Racial literacy is “a form of racial socialization and antiracist training” used by parents to prepare and protect their children against racism. It’s a concept that focuses on teaching how to identify, counter, and cope with racism. It is a practical, intentional effort designed to prepare and empower and involves understanding the intersections of power and race, recognizing racial systems, and adequately articulating racial terms.
There are currently several programs that teach racial literacy to teachers, which need expanding. However, there are few that focus on teaching racial literacy specifically to Black parents and Black students in private schools. PSV works to help families and students build racial literacy. Many Black families navigate “two worlds”—one outside of school and another inside the school community. PSV helps bridge the gaps between those worlds and strengthens the ability to succeed in both by providing opportunities to build racial literacy. PSV strives to educate and arm families, from the earliest moments of joining the private school community, so that they are protected and prepared to thrive despite racial situations that often arise.
It’s especially crucial that White adults in our schools also build racial literacy and understand their role in creating change. It’s perhaps the one thing that would bring about the most significant and radical improvements. The lack of active support for increased, comprehensive diversity and inclusion in our schools perpetuates challenges and impacts all students, especially White students.
By the middle of 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that non-Whites would account for the majority of the nation’s 74 million children. White students are now in the minority of the population. Still, in private schools, that notion does not seem apparent as diversity is not reflected in the school community. White students are not culturally educated and equipped to thrive in our diverse world. To change, it is critical that every parent understand the need, value, and importance of advocating for more diversity and inclusion more strongly. To assist in elevating that notion, PSV has offered a 10-week series of facilitated discussions for non-Black adults in the private school community. The course is designed to take a deeper dive into race and make learning more accessible and achievable.
Below are a few examples of events and activities that have fallen under racial literacy —
A Conversation with Dr. Howard Stevenson—the nation’s foremost expert on racial literacy and health, Dr. Stevenson facilitated an important conversation with middle and high school students and their families about the health impact of racial stress and provided strategies and skills that both students and parents could employ to promote racial health and well-being. PSV regularly provides this type of educational opportunity with professionals who reinforce similar teachings around racial literacy.
Black Lives Matter @ School—Dr. Jamila Lyiscott, a community-engaged scholar, nationally renowned speaker, and the author of Black Appetite. White Food: Issues of Race, Voice, and Justice Within and Beyond the Classroom, leads a series of powerful conversations with twenty students about what it means to be young, gifted and Black in private school. Through interactive discussions and fun exercises, “Dr. J” helps students find their voice, identify adult allies who can assist in ongoing development of their voice, and she introduces key concepts around youth activism and social justice in the school setting.
Witnessing Whiteness Discussion Series—White allies in private school participate in ten one-hour workshops using Shelly Tochluk’s Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How To Do It as an interactive guide. A cohort of 15-25 White parents in private school learn about interpersonal, institutional and cultural racism, delve into personal experiences with race, develop skills and tools for anti-racism work and more. This course is designed to educate non-Black families in private school, as building allyship can assist in securing better support for all children.
“…positive change won’t fully be realized until all members of the private school community, particularly White families, better embrace one fundamental reality—private school enrollment flourished in response to desegregation and subsequent legislation. This history helped shape institutional and systemic barriers that won’t meaningfully improve without deliberate, comprehensive measures.”
—Lisa Johnson, How to Improve the Private School Experience for Black Students