White supremacy is a system of racism that privileges people with light skin and European heritage over all other people. White supremacy and systemic racism show up in many structural, systematic, and social ways. Racism is a social structure of profiling that is a huge part of the history of the United States. Racism is the social practice of categorizing people by appearance and creating a hierarchy that places people who look a certain way at the top. Race was invented as social structure by Spanish colonizers who sought to create a hierarchy between themselves, the Indigenous people whose land they were invading, and the African people they had enslaved. Of course, the white Spaniards placed themselves at the top of the social structure they had created. Because we adhere to this hierarchy today, it is important for students to understand white supremacy’s roots in colonization and slavery to understand the connection between an unjust, imposed hierarchy and the social reality of white supremacy today. Understanding the system of white supremacy as the cause of the intensive marginalization of black and indigenous people of color is the first step to dismantling the system itself in the pursuit of social justice and equity.
There are a growing number of resources available for teachers to teach about white supremacy. Historically, white supremacy is not a system that is overtly discussed in schools, but in this society of systemic racism, it is crucial to educate the new generations so they can be agents of change in this world.
- Understanding White Supremacy: This lesson plan focuses on social structures of white supremacy in the U.S. South. This resource is part of a larger Civil Rights collection and is designed for high school students. The lesson objectives are: 1. Understand white supremacy as an organized system of repression, 2. Explore the roles of segregation and white resistance in creating and reinforcing attitudes of white supremacy, and 3. Contrast the values, attitudes, and reality of segregation with the principles expressed in the country’s founding documents. This lesson plan orients white supremacy concretely in the context of the United States and provides a foundational understanding of the historical social systems and structures of white supremacy.
- Black Lives Matter at School: An extensive compilation of top quality anti-racist education resources. The first link on the Teaching Materials page is to the 2020 Black Lives Matter curriculum resource guide, a google drive filled with resources for different age groups and subject areas. Here you can access a multitude of resources and lesson plans centered on the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter. This form of education is active work against white supremacy, and crucial to participate in and promote after learning about systemic racism.
- The Alt-Right and White Supremacy: This lesson plan from the Anti-Defamation League focuses on teaching students what white supremacy is and what extremist alt-right groups are through exploring historical and modern examples and reflecting with a writing activity. This lesson plan is filed under anti-bias education but must be delivered with an empathic consciousness of how disturbing the reality of alt-right white supremacists groups is. Channel the anger or outrage of the students into learning how they can make an impact and be agents of social change.
- Teaching Guide: Constructing Identity in the Spanish Colonies in America: This is a lesson plan to teach about the Castas paintings as historical context of the officialized beginnings of race and white supremacy. This history is crucial to understanding how pervasive white supremacy has been in building societies and defining relations between different ethnic groups. Knowing that this social system was made up by colonizers with no scientific grounding or collaboration between ethnicities provides students with a foundation for deconstructing the ways in which this unfounded and antiquated social system of hierarchy still holds structural power today.
- 8 Ways Teachers Can Address White Supremacy In the Classroom: This is an excellent compilation of resources for teachers and students focusing on anti-racist work to challenge the system of white supremacy. There are additional links, resources, lesson plans, and videos.
- Imagining a World Without White Supremacy: This article from Teaching Tolerance is the account of two progressive and innovative educators who actively work to teach for a world without white supremacy. These are two case studies from New Orleans, Louisiana, and from Floyd, Virginia. There is so much to be learned from educators who commit to action for social justice and equity.
- Research Based Advice on Teaching Children Not to be Racist: This article from the Atlantic provides an excellent overview of essential concepts in educating children about racism while encouraging anti-racism.
- What is Systemic Racism?: These exceptional video resources detail the specific ways in which systemic racism is visible in eight different social realms. They are an excellent resource for comprehending the pervasive structural and systemic racism fully functioning in our society today. The videos cover the Wealth Gap, Employment, Housing Discrimination, Government Surveillance, Incarceration, Drug Arrests, Immigration Arrests, and Infant Mortality.
- Black Lives Matter: What We Believe: The mission statement of the Black Lives Matter movement along with an explanation of each of the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter.
- Teaching For Black Lives: An exceptional new book directly addressing the question of how to educate in a way that empowers the ideology of Black Lives Matter. A highly recommended resource for teachers and educators.
Learning about the legacy and reality of white supremacy encourages students to understand that being complicit in a system of racism and white supremacy is a form of racism itself, because neutrality does nothing to change these social systems that privilege white people and marginalize everyone else. It may feel uncomfortable or conflictual to teach about these topics, but it is absolutely dangerous to stay silent. We are all agents of change in the work to dismantle the system of white supremacy and de-legitimize the colonial legacy of genocide and slavery that guides our society to this day.
- Me and White Supremacy: This book is a highly regarded resource on understanding personal relationships to white supremacy. Authored by Layla F. Saad, this book is meant to help the readers, “Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor.”
- For White Teachers in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter: This blog post is a helpful resource for teachers who are struggling to figure out their role in society as an educator. This is a call to action to change the status quo of complicity in systemic racism by making these issues a priority.
- Race Talk: Engaging Young People in Conversations about Race and Racism: This article from the Anti-Defamation League lays out 9 concrete ways to engage students in anti-bias education while maintaining an empathetic and critical consciousness about the context of the classroom.
- Self-Care: It is important to keep in mind that learning about white supremacy and systemic racism can be mentally and emotionally taxing for students and teachers, especially those who experience the violence and subjugation of the system. Check out our page on teaching about self-care to find resources for helping students develop tools for taking care of themselves. Other great resources include The LoveLand Foundation and Black Emotional And Mental Health (BEAM) Collective.