New Book: “A Guide to Anti-Racist Education in Puerto Rico”

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A new textbook entitled Arrancando mitos de raíz: Guía para una enseñanza antirracista en Puerto Rico by Isar Godreau et al was published earlier this year. It was based on a research Project, led by Dr. Godreau, which included collaborators Inés Canabal, Sherry Cuadrado, Mariluz Franco, Jessica Gaspar, Hilda Lloréns, and María Reinat Pumarejo. Hilda Lloréns describes the book for Anthropology Today; here are excerpts with a link to the full description below:

The pioneering textbook Arrancando mitos de raíz: Guía para una enseñanza antirracista en Puerto Rico [Pulling-up myths by their roots: A guide for the anti-racist teaching of Puerto Rico’s African heritage] was published in early 2013. Written in accessible and clear language and complete with practical exercises, it is intended to assist in educating teachers, university students, social workers, educational policy makers, and generally anyone interested in combating racism in Puerto Rico.

This book is the result of an applied anthropology and interdisciplinary social-science research project entitled, “Beyond the Self: Towards an Integral Approach to an Anti-racist Pedagogy in Elementary Education,” funded by the National Institute of Health. Spearheaded by Isar Godreau, a leading race scholar and former director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, the initial field research phase took place over a six-year period (2004-09). A multi-disciplinary team, composed by anthropologists, psychologists, anti-racist community organizers, and a performance/theater professional, carried out this research. [. . .]

Findings from the study—parts of which have been published in various journals—revealed that racism was pervasive in schools. At the institutional level, we found that curricular materials and lessons taught students five recurrent and specific myths about Africa, the African heritage, and blackness in Puerto Rico. These five myths are: (1) Africa is a poor, primitive place of little importance in the world; (2) slaves were passive victims of slavery; (3) all black persons in Puerto Rico were slaves prior to the abolition of slavery; (4) the contributions of our African heritage are limited to music, folklore and hard labor; (5) in Puerto Rico, the majority of black persons disappeared as a result of race mixing or mestizaje. At the interpersonal level, racial discrimination among students included the rejection, humiliation, mockery, and even physical abuse
of children who exhibited “black features.” There was widespread rejection of physical traits associated with blackness, specifically as it related to hair, skin color, and lip shape. There were also clear gender dimensions associated with particular traits. For example, “black hair” is a common target of ridicule for girls, while insults related to hyper-sexuality (eg, bellaco/horny), are common for boys. Consequently, we found that students who are victims of racism experience emotional instability, anxiety, and isolation. Students often begin to experience racial discrimination in elementary school and continue to encounter racism throughout the entirety of their schooling experience. These on-going aggressions lead to feelings of marginality, low self-esteem, dropping out of school, and even in engaging in self-destructive behavior such as taking drugs.

[. . .] We found that although well intended, teachers and other school personnel are inadequately prepared to confront and handle incidents of racism in school. For example, while 83% of the teachers surveyed agreed that racism exists in Puerto Rico, 73% also said that children do not experience the effects of racism in schools. These answers directly contradict qualitative findings in which teachers’ repeatedly recount incidents of racism in their classrooms and in their schools. The applied nature of the project called for the development of strategies to tackle racism.

[. . .] The objectives of the textbook include the fostering of pride about African heritage, to promote positive attachment to blackness and the African heritage among school age children, to build a critical consciousness around the ways in which blackness has historically been associated with inferiority and whitenesss with superiority, and to help diminish the effects of racism among students.

To achieve these goals the book offers (1) definitions of racism and examples of its manifestations in Puerto Rico and in the school context; (2) alternative and positive messages to counteract the existing myths (detailed above); (3) practical dialogues offering concrete examples and tools to respond to racism in real-world situations; (4) an annotated list of resources for teachers including readings, stories, films and videos, websites, and other resources about the themes developed throughout the text; (5) curricular suggestions for developing positive lessons about Africa, as well as a model for a Mathematics and Spanish lesson plan; and (6) practical recommendations and resources for confronting interpersonal racism. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2013/06/17/how-collaborative-action-research-is-advancing-the-fight-against-racism-in-puerto-rico/

See review in Spanish and video at http://www.uprm.edu/portada/article.php?id=2577

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