Julie Kailin’s book Antiracist Education: From Theory to Practice (2002), based on her ethnographic research done in schools in a Midwestern city (pseudonym Lakeview), begins strong and finishes even stronger. This book makes the compelling arguments that “teachers have to become agents of antiracist change” (122), that “antiracist education [should] become an inherent part of both preservice and in-service teacher education” (74), and that “a critical multicultural perspective should be infused in the entire curriculum” (23). The book consists of eight chapters separated into two parts—one dedicated to theory and the other to practice.
In Part I Kailin discusses the racist underpinnings of our history and culture. She argues that “the typical ‘liberal’ multicultural approach has led not to emancipation, but to containment, giving some people the illusion of challenging the status quo, while never seriously challenging the relations of domination” (208). When discussing and combating racism, Kailin takes a structuralist approach as opposed to an idealist one, which simply “views the struggle against racism as one of combating stereotypes and attitudes that exist in the mind” (21). According to Kailin, it is essential that a “critical antiracist multicultural perspective” go deeper to examine the historical and capitalist roots of inequality. Kailin also distinguishes between “antiracist education” and “multicultural education.” Uncritical [End Page 68] forms of multicultural education tend to be reformist and tokenize minorities, while antiracist education frequently examines the root causes of inequality by viewing education from the perspective of the oppressed. Kailin does a tremendous job of comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of multicultural and antiracist perspectives to education. Kailin concludes Part I by examining the social context of teaching today and the current demographic, moral, and ethical imperatives that call out for antiracist education: (1) lack of teachers of color; (2) labels and practices that are used in education (e.g., the label “at-risk,” the practice of “tracking” and the program DISTAR, which was originally developed for mentally handicapped children, being used universally for Black children in Chicago); and (3) ways that racism distorts the class consciousness of teachers which can lead to teachers using and believing in the “boot strap” ideology.
In Part II of her book, Kailin focuses on the practice of antiracist education. She observes that most of the teachers she has taught in her antiracist education courses and professional development classes were not necessarily bad teachers, but that “they were unconscious or ignorant of the multidimensional ways in which white supremacy percolates and spreads throughout American culture” (13). Antiracist Education urges readers to examine their unconscious racism and white privilege. For instance, teachers of hard-of-hearing, hearing-impaired, and deaf education classes will learn that sign language uses racist innuendos. Along these lines, one of the most insightful and helpful aspects of Kailin’s analysis in the second part of Antiracist Education is her use and discussion of the term “racism without racists.” The term originates from the scholarship of Massey, Scott, and Dornbusch (1975) but continues to be further theorized by anti-racist scholars, including Bonilla-Silva (2002 & 2010). Kailin clarifies that “racism without racists” refers to the notion that an individual “does not have to be consciously or intentionally racist to perpetuate racial inequality” (93). This is similar to when liberals assert their blindness to the existence of racism.
Antiracist Education is well worth reading, especially within pre-service and in-service teachers’ circles. The book’s antiracist pedagogy grapples with political, economic, and ideological concerns that are problematic in “soft multiculturalism” or when teachers focus exclusively on responses related to agency and the human condition. Kailin’s approach, which insists on an analysis of capitalism’s role in maintaining racial inequality, is what makes her book so powerful in combating liberal racism. “Because a critical antiracist multicultural perspective examines the structural roots of inequality,” Kailin explains, “it can be an effective tool for helping people analyze and organize to counteract the problems of racism and other forms of inequality” (64).
This book offers strategies and approaches that antiracist educators and system administrators should use. In doing so...