Reading, Writing, and Racism
Disrupting Whiteness in Teacher Education and in the Classroom
When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum isn’t an anomaly. It’s a systemic problem that reflects how Whiteness is embedded and reproduced in education. In Reading, Writing, and Racism, Picower argues that White teachers must reframe their understanding about race in order to advance racial justice, and that this must begin in teacher education programs.
Drawing on her experience teaching and developing a program that prepares teachers to focus on social justice and antiracism, Picower demonstrates how teachers’ ideology of race, consciously or unconsciously, shapes how they teach race in the classroom. She also examines current examples of racist curricula that have gone viral to demonstrate how whiteness is entrenched in schools and how this reinforces racial hierarchies in the younger generation.
With a focus on institutional strategies, Picower shows how racial justice can be built into programs across the teacher education pipeline–from admission to induction. By examining the who, what, why and how of racial justice teacher education, she provides radical possibilities for transforming how teachers think about, and teach about, race in their classrooms.
What People Are Saying
“Reading, Writing, and Racism is a clearly written, no-holds-barred gem of a book that every teacher educator must read. Drawing on her incisive critique of curriculum and teacher ideology, along with interviews with racial justice teacher educators, Picower cogently frames how whiteness works in teacher education, while showing us how to upend it.”Christine Sleeter, coauthor of Transformative Ethnic Studies in Schools: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Research
“Bree Picower continues to lead in anti-racist teacher education. Reading, Writing, and Racism is eminently useful for pre-service and in-service teachers to reflect on how they may have perpetuated whiteness in their own teaching or experienced it as students themselves. This is a must-read for all future and current teachers interested in racial justice in the classroom.”Wayne Au, professor at the University of Washington School of Educational Studies and editor of Rethinking Schools
“Coupling an urgent call to action with the practical supports required to act, this book offers a vision for and examples of the kind of humanizing, healing practices that successfully prepare teachers to struggle for racial justice through their everyday work. For those committed to rooting out the curricular violence of Whiteness, this book is right on time.”Carla Shalaby, author of Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School
“Reading, Writing, and Racism places the emphasis on interrupting racism in teacher preparation programs and schools where it belongs—not simply on individual beliefs and actions but on primarily broader policies and practices that continue to maintain and protect racist ideology. Based on years of research and chockful of curriculum examples—both horrific and positive—and using case studies of actual anti-racist teacher education programs around the nation, Bree Picower’s book describes the myriad ways in which these programs address racism and center social justice. With powerful insights and concrete suggestions for transformation, Reading, Writing, and Racism is certain to help teachers, teacher educators, and administrators rethink their roles in preparing the nation’s teachers.”Sonia Nieto, professor emerita, Language, Culture, and Teaching, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education
“Reading, Writing, and Racism is a critical and urgently needed text. Bree Picower brilliantly analyzes the long-standing and constitutive relationship between American schooling, curriculum, and structural racism. With strong theory, critical analysis, and actionable examples, Picower creates space to reimagine school as a site of anti-racist praxis. This book is essential reading for teachers, parents, and everyday citizens looking to dismantle White supremacy and expand justice.”Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
“Picower’s call to action to become co-conspirators in abolitionist teaching should be required reading for teacher-preparation professors, teachers, principals, and superintendents . . . Picower’s honest introspection about her own positionality builds an ethos of racial humility and dedication to dismantling racism in education.”Booklist
“The egregious, racist actions of a subset of school teachers that have gone viral on social media may seem like outliers in an otherwise just system and profession, but they are not, as argued compellingly in Reading, Writing, and Racism. What and how we teach, and who teaches, and how we prepare them should not be presumed to be somehow immune from the long legacies of white supremacy and colonialism that have shaped US schooling from its very beginning. Reframing and reorienting more forcefully toward racial justice requires tackling these legacies head-on in programs that prepare, support, connect, celebrate, and hold accountable educators—and Bree Picower offers us frameworks, models, and hope for doing precisely that, when the need could not be more great.”Kevin Kumashiro, author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture
“A necessary provocation for conversations about the racist ideologies that teachers can unwittingly bring into the classroom and the real consequences of those ideologies for children of color. Perhaps most importantly, the book suggests meaningful ways that teacher prep programs can reframe their pedagogy to disrupt white supremacy rather than perpetuate it.”Eve L. Ewing, author of Electric Arches
“Bree Picower has decades of commitment and experience in racial justice education, and it comes through on every page of this book. With both passion and precision, she makes the default of whiteness in school curriculum visible. I felt captivated by every page and heartened that such an accessible and transformative resource is available to teachers.”Robin DiAngelo, New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility
“In concert with the current moment of racial reckoning, the contributions of Dr. Bree Picower push us to acknowledge and remember the totalizing power of white supremacy in curriculum. Her bravery, humility, and criticality offer strength for folks who dare to do revolutionary classroom work when the world feels like it’s upside-down. If you consider yourself an ally in the struggle for racial justice, you cannot turn away from this book!”David Stovall, University of Illinois Chicago, and author of Born Out of Struggle: Critical Race Theory, School Creation, and the Politics of Interruption