The Antiracist World Language Classroom

Transforming Language Learning

Marcia Davis, OFLA Secondary Language Learning Chair
World Language Middle School, Columbus City Schools

Language is a powerful vehicle through which its learners can communicate about a variety of topics. Traditionally, that communication may have been about the weather, how to order a meal in a restaurant, how to introduce yourself to others, or how to plan travel abroad. Have you ever thought about using language to help learners begin to have critical conversations and interactions to disrupt racism as they navigate the world around them?

In their most recent publication, The Antiracist World Language Classroom, Drs. Krishauna Hines-Gaither and Cécile Accilien draw on current foundational knowledge of antiracism to help world languages educators consider what antiracism looks like in the world language classroom, why it is necessary to establish antiracist practices in the world language classroom, and how to effect antiracist pedagogies that benefit all learners in the world language classroom. 

Hines-Gaither and Accilien offer ten principles which underpin their understanding of antiracism in the world language classroom. Hines-Gaither and Accilien (2022) define those principles as:

  1. Silence is the enemy of antiracism.
  2. Being an antiracist is a conscious journey, and not a destination.
  3. Racism systematically and generationally disenfranchises Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
  4. BIPOC students and educators’ survival in the academy is dependent upon an antiracist paradigm in which they can survive and thrive.
  5. Since racism intersects with economics, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ability and other identities, White people can be similarly impacted by these systems of oppression, hence the necessity for solidarity.
  6. Educators need to understand that an antiracist classroom undeniably changes the game for students of color, while also enabling White students to understand how privilege, power and positionality play out in White dominant cultures.
  7. An educator who wants to create an antiracist world language classroom must build the capacity to talk about race in an ongoing manner.
  8. Educators must have self-accountability and be willing to work to create an antiracist, diverse, inclusive and equitable culture in their classrooms.
  9. Educators should be mindful that being social justice oriented does not automatically equate to being antiracist.
  10. Educators need to acknowledge that the majority of our textbooks and curricula have thrived on racist practices that silenced the voices and omitted the experiences of people of color, and were not written for or by BIPOC scholars. (p. xvi).

The definition of antiracism incorporates the idea that teaching about race and racism helps to develop critical analytical skills that uncover the ways race and racism have been used to create and justify systems of inequality. It also includes the idea that antiracist pedagogy requires something actionable, not just words. 

The antiracist world language classroom is able to encompass all proficiency levels, including novice learners. Although the language proficiency for novice learners may not be complex enough to deeply engage in conversations about antiracism, it can be incorporated intentionally with language that is appropriate to express meaning. The work of antiracism is not only a means to engage Black students or other minoritized groups. It is for ALL learners because racism impacts ALL people.

If you are interested in the work of ensuring the existence of an antiracist world language classroom, I would highly encourage you to purchase a copy of this book to start your journey.

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