“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
― James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name (1961) ‘Fifth Avenue, Uptown: a letter from Harlem’
Modeling & Anti-Racism
Anti-racism, and more generally, the ability to use our voice to stand up for justice needs to be treated just like any other fundamental skill we build throughout our lives.
What is Anti-Racism?
“Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.”
The concept of anti-racism is often mistakenly understood as a defining feature of a person’s character or heart, when according to its definition, it is an active state that involves self-reflection, awareness and action.
Anti-racism work investigates the notion of power: who has it, the reasons why groups of people can access it, and how to make sure it is shared equitably. In this sense racism is not unique. Other issues like bullying, misogyny or ableism force us to question ourselves on the notion of power and on our relationship with our voice and our actions.
How do children and students learn new skills?
In the 1960s, the psychologist Albert Bandura was one of the first researchers to study in depth and prove the major role of modeling on the acquisition of new skills.
This means that to teach our children to Speak up and Stand up for Justice, we have to start with ourselves as models, whether we are parents, alloparents and/or educators.
I am aware that this can feel like a lot of pressure. It is a huge task to be a role model for how our children will be able to use their voice for justice. Yet, this is something that needs practice throughout childhood and adulthood. It is a task that can be supported if you make the time for it.
I am also aware that many of us have good intentions but do not know how to be anti-racist. This is why we created the Five Habits of Speaking Justice. We realize the need for a framework, so we can set goals and measure success. I saw the need in the schools and in people’s personal lives after many interviews.
The good news is that you don’t need to be perfect. What you need are the skills, community and framework to try.
Anti-racism is not an identity, it is an everyday practice that requires courage and preparation. The Five Habits of Speaking Justice are here to help you assess, learn and practice the skills you need to be prepared to enter into compelling situations and use your voice for justice. The Five Habits are a roadmap on the path to you being your best self.
By working on ourselves we will help our own children, other children in our lives and/or students practice and integrate ways to use their voice. This will allow each of us to contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.
(1975) Analysis of Modeling Processes, School Psychology Review, 4:1, 4-10,