Antiracism and Education

Antiracism and Education primary image

Tuesday, June 29 | 1PM – 2PM


Dr. Bathseba Opini, Assistant Professor, EDST

Andratesha Fritzgerald, EdS, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation for the East Cleveland (OH) City School Districts


Helen DeWaard, Learning Designer, ETS

Faeyza Mufti, Learning Design Manager, ETS


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

In our Viewpoints session, we welcomed observations and reflections from faculty, staff, and students on antiracism in education. We were joined by Bathseba Opini, Assistant Professor, UBC Faculty of Education, and Andratesha Fritzgerald, author and Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation for the East Cleveland City School Districts.

This panel presentation on antiracism in education was a timely session that highlighted and connected to the recently released report from the UBC Task Force on Race, Indigeneity, and Social Justice. This space and time provoked deeper thinking about antiracism in education and heeded the call to action from the UBC strategic plan to “guide, empower, and embolden our community to imagine, actualize and advance education as a social good for a better, more just, and equitable world.”

Opening remarks

Bathseba Opini
Bathseba began with Land Acknowledgement. She then presented some key questions as she always wants to encourage people to think about themselves and understand racism as a system not only as individual acts/actions. She advocated for a “proactive approach to address and dismantle systemic racism” by thinking about what we can do to eliminate, rupture and ameliorate some of the systemic structures that have been built for many, many centuries. Bathseba reminded participants that we all need to be prepared to address and this “endemic disease”. She called for ‘critical friends’, as opposed to allies, to do the work of “dismantling and untangling these complicated power structures”. Critical friends listen and know when to step forward and when to step back to support those who are being oppressed. Antiracism in education moves beyond knowledge for knowledge’s sake and leads to the transformation of systems. It is not just mere talk about social justice but leading to human liberation. Antiracism in education requires that educators intentionally design curriculum that uses works of Indigenous and racialized authors and include voices that have traditionally been left out. It includes scaffolding student learning to build understanding, not just a pumping information to students and doing ‘checkmarks’ but engaging in the teaching and learning process thoughtfully while paying attention to the diverse learning needs and knowledges of students. Antiracism in education builds on course outcomes on themes, activities, and assessments that ensures academic success for all students and pushes them to move beyond simple understanding of knowledge to an analysis of societal systems and structures of systemic oppression and taking action to promote change.

Andratesha Fritzgerald
Andratesha began with an acknowledgment of the lands and stewards of the land in the location that she lives, while also standing in protest for current issues such as the mascot for a local sports franchise and the silencing of missing and murdered Indigenous women. She shared an image created by Sylvia Duckworth (attached below) to examine the wheel of power and privilege in traditional education. With information from Lisa Delpit’s (1998) article on codes of power enacted in classrooms, Andratesha suggested that antiracism and UDL can become ways to honor every learner’s existence. Educational structures need to change so that pictures of success, which are created within cultural norms, rules, and rituals that may not be shared outside of the dominant power structure, acknowledge that students can create their own as well without changing critical aspects of themselves. She shared the notion of honor as “empowering each member of the learning community daily in our structures, supports, and choices”. She describes antiracist education as honoring each member of the learning community. That means that learning structures should provide opportunities, assignments, supports, and flexibility for learners to welcome learners to be themselves. Antiracist educators recruit the interests of learners, inviting all learners into the seat of power as an expert on themselves.

wheel of power and privilege

Discussion themes

Bathseba shared that being an ally or critical friend has to come from the people that are in the movement, those that are experiencing the oppression since it’s not about ‘you’ as a critical friend. Critical friends should remember that it is not about taking credit or feeling good about themselves. Bathseba reminded participants that if you feel good about yourself in your role as a critical friend, there’s something wrong. It’s important to consider who benefits at the end of the day. “We have to be very, very conscious about speaking for and speaking with; acting for and acting with [others]” in the process of antiracism work.

Andratesha suggested that critical friends can amplify viewpoints of racialized people: “If a black, indigenous, or racialized person has a viewpoint, and you understand that plight, you understand where they are. You are not speaking for them”. She encouraged participants that if “you have a platform to amplify their voice, give them credit for their ideas". This is part of antiracism work.

Andratesha shared how professional development needs to immerse UDL into the delivery through multiple means of representation, multiple ways for teachers to access the information, and multiple ways to engage with the topics. Teachers need to see themselves as learners and also learn about themselves. The process and choices made during workshops need to be made explicit, so teachers can see that pictures of success do not mean changing the way learners dress, the way they speak, the music they listen to, or the way they communicate what they have learned.

Bathseba encouraged participants to think about the traditional constructs of inclusion and examine the frameworks used in special education since these are about fitting students into oppressive systems that need to be dismantled. UDL is about our own thinking in how to design the curriculum for all learners and aligning it so all students can be successful. Bathseba called this “360-degree looking”. This works toward breaking boundaries and binaries of traditional special education assumptions by not only looking at how information is consumed or processed but also at how representative the materials are for our students, to shift materials in our classrooms to those beyond our classrooms.

Andratesha shared that in order for antiracism in education to work family and schools need to be partners, and educators need to be intentional in how communication between home and school is designed and how this can honor the relationships with parents. For example, newsletters can be shared in multiple ways to represent a message (print, audio, video). Educators should learn about the expertise of the parents and invite them to share this expertise. To be truly liberatory, educators need to invite the community into learning spaces in order to tap into the cultural wealth in the learners and that of the local or global community, particularly those who are seldom considered or invited into the learning.

Andratesha talked about an experience where students were given a homework task that involved asking three adults in their lives if they believed in love at first sight, which resulted in a 100% completion rate. Educators need to reframe the way they look at homework and how we communicate with families from an antiracist perspective. She encourages educators to build bridges from school to home and back again in order to engage families, make them feel more valued and put them in the driver’s seat while honoring them right where they are.

Bathseba asked participants to consider how they set up their classrooms and how they invite parents into those settings. By setting things up in a manner that values every parent’s contribution, they are doing antiracist work. By inviting parents to come into the class to share, particularly in kindergarten where educators need to build strong roots in the relationship between homes and schools, they are doing antiracist work. By treating every child and every parent as a gift that we cherish, we are doing antiracist work. Parents can offer valuable and useful information about how to communicate with children. Teachers need to remember they are not islands, but a part of the community within the school and the community where the school is located.

Andratesha stated, “none of us are born ‘woke’ … there is something that wakes you up”. She asked Bathseba what her catalyst was to enter into antiracism work. Bathseba shared her story about studying in Kenya and Canada, only to find learning about history and education to be an unsettling, one-sided experience. She was influenced by the interactions and experiences in different spaces which were troubling. She then changed to study the sociology of education, which is where she currently conducts scholarship and teaching.

Andratesha shared her story of becoming woke through the words of a close friend who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. The guide used the words “pole pole” which means “go slowly” in Kiswahili. Andratesha revealed how her awakening happened very slowly. She shared her experience of going to an elementary school that was culturally responsive and inclusive, and then to a predominately white high school where others expressed surprise or questioned her academic success. It was in college where she discovered that systems of success in her field of study in engineering were structured against her by being female, black, and younger than her classmates. She went into education seeking to empower learners to turn any learning environment into an environment where they can thrive. In this way, nothing can stop them. She went into urban education and has not looked back. Andratesha reminded participants to take the journey together and disrupt oppression in some way in order to leave the world better than we found it.

Participants were informed about the Task Force Report on Race, Indigeneity, and Social Justice in the Faculty of Education which was released the day before. This will be a good place to start and continue the antiracist work in education at UBC.


Bathseba Opini wrote: “Forming antiracism advisory groups, doing antiracism workshops, and posting equity, diversity and inclusion statements on institutional websites are great but also hollow words and actions if the racist structures in place are not changed”. As we engage with others, let’s make sure we consider our individual and collective actions to enact change.

Andratesha Fritzgerald wrote: “Diversity makes us stronger. It enhances innovation and increases the complexity of our knowledge. With that knowledge, we can transform systems of oppression and injustice.” Andratesha concluded the conversation by calling all present to “blast away at every barrier to reveal the shining block of brilliance in every learner”. She invited participants to follow her on Twitter @TeshaFritz and to sign up for her email list at Building Blocks of Brilliance to continue the ‘heart’ work of antiracism.


Delpit, L. (1998). Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280–298.

The Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force was convened for an intense period of work between March and June 2021. The six subcommittees representing Work and Study constituencies and Equity Deserving Racialized Groups examined issues and put forward recommendations in the form of a final report. The Task Force was created as part of the response to the institutional commitment to building a more inclusive university community. The work of the Task Force is supported by the Office of the President and the Co-Executive Leads for Anti-Racism. The Task Force Report on Race, Indigeneity and Social Justice in the Faculty of Education was released on June 28, 2021, just prior to this Viewpoints panel presentation.

Other resources

A few resources were also made available prior to the sessions.

Opini, B. (2020, June 10). We must tackle and dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy. [Blog post]. Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

This guest blog post was written by Bathseba Opini after the death of George Floyd. This is a call to action for change: “What are you really doing to change the systems in your immediate surroundings, your workplace, your community, your city, province, country?” and “Things will only change when white people as a group commit one hundred percent to stop asking Black people what they can do. We have explained long enough, just listen and act”.

Fritzgerald, A. (2020). Antiracism and UDL: Building expressways to success. CAST.

Fritzgerald, A. (2020). Antiracism … is a series of choices. [Video]

UBC Equity and Inclusion website - resources [Website]

UBC Antiracism and Inclusive Excellence at UBC. [Website]

We invite readers to continue the discussion in the comment area below. Share your thoughts and experiences in relation to antiracism in education.

Leave a Reply