- Grade Level:
- High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
- Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
- Common Core Standards:
- 11-12.RI.1, 11-12.RI.4, 11-12.RI.6, 11-12.SL.1, 11-12.SL.1.a, 11-12.SL.1.c, 11-12.SL.1.d, 11-12.SL.3, 11-12.SL.4
Students should come to this lesson having read How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Ask students to engage with the text by annotating as they read. Consider going over thoughtful annotation as a class beforehand - using brackets to emphasize important theme statements, numbers to indicate a sequence of points, question marks to identify potential discussion questions, etc.
Instruct students to pay particular attention to the book’s title, “How to Be an Antiracist,” and look for quotes that pertain to the “how to.” After reading, students should choose a quote that they feel best addresses the “how to” and write it on an index card. On the back side of the card, ask them to write why they chose that quote. Students may choose more than one quote; and if so, ask them to order their cards from most important to least before discussion.
In the description below, several Ibram X. Kendi quotes are mentioned. The quotes are numbered on the Reference Quotes document.
2. Group Discussion
Students should start by dividing themselves into small groups. One student begins by reading the quote they felt best answered the “how to,” (their index card quote). One at a time, group members briefly respond, referring back to the text when possible. After each group member has responded, the presenting student turns their card over and shares why they chose that particular quote. Repeat the process until each student has read through their card. Keep students on track with brief answers, but monitor the conversations and ask clarifying questions if discussion stagnates.
Come back together as one group to address the next discussion question. Some scholars, like Dr. Robin Diangelo, have studied the “good/bad binary” adaptation of racism. Read the excerpt from White Fragility (Diangelo #1). How does this relate to and/or contradict Dr. Kendi’s statement (Kendi #2). In pairs, ask students to compare the two quotes. Consider passing out printed copies of Dr. Diangelo’s quote and encourage students to draw on more examples from How to Be an Antiracist to support their claim.
Come back together as one group. Ask students to vote with their feet whether they agree or disagree with Dr. Kendi’s statement, “There is no in between safe space,” between racist and antiracist. There is no neutral, middle ground. Students who agree should move to one side of the room, students who disagree the other. Give students the option to stand in the middle if they need to time to consider. If one group is exceptionally larger than the other, ask unsure students to consider joining the smaller group. Large groups should practice “two cents,” where each participant is given two pennies, indicating they have two opportunities to share during a discussion. After their pennies are gone they simply listen.
On either side of the room, ask students to discuss why they chose agree or disagree. Following discussion, ask each group to volunteer one speaker to present their claim to the class. Speakers should avoid commenting on or responding to the other group’s claim (at first). If students are engaged, consider allowing groups to stay together and formulate a response to share with the other group via another volunteer speaker. Afterwards, give students the opportunity to switch sides if they’ve changed their opinion.
Each group answers a follow up question. For those who agree: Dr. Kendi says we can be racist one minute and antiracist the next. What does it mean to have to constantly reaffirm your identity as an antiracist? For those who disagree: Where is the middle ground between racist and antiracist? Refer to Dr. Kendi’s definitions at the beginning of Chapter 1. Try to craft your own definition and name for the middle ground. (If groups are large, consider breaking these now into smaller groups).
Come back together as one group. Ask a volunteer to read Dr. Kendi’s quote about definitions (Kendi #3). Ask a second volunteer to read his quote on the word racist (#4). Dr. Kendi argues that words like “microaggression” and “implicit bias” are used to “talk around the R-word (racist),” (#5). Do you agree with Dr. Kendi – should we call out racism as racism when we see it, abandoning words like “microaggression?” Or knowing that language evolves, should we let go of loaded terms that may block us from people and meaningful discussion? Ask students to discuss in small groups of three or four.
Come back together as one group. Ask a volunteer to read Dr. Kendi’s quote on hope (Kendi #6). Ask a second volunteer to read his quote on pain (#7). Knowing that, “pain is usually essential to healing,” consider – what does an antiracist community look like? In small groups (three or four) students should practice “radical imagination” to consider an antiracist community. Define community beforehand as your school community, or your town, the school system, your classroom, the state, etc.
Come back together as one group to visit the “Bike Rack,” if you have not done so already. (Or consider returning to it another day after students have digested the discussion)
On a large index card or sticky note, ask students to write down a question of genuine curiosity: a question they do not already know the answer to, and that is raised by ideas from the book. Encourage students to take their time and to quote Dr. Kendi when appropriate. Afterwards, students stick their questions to a wall and walk around to view others’ responses. A possible extension activity is to pass out post-it responses at random and ask students to write a response based on material in the book and other sources.
3. Thank students for participating. Provide opportunity for public and private feedback.
Here you'll find quotes referenced in the book club discussion questions.
Use this guide to help setup discussion guidelines and prepare students to discuss race and racism.