February 17, 2022
Developing anti-racism in white youth
St. Scholastica psychology professor Dr. Taylor Hazelbaker has co-written a theoretical paper focused on promoting antiracism within children. Her piece, “Fostering Anti-Racism Among White Children and Youth: Development in Context” was recently published in American Psychologist. Christia Spears Brown, PhD; Lindsey Nenadal, PhD; and Rashmita S. Mistry, PhD served as co-authors.
The piece began several years ago and evolved from a written qualifying exam during Hazelbaker’s third year of graduate school. After the 2016 election and 2020 murder of George Floyd, she recognized a call to action from more white individuals who wanted to talk to kids about race. This propelled her to narrow her focus to white kids and their understanding of whiteness and development of antiracism.
Hazelbaker approached this topic with a series of questions: how do white kids learn about being white? How do they learn about white privilege? “We know how they develop racial attitudes, but we don’t know what nurtures the development of anti-racist attitudes,” she said. Ultimately, her question became: how can we use what we know about how kids develop cognitively and build an empathetic perspective to support them as they learn about their own race and racial inequality?
And then, she added, how can we inspire them to engage in actions such as calling out classmates or family members who are saying something that is racist?
“The hope is that they move towards antiracist action,” she said. “What type of development do they need to engage in understanding whiteness and understanding racism, both at the individual and structural level to begin to disrupt at both levels.”
The paper emphasizes the role of parents and schools in supporting anti-bias educational practices.
“As a white person who witnessed discrimination from a really young age and started to learn about whiteness and privilege on my own, it’s important for these kinds of parent and school contacts to be supporting white kids in fostering antiracism.”
“There is a gap in the field that we don’t necessarily know how to support this,” she said. The goal of the paper is to outline what we do know about the development of anti-racism and to encourage more research on the topic so we can inform parents and teachers about best practices for nurturing anti-racism among White children.