Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Urban Studies

First Advisor

Marie Sandy

Committee Members

Aaron Schutz, Anne Bonds


antiracist education, culturally relevant pedagogy, multicultural education, social justice, white privilege, white supremacy



NON-NEGOTIABLE: A CASE STUDY OF IMPLEMENTING ANTIRACIST EDUCATION IN TWO MILWAUKEE SUBURBAN K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICTSby Jennifer Luken The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2021 Under the Supervision of Professor Marie Sandy, PhD

As a racial reckoning and civil unrest permeated 2020 and 2021, many were left asking: How did we get here? By and large, the American public seemed underprepared to understand the context under which these events unfolded. The ability to engage in a critical analysis of race and society oftentimes requires post-secondary education – or the experience of it first-hand – and is mostly lacking in K-12 schools. There have been attempts to remedy this in recent years, including an equity-based model rooted in culturally responsive practices (WDPI, 2020). Little is known regarding the perception of school leaders on these initiatives and how they are implemented. Using general qualitative research methodology, this study explores perceptions from two district and two school-based personnel, along with an in-depth document analysis of two suburban districts in metropolitan Milwaukee, Wisconsin – one racially diverse and the other more racially homogenous. This study asks: How do school and district personnel perceive their role in practicing antiracism? Also, what do K-12 leaders perceive to be barriers/motivations for implementation? And lastly, what ways do these school communities share in common, as two “exogenous” districts of an urban metropolitan area, and how do they differ? This study found that terms such as equity, equity non-negotiables, diversity, inclusion and culturally relevant were used to describe their practices. Antiracism, although being practiced in various forms, is not explicitly identified as a policy. The “charged,” political undertones of antiracism, along with other community barriers, has placed certain limits on each of the districts. Keywords: antiracist education, social justice, white privilege, white supremacy, multicultural education, culturally relevant pedagogy, Equity non-negotiables