Anti-racism, anti-blackness, anti-racism, anti-racist pedagogy, rhetoric and composition, English, K12 Education


Kyoko Kishimoto writes that those who practice anti-racist pedagogical practices are not only required to teach about race, but instead "teach about race and racism in a way that fosters critical analytical skills, which reveal the power relations behind racism and how race has been institutionalized in U.S. society to create and justify inequalities" (541). This is the work. And I have chosen to do it.

Steeped in anti-racist pedagogy “This Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Composition Course” aims to explore the ways that writing classrooms can affirm students’ autonomy while simultaneously equipping them with skills that equate to “cultural capital.” Anti-racist pedagogy challenges "embedded Eurocentrism and male privilege" not only in the what is taught, but in the how subjects are taught (Kishimoto 541). Integrating anti-racism into teacher training should be mandatory, but we consistently find unaware educators navigating complex classrooms that leave students uninterested and disembodied. This issue transcends the K-12 environment; many composition classrooms face difficulties when implementing anti-racist content and/or strategies. In composing a college composition course designed around antiracism— in content and approach— I came to a disturbing realization: the spaces in dire need of antiracist pedagogy are often the most resistant.

Students are coming from K-12 institutions whose curriculums misrepresent history and leave them feeling attacked when they are merely confronted with historical realities upon entering college. An absence of a comprehensive national history results in flawed rhetoric in the composition classroom. This is a disservice to the nation, but most sinisterly, it is a disservice to these students. While many would like to glorify our current distance from historical racial aggressions, as a black woman, I cannot afford to overestimate the positive qualities of racial diversity/integration. Because I have the audacity to hold degrees that grant me access to privileged spaces and be both black and woman, my mere presence shifts the dynamics of a classroom. It suddenly becomes raced. Language-use is literally put on the battlefield where micro-aggressions serve as swords and my only shield is an English degree that forces me to coddle non-Black students, while also defending my instructional choices.

Through personal experiences, this essay aims to use the freshman composition course as a point of advocacy for anti-racist pedagogy in K-12 classrooms, and thus the programs that train this nation’s K-12 teachers. “This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Composition Course” explores both educators and student’s resistance and discomfort with implementing such strategies, while also assessing what this means for our racial reality. Many of us are not willing nor prepared to engage the monstrosity of racism, and no one has a right to demand that kind of labor from us. It is a colossal task, but I maintain throughout this essay, that our children’s lives depend upon it.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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