Race as the Benu: A Reborn Consciousness for Teachers of our Youngest Children


  • Erin T. Miller The University of North Carolina, Charlotte


early childhood, teacher education, whiteness, discourse, ethnography


Inspired by the Egyptian mythology of the benu bird, a bird that lives for centuries until it builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs and sets the nest and itself on fire to be reborn from its ashes, in this article, I name the racial death and rebirth that I believe whites must go through – guided by the efforts, experience, and knowledge of persons of color – in order to experience a new racial identity constructed from love. This discussion draws from theorizations derived from a nine-month long ethnographic study of race and racism in the home and community contexts of three young white children. Further application of my learning lead me to propose that such a rebirth must begin with early childhood teacher educators, classroom teachers, and pre-service teachers because of the impact their teaching has in the lives of young children.  I argue for explicitly teaching about the social, political, and economic intentionality with which whiteness was designed and is perpetuated as a racist construct.  In other words, that which was “socially constructed must be socially destroyed . . . [and socially reconstructed if we are] to achieve our humanity” (Boutte, personal communication, 2012).