chapter 4: Critical race theory and education: History, theory, and implications. Review of research in education, 22(1), 195-247.

Teel, K. (2014). Getting Out of the Left Lane: The Possibility of White Antiracist Pedagogy. Teaching Theology & Religion, 17(1), 3–26.

Upadhyay, B., Atwood, E. & Tharu, B. (2021) Antiracist Pedagogy in a High School Science Class: A Case of a High School Science Teacher in an Indigenous School, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 32:5, 518-536, DOI: 10.1080/1046560X.2020.1869886

Romero Walker, A. (2021). Using critical media literacy to create a decolonial, anti-racist teaching philosophy. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 13(2), 86-93.

Williams, J. M., Byrd, J. A., & Washington, A. R. (2021). Challenges in Implementing Antiracist Pedagogy Into Counselor Education Programs: A Collective Self‐Study. Counselor Education and Supervision, 60(4), 254–273.