Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., & Altheria Caldera, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

Altheria Caldera photoDr. Bricio Vasquez photoAnti-racist schooling occurs as a result of an explicit stance against racism accompanied by purposeful, strategic actions that affirm students of color. It humanizes all students by respecting their cultural backgrounds and exemplifies cultural pluralism rather than cultural homogeneity.

All levels of racism historically have existed in education: interpersonal, internalized and institutional. Interpersonal racism is racial discrimination that occurs between individuals and groups. Internalized racism is racial bias held by people of color against their own racial group. Institutional racism is race-related oppression embedded in institutional policies and practices. Anti-racist educators reject all three.

Anti-racist education is liberatory only if it counters the specific manifestations of racism that inflict violence upon all racially-minoritized students. Said differently, inter-group analyses of racism help educators recognize and reject the distinct ways schools enact racialized violence (cultural, psychological, physical) against students of color.

Adopting anti-racist curricula and pedagogies promotes inclusiveness. Representation in curricula enhances students’ race consciousness and their connections to each other and their community.

Because of the longstanding Black-white binary that prevails in race relations work, many educators see racism only in these terms, negating the racism experienced by other students of color. Howard insisted, “There is a moral imperative, an economic incentive, and a national necessity for the country to do all that is possible to effectively educate what soon will be the majority of the nation’s citizenry” (2019). With this in mind, the following discusses separately anti-Asian racism, anti-Latino and anti-Native American racism, and anti-Black racism in education.

Anti-Asian American Racism

The academic success of Asian American students in certain population groups has led them to be stereotyped as “the model minority,” which places unfair and burdensome expectations on them. The high achievement of Japanese American, Korean American and Chinese American students tends to overshadow the struggles of other Asian American populations: Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, Samoan, Thai and other Southeast Asian students (Howard, 2019).

As a result of this invisibility, there is a lack of attention to their academic needs. Thus, their schooling experiences are more akin to Black students and Latino students.

Not only are Asian American students subjected to racism, but they also experience the violence of xenophobia. Defined as strong prejudice against those from other countries, xenophobia toward Asian Americans has been exacerbated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (IDRA, 2021a). Asian American slurs are examples of that xenophobia and cause Asian Americans to experience increased stress.

Anti-Latino and Anti-Native American Racism

Anti-racist pedagogy means centering Latino and Native American scholars and histories within the broader narrative in school subjects. For example, Texas social studies textbooks generally frame colonization as beneficial to Native American people. Biased textbooks frame Native American populations as helpless and in need of saving. In reality, Native American people thrived in their lands before European invaders landed on this hemisphere.

Framing Spanish colonizers as saviors of Native American peoples in social studies and history textbooks reproduces the belief of white supremacy in our schools and students. In contrast, schools create welcoming and safe environments for all students by providing students with objective and holistic narratives of Latino and Native American peoples.

Another racist and white supremacist tactic in education is the erasure of Latino and Native American histories. Often, the education model in the United States is structured around  Eurocentric pedagogies. The individualized nature of U.S. education often rejects group learning, oral histories/ancestral knowledge, lived experiences and spiritual knowledge. The “alternative knowledge” is rarely recognized or validated as legitimate in academia thereby reproducing the belief that Western forms of knowledge are the only legitimate (i.e., superior) forms of knowing.

Colonization did not cease to exist in our past, but rather, it is an active process that continues to this day. Historical narratives of white saviors, erasure of Latino and Native American histories, indoctrination into capitalistic ideals, policing in schools, and competition-based grading practices sustain white cultural hegemony. In doing so, Latino and Native American students struggle to forge ahead socially and economically. As the largest and most segregated student population in Texas and elsewhere, Latino students attend the most underfunded schools as well.

Anti-Black Racism

Anti-Black racism refers to marked hostility and antagonism inflicted upon Black students. It is rooted in the historical dehumanization of Black bodies and devaluation of Black culture. This history, passed down through interpersonal and institutional racism, influences how school administrators and teachers view Black students, their behavior, their talents and their worth. Consequently, Black students suffer from the malpractice of teachers who mishandle lessons related to slavery and who use racial slurs. They are victimized, too, by peers who learned to see them as commodities to be traded or who use songs with racial slurs. Two such incidents happened recently in Texas.

Black students also are criminalized in ways that result in physical violence at the hands of school resource officers and police, leading advocates to demand an end to policing in schools (IDRA, 2021b). Anti-Black racism in education also is evidenced by segregated, underfunded schools, over-suspension of Black students, disproportionate referrals for special education and underqualified teachers.

Creating an Anti-Racist Learning Environment

An important starting point to anti-racist schooling for all groups of racially minoritized students is to ensure the school has a safe teaching environment. This means maintaining the emotional, physical and mental security of Asian American, Black, Latino and Native American students.

  • Teachers of color comprised 18% of teachers in 2011-12 while students of color in public schools comprised 49% of students (IDRA, 2017). Anti-racist educational practice for Black students in particular must, for example, include hiring of Black teachers who are uniquely equipped to recognize and cultivate the talents and abilities of Black students. (See IDRA & EAF, 2021, for more recommendations.)
  • Anti-racist educational practice for Asian American students must include a recognition of their U.S. citizenship instead of positioning them as “foreign” or “outsiders.” These practices also should be characterized by culturally sustaining responses to distinct Asian American sub-populations instead of seeing them as one homogenous group. (IDRA 2021)
  • Schools must avoid curricula that rely on stereotypes and biased historical narratives that reproduce racist perceptions of Latino and Native American students and could subject students to bullying and violence.

Adopting anti-racist curricula and pedagogies promotes inclusiveness. Representation in curricula enhances students’ race consciousness and their connections to each other and their community.

In order to provide an anti-racist education schools must denounce and extract white supremacy from schooling policies and practices. Educators have to disconnect from the dominant culture’s values and expectations.

Additionally, an integral aspect of anti-racist education involves infusing ethnic studies into school curricula. When integrated well, ethnic studies centers people of color instead of marginalizing them and presents members of these groups in ways that counter stereotypes and deficit ideologies. (See Page 5.)

We examined racism against groups separately to help educators recognize ways each student population might be best served in school and school district anti-racism initiatives. This parsing helps to ensure that all students are seen in racial equity work, moving educators away from the Black-white dichotomy that frequently dominates education discourse.

Transforming education using decolonial and anti-racist approaches brings forth the joy and pleasure of learning incorporated with innate human curiosity to the process that invites all students to engage in the learning process.


Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). Summary of IDRA EAC-South Literature Review Diversifying the Field – Barriers to Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color and How to Overcome Them. San Antonio: IDRA.

Howard, T.C. (2017). Why Race & Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms, second edition. New York: Teachers College Press.

IDRA. (May 6, 2021) Stop Asian Hate! May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – IDRA Shares Resources to Support AAPI Students. IDRA eNews.

IDRA & EAF. (February 1, 2021). Understanding and Addressing Racial Trauma and Supporting Black Students in Schools, policy brief. Intercultural Development Research Association & Excellence and Advancement Foundation.

Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., is IDRA’s education data scientist. Altheria Caldera, Ph.D., is an IDRA Education Policy Fellow. Comments and questions may be directed to them via email at and, respectively.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2021 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]