Black Lives Matter in Teacher Education

In this special #blacklivesmatter issue of TRAUE, several of our writers decided to grapple with unpacking racism and white supremacy in the context of teacher preparation. At all levels, from Pre-K to graduate school, our systems set up youth and educators of color as the aberrations. These systems place the burden on people of color to have to constantly double-think and adjust the way they speak, learn and carry themselves in order to fit the molds of school systems that do not recognize their histories, talents, strengths and contributions. But as Nelson Flores, a UPenn professor and contributor to this issue, has asked in his prior work (Flores & Rosa, 2015) what values and practices of the white subjects who are perceiving our youth of color, must be upended?

This issue seeks to actively flip the script. Our writers call attention to the ways that white supremacy as an insidious construct has historically permeated and structured everyday interactions, institutions, and systems. They argue that the overwhelming number of white educators (who, at present, make up the majority of personnel in our public schools) must discover where they are lacking, and to develop what they need to “teach while white.”

A few pieces in particular in this issue create entry-points for (especially white) teachers and teacher educators to be self-reflexive and to transform their beliefs and practice. Corie McCallum, in her article, “What’s a White Woman To Do” departs from her own experiences with her first white teacher – her mom. She traces the history of white educators, policy makers and activists who, crusading under the banner of “good intentions” and justifying their actions under a “for your own good” mantra, perpetuated white supremacy through policy at the classroom, school, system, and nation-wide levels. Her cogent examples demonstrate how such practices silenced educators and leaders of color and marginalized students and communities. In her historical review, she makes reference to those educators who have attempted to partner with schools and communities, calling on white educators to recognize the privileges that come in their “invisible knapsack” (McIntosh, 1988), and then to take action – rather than simply wring their hands.

In his piece, Madhu Narayanan acknowledges that teachers are situated in what he calls the “uncomfortable” space between perpetuating unequal educational systems and acting as potential agents of change within it. Like McCallum, he argues that in teacher preparation, if movements toward social justice and culturally responsive pedagogical approaches are to truly take root, professional development spaces are needed which prompt teachers to interrogate their own dispositions and biases.

Seemingly in conversation with McCallum and Narayanan, Lydia Shestapalova, an instructor at a CUNY community college, reflects on her attempts to integrate content about the Black Lives Matter movement into her practice, only to find that she had to adjust her practice because some of her assumptions about this work still perpetuated a “white savior complex.”

– Sara Vogel


Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171.

McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved from