REEL Mission Statement
The mission of the Reading and Elementary Education (REEL) Department is to prepare effective teachers and teacher-leaders. We posit that in order to do so, we must recognize and value the unique position elementary educators have to influence - through teaching and critical literacy practices - the nation’s youngest generation of thinkers, innovators and leaders who will strive for a more equitable world. We believe that achieving equity broadly, first and foremost, involves an explicit commitment to antiracism, with the understanding that anything less than antiracism (i.e., racism and non-racism) is not an option.
Anti-Racist Statement of Principles - A Prelude
We acknowledge that as individuals and as a department, we are either anti-racist or racist at any moment in time; we can either act in direct and ongoing confrontation with the philosophy of racism, racists, and the structures of racism, or we are complicit in them. And yet, we also acknowledge we are all at different points in the continuous work toward challenging racism and anti-Blackness in our teaching and learning. We do not undertake this journey alone but rather progress through it with study, self-reflection, and in courageous dialogue with others. In this spirit, we offer this statement of principles as points of reference to lead, challenge, and inspire our work in the Reading and Elementary Department.
This statement of principles relies on meanings that are reflections of our best understandings from the scholarly field at this time; however, we recognize that definitions - like knowledge - are fluid, ever-expanding, and contested. For clarity and cohesion, we work from the following lexicon:
- racism - racial prejudice or systematized discrimination or antagonism backed by systems of power and a belief that whiteness is superior
- anti-racism - actively opposing racist thoughts, behaviors, policies, and practices
- anti-Blackness - thoughts, “actions, and behaviors that minimize, marginalize, and devalue” the lives of Black people (UCI); an inability to recognize black humanity (Dumas & Ross, 2016)
- white fragility - the discomfort felt by a white person when he/she/they are confronted with information about racism and their role in relation to it, which then leads to defensive reactions (such as anger, silence, dismissiveness) that can prevent further discussion thereby maintaining and perpetuating racial divides
Anti-Racist Statement of Principles
As the Reading and Elementary Education department at UNC Charlotte, we:
- Affirm, love and value Black lives as we disavow practices that perpetuate anti-Blackness, America’s most durable and salient form of racism (9).
- Advocate for the humanitarian right that all students are entitled to high quality education (13), regardless of race, ethnic background, economic status, cognitive ability, religion, citizenship, linguistic diversity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
- Cultivate the courage, respect, and compassion (14) to engage in difficult and necessary conversations.*
- Acknowledge systemic racism in our country and our world and its permeation into our school systems (2).
- Commit to education for liberation, drawing on the activism of generations of Black, Indigenous and Latinx scholars (3) as we engage in an honest reckoning with aspects of schooling that have never served all students well (5).
- Disrupt and transform educational structures by actively confronting (6) inequities involving (but not limited to) race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, citizenship, age, and language.
- Disrupt norms of racist behaviors, practices, and policies, both the overt (7) and subversive (8) manifestations of white supremacy, whiteness, white fragility, and other hegemonic norms.
- Innovate and lead through the design and enactment of anti-racist and equitable teaching, research practices, and policies.
- Teach and learn with dignity and grace as we know that being anti-racist and working to dismantle anti-Blackness is not a place at which one arrives, but is work that we do every day (15).
To Learn More
- Ways that systemic racism permeates into our school systems include: policing Black bodies, social reproduction, School to Prison pipeline, unjust language practices
- Many terms chosen are those utilized in the field at this moment of time and we acknowledge some of these terms are problematized and not universally accepted.
- We use the term scholar broadly, as it is meant to include elders, activists, authors, artists, etc.
- Some aspects of schooling that have never served all students well include: a lack of acknowledgement of African American Language linguistic knowledges, IRE discourse structures, etc.
- One excellent resource for learning to actively confront inequity in the form of harassment or violence is the hollaback organization.
- Some overt manifestations of white supremacy, whiteness and white fragility are the lack of representation of People of Color in positions of leadership, the silencing or talking over of People of Color in meetings, and White people intentionally or unintentionally deflecting from conversations through silence, arguing, or playing the victim.
- Some subversive manifestations of white supremacy and whiteness are overrepresentations of white people as superior, wholesome, beautiful and good as encoded in culture, media, language, norms. (for example, Miller, 2015a; 2015b)
- See Zamalin, A. (2019). Antiracism: An introduction. New York: NYU Press.
- Practices that perpetuate anti-Blackness are not limited to but include: dismissing the legitimacy of African American Language, omitting the histories and literacies of African Diaspora cultures from school curriculum, and relying on negative and false stereotypes of Black people to inform disciplinary policies.
- Education is recognized as a human right in Article 26 of the United Nations’ (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Likewise, the concious participation and action in working towards the elimination of all discrimination in Education is Target 4.5 in the United Nation’s (2015) Sustainable Development Goal #4.
- Furthemore, the International Literacy Association and National Council of Teachers of English identify children’s Rights to Read.
- Education is a constitutional right in North Carolina. The Leandro case documents the ways in which students in North Carolina have repeatedly been denied that right.
- Inspired by UNCC School of Social Work Anti-Racism Statement
- From Early Childhood Education Assembly Call to Action Countering Anti-Blackness in Society & Schools
- Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.
- Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic Incorporated.