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Justice in Search of Leaders

A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership


Gloria Graves Holmes

Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership is a guide for educators who are committed to equity-driven teaching, leading, and policy-making, and would like to operationalize socially just school practices for all children. Moving beyond a heroes and holidays approach to addressing racism, bias, injustice, and a cluster of isms, it provides a deeper understanding of the causes of structural inequities in schools, and suggests approaches for deconstructing them. The book includes a frank discussion of race, racism, social dominance, and implicit bias, and encourages both objective and subjective analyses of how they infect school practice.

America’s ambivalent response to race, racial identity development, the nature of prejudice, and how humans form values and develop belief systems is explored in some depth. There is also a critique of Whiteness as a socio-political concept as it relates to power and privilege, and as a demographic reality as it relates to institutional discrimination in schools. The book is not a critique of white people, and it is important that readers make that distinction. This leads to a discussion of the tricky and challenging process of changing beliefs, values, and attitudes as they relate to school leadership and teaching, and how all of this is connected to the power dynamics in schools.

Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership encourages educators to acknowledge that we all have racial identities and biases that inform professional practice, and to reflect on the significance of this. It means thinking deeply about socially abhorrent subjects which make us uncomfortable and cause us to retreat to the safety of our comfort zones. This is necessary because for most under-served students, there is no retreat and no safety; there are only discomfort zones.

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Appendix A: A Conversation with an Implicit Bias Skeptic


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While conversations about implicit bias are flourishing in some arenas such as the social justice field, the reality is that many people remain unfamiliar with the concept and its dynamics. This section provides a model to help guide conversations with those who have not yet been informed about this phenomenon. The tone used here mirrors that of a normal conversation in an effort to illustrate how this academic and scientific concept can be made accessible to a broader audience. Since these conversations often originate in the context of doubt or confusion from one party, the dialogue is structured to be intentionally persuasive in an effort to help counter and rebut skeptics.

I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with that term you just mentioned—implicit bias. What are you talking about?

Oh, implicit bias? It’s a fascinating concept! Implicit biases are attitudes or stereotypes that we carry around with us unconsciously. These mental associations influence our perceptions, actions, and decisions, yet because implicit biases are unconscious and involuntarily activated, we are not even aware that they exist.

So you’re saying that all of this occurs in my head without my knowledge? I’m a pretty self-aware person. I even meditate and engage in reflection ← 309 | 310 → exercises regularly. I seriously doubt there is much going on in my mind that I do not already know.

Research indicates that...

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