Fueled by the social unrest that has seized the United States over the past several weeks and motivated by the murders of innocent Black Americans including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—many people are feeling unequipped to discuss and address racial inequalities in a thoughtful manner.
Howard Stevenson, the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), is a nationally recognized expert on racial literacy, socialization, and African American psychology. “We need racial literacy to decode the politics of racial threat in America,” said Stevenson. “I am concerned that too many in this nation are still ignorant, potentially willfully ignorant, as to why unrest is happening.” At GSE, Stevenson is helping to accelerate the impact of research that reinforces a community commitment.
Though he is often asked how to discuss race with children, Stevenson’s recommendation for incorporating a mindfulness method he calls calculate, locate, communicate, breathe, and exhale can also help adults. “If a young person or adult sees a racial moment as threatening, they’re more likely to overreact to it,” said Stevenson in this Vox article. “If you notice that you’re actually overreacting or having certain expressions in your body, thoughts, and feelings, you can manage it.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has allowed Stevenson to reach a broader audience than usual recently, with contributions to The New York Times, Huff Post, National Public Radio, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Property Brothers podcast At Home with Drew and Linda Scott. At GSE, Stevenson appeared virtually during a June community meeting, where he encouraged his colleagues to expect more from each other on the issue of race, and quoted Bishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Constance Clayton Professorship of Urban Education, Est. 1992
Who is Constance Clayton?
An American educator and civic leader
What did she do?
She was the first woman, and the first African American, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia from 1982-1993
Why is the Clayton professorship groundbreaking?
It’s the first professorship that was established in the name of an African American woman at an Ivy League institution
To learn more about how to join Penn in listening, learning, and creating lasting change in our communities, check out anti-racism resources at GSE’s Hub for Equity, Anti-Oppression, Research, and Development, or the Alumni Relations Antiracist Education & Action site.