Becoming anti-racist: Learning about race in CS Education

June 8, 2020 at 7:00 am 14 comments

I don’t usually invite external review on my blog posts for CACM, but I did this month because it’s such an important topic and I know too little about it — “CS Teachers, It’s (Past) Time To Learn About Race” (see link here). Many thanks to Melissa Perez, Carl Haynes, Leigh Ann DeLyser, Betsy DiSalvo, Leo Porter, Chad Jenkins, Wes Weimer, Barbara Ericson, Matthew Guzdial, Katie Guzdial, and Manuel Perez Quinones.

We have to change CS Education. We do not talk enough about BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students and faculty in CS education. We have to reflect that Black Lives Matter in our teaching practice. We have to become explicitly anti-racist (a term I just learned this last week, see the book link here) — actively seeking to address historic and systemic inequities (see piece at CNN too).

One of the reviewer’s comments was that, by offering some small suggestions (like changing how we grade), I might dissuade people from bigger changes. It’s a valid concern. I’m hoping that people will take me at my word: I’m just learning here, and I hope that you will educate me (and each other) by sharing other ideas and resources. Please do share more ideas in the comments to this post.

Here are a few more that have come my way since that post that I wanted to share:

  • Ron Eglash has written up a terrific list of strategies for address issues of racism in technology — see link here.
  • Melissa Perez, a PhD student working with Barb Ericson, pointed out that it’s not enough to bring more people into CS education if we don’t change what we’re doing in CS. For example, we have to consider the problem of using biased training data for machine learning training. She recommends this article for considering the ethics of what we do in CS, besides how we teach CS. We need to integrate ethics across CS education.
  • Carl Haynes, also a PhD student working with Barb, recommends this book on intersectionality (see link here).
  • Manuel Perez Quinones recommends this Best Paper awardee from CHI 2020 on “Critical Race Theory for HCI” (see link here).
  • Kamau Bobb gave a talk at CornellTech in January “Unpacking Equity: To Code + Beyond” which is available on YouTube here. (Thanks to Leigh Ann DeLyser and Dianne Levitt for this.)
  • Patricia Garcia, who does terrific work on helping underserved students author their computational identities, recommends this video on Black Lives Matter myths debunked.
  • The University of Michigan’s School of Information has been having an amazing online discussion about how to make their education anti-racist. A book that stood out on the resources shared there was Stamped from the Beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America by Ibram Kendi (Amazon link here).
  • I had my children read the CACM blog post, and they gave me valuable comments on it. My daughter, Katie, a science teacher in Detroit Public Schools suggested these three books: The Color of Law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America by Richard Rothstein (link), We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love (Amazon link), and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (Target link).

The issues of race, culture, and members of underserved groups are particularly critical for us to consider as we move into the 2020-2021 academic year during a worldwide pandemic. As we move classes on-line, we are putting at a greater disadvantage underserved populations. We have to be sensitive and thoughtful that our response to pandemic doesn’t exacerbate our existing structural inequities. Let’s worry less about cheating, and more about

  • how to help students taking our classes remotely who don’t have laptops, or who have to share a single laptop with a family, or who don’t have broadband Internet access;
  • how to help students who can’t come to class because they would be put at risk;
  • how to help students who have hearing disabilities and won’t be able to read lips if a teacher is wearing a mask (thanks to Bonnie MacKellar for pointing out that concern).

We have privilege and resources, and we should use them to address inequities.

TL;DR: I know too little about race, and I have not considered the historic and systemic inequities in CS education when I make my daily teaching decisions. I haven’t read all of the above, but I’m working on it daily. Please do share valuable resources you have found in the comments. Let’s learn about race in CS education and make change to improve learning for everyone.

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dorian Love  |  June 8, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Reblogged this on The DigiTeacher and commented:

    An excellent blog post on an important issue! there is a great deal to unpack here.

  • 2. Doug Blank  |  June 8, 2020 at 7:59 am

    You might be interested in our book “Culturally Responsive Strategies for Reforming STEM Higher Education: Turning the TIDES on Inequity.” The TIDES project had teams from quite a diverse population of studies and groups. One of the most useful activities that I participated in my years as a professor. I learned so much.

  • 3. Laura Le  |  June 8, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Just thought i would add that the book Stamped from the Beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America by Ibram Kendi is available on Spotify.

  • 4. Lily  |  June 8, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I think you would be interested in reading Ruha Benjamin’s work:

    You may also want to look in general at educational research for equity and apply it to CSEd with Gloria Ladson Billings’ work on critical race theory and pedagogy.

    Zaretta Hammond also does work on this tying in neuroscience as well as cultural hallmarks.

    Thank you for your openess! Dialogue is everything if we all want to move forward together to a better future.

  • 5. John P. Dougherty, a.k.a. "jd"  |  June 8, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for this start of an important conversion that needs to lead to action.

    I’m just finishing “how to be an anti-racist” myself, after reading “white fragility” by Robin DiAngelo which I also found eye opening from my perspective.

    SIGCSE 2008 had the theme “diversity through accessibility” which focused on issues of women and computing as well as access for people with disabilities –and now we move to extend this to CS education and people of color. Looking back I feel embarrassed that we were not explicit then.

    Finally, I was able to attend a Tapia conference a few years back which provided another opportunity to get up to speed. — jd

  • 6. Monica McGill  |  June 8, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for posting this, Mark. It’s critical that we don’t let this conversation die out and that the conversation lead to system changes both within the SIGCSE community and in our classrooms, research, and evaluation work. I’ve compiled the suggestions so far given on the listserv and emailed to me directly to a google doc ( It’s viewable by anyone. I hope it turns out to be helpful to people in the community–even if you are new to this.

    Each of us has the opportunity to reflect and to help usher in change. We need to recognize our privileges and acknowledge that we are part of the problem. Those changes may not be perfect. We will make mistakes along the way. That’s okay–so long as we keep recognizing the need to be more inclusive and never stop transforming.

  • 7. Chris Quintana  |  June 8, 2020 at 11:17 am

    All terrific resources…thanks for your post and recent thoughts. We’ve focused on “We Want to do More Than Survive” and “White Fragility” in the School of Education over the last few years, and “Stamped from the Beginning” should just be required reading for everyone (along with Dr. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist”).

    From a technology perspective, I would also recommend “Black Software” by Dr. Charlton McIlwain, which gives a historical look to show that the racial justice movement online has been going on for much long than many know because the contributions of so many Black engineers, entrepreneurs, etc. have been dropped from the origin stories of our technologies and the Internet.

    Also, “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism” by Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble and “Weapons of Math Destruction” by Dr. Cathy O’Neil both discuss how we need to be aware of instances when technologies and big data reinforce racist and oppressive ideas. And consider looking at and supporting the work of the Algorithmic Justice League ( One of their members–Joy Buolamwini, from the MIT Media Lab–plays a large role in the documentary “Coded Bias”, which will be streaming at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (

  • 8. Darakhshan Mir  |  June 8, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    Here’s another resource at the risk of self-promotion:

  • 9. Shuchi Grover  |  June 9, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    We are all learning, Mark. I will soon share excerpts from a chapter on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (in the A-Z CS Teacher handbook I edited) that was authored by several experienced scholars in our field including Tia Madkins, Jakita O. Thomas, Jessica Solyom, Joanna Goode, and Frieda McAlear with supporting contributions from Yolanda Rankin, Allison Scott, Kimberly Scott, Jean Ryoo and Alexis Martin. What I realized working with these amazing ladies was that I had so much to learn. The field has a long way to go. The first step is awareness of ignorance, and it appears that many of us are there. I also believe we need to amplify the work and voices of our BIPOC brothers and sisters. We hear much too little of the scholarship of these ladies as well as others’ that are so pertinent to this issue. (Shared more thoughts here

  • 10. Ian Arawjo  |  June 15, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    As a CS education researcher who has been working on, developing programs for, and reading about xenophobia and racism for multiple years, I am somewhat worried about people pushing single books –especially Kendi’s recent book or DiAngelo which is going around –over decades of books by other scholars on racism. I have also become worried about deflections from racism to race, which the first book in my list below talks about. To help mitigate this, I want to share some resources that might broaden, or in some ways complicate, our methods on combating racism, for those interested:

    Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life, by Barbara and Karen Fields, two Afro-American women who have dedicated their lives to writing about the history and sociology of racism

    Deconstructing Race: Multicultural Education Beyond the Color-Bind by Jabari Mahiri, which won an award; the author has 30+ years experience teaching in urban schools and is Professor of Education at UC Berkeley

    Terrorist Assemblages, by Jasbir Puar, to think much less about identity’s role in racism or other kinds of “othering” and much more about identification and positionality,

    After Race, by Darder and Torres

    While reading some of the more popular pieces going around (Ruha’s is particularly good), I encourage people to check out these books, especially the first one, to better understand the diversity of thought that has gone into understanding and combating racism. Happy to chat more about these perspectives.

    • 11. Mark Guzdial  |  June 16, 2020 at 9:39 am

      Thank you for sharing these! I’ve had more sent to me off-line, and I’ll plan on a future blog post with more recommendations.

  • […] with Betsy DiSalvo and me, reviewed my first two posts about race in CS Education (at Blog@CACM and here a few weeks ago). Amber has written on intersectionality in CS education, and is writing a dissertation about the […]

  • […] seen a connection between what they teach and systemic racism are making connections and searching for ways to respond. Any attempt to address how we should teach right now must acknowledge that […]

  • […] education. I still don’t have answers, but Dr. Mark Guzdial’s recent blog post “Becoming Anti-Racist: Learning About Race in CS Education” was a great place to start, as he pulls together an initial list of CS education books, […]


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