Don’t Be Afraid to be Anti-Racist


By: Nikki Griffin, North Carolina High School Social Studies Teacher

Many times in my career, as a classroom history teacher, I have come across colleagues who are fearful of being anti-racists. These mostly well-meaning teachers are by no means racists, but sometimes lack the courage to be ANTI-RACIST. Here is an important distinction to make for ourselves and for our students – being an anti-racist requires more of us than simply not being racist. Being anti-racist requires action, not just a disposition. Being anti-racist moves us to actively address issues of systemic racism in our schools and in our society. Being anti-racist demands expression of anti-racist ideas that directly challenge racist ideas.

My Journey to Being Anti-Racist

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Last year, following the horrific murder of George Floyd and the proliferation of protests across the United States and the world in support of Black Lives Matter, I decided to put my own beliefs about being racist into action and to NOT hide behind my role as a teacher to remain on the sidelines of “teaching history” so I could avoid the more uncomfortable role of being anti-racist. Many of my students sent me messages expressing their sense of frustration that there was nothing they could do to be anti-racist or that they did not know how to show action to express their anti-racist views. My answer to them was almost always the same, “Let your voice be heard” or “Counter racist ideas with getting your own anti-racist ideas out there!”  Very often, I would remind these students that they had spent a whole year or more studying history with me and that they had the arsenal of knowledge with which to arm their anti-racist actions. Finally, I decided to take my own advice, step out of my role as classroom teacher, and publish a video called “Opportunity Lost.” Actually, this is a video series that I am still working on and intend to finish this summer.  

My message to teachers is that being a teacher does not mean you can not express your own views to the wider world. Just as you expand understanding of anti-racism in your classroom, your unique knowledge of your subject area, students, and community put you in a unique position to share ideas to the broader world to pursue the goal inspiring anti-racism in the world.

About the Author

Nicki Griffin has taught high school social studies in North Carolina for 29 years with a focus on AP History and AP Art History Teacher.  She attended East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. 

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