Characteristics of the Anti-Racist Leader

“What does it mean to me, personally, to be an anti-racist leader?” asks Glenn Singleton, the president of Pacific Educational Group in Palo Alto, California, who works frequently with California’s Essential schools on issues of equity, leadership, and whole-school reform. To answer that question, he made up the following list:

I am abnormal. I do things outside what is seen as normal. People often get mad at me or disagree with me.

I am constructivist. I ask questions. I build on what I know about the current, existing, and known places where people are.

I’m conflicted.

I often operate outside my comfort zone. I choose to go there. My own discomfort is my indication that I’m doing it.

I’m in trouble. People complain about what I’ve said or done. I listen and hear their concerns respectfully, but I only change my behavior or act on concerns as appropriate to further the work. I don’t cave in to any and all complaints.

I create and utilize primary-source documents and collect data that surfaces and reveals the presence of issues of race, bias, and equity. I design materials.

I think up things to get conversations going and to get issues of race, bias, and equity on the table. n I live at the extremes emotionally because I choose to keep myself in touch with the hurt and pain that so many students are feeling.

I balance then and now. I can be future-focused because I realize where I’ve come from. My own personal inquiry helps me stay future-focused and grounded.

I do personal, autobiographical study that helps me know what to do.

I think about, design interventions for, and ask specially focused questions about students not previously served in school.

I learn from kids; I respond to kids. I seek out ways to stay informed and feel the feelings students of color have as they experience school.

I am patient but persistent. I am often frustrated but recognize that real change takes time.