BH&H – teaching whites about racism

I’m glad to have been able to spend so much time with this chapter of BH&H. It’s noted in the chapter that something like 90% of teachers are white, yet schools are growing increasingly diverse. It’s therefore hugely important that white teachers have an understanding of structural racism in our country. This is always a difficult lesson for whites to learn because a) we have no background experience informing us of oppression and b) after learning the lesson we have the unique privilege of being able to forget it. I’m sure most of the white students in this class have experienced the frustration involved in learning about institutional racism and white privilege, or in trying to get your parents and friends to come to the same realizations you’ve come to. Nobody wants to feel complicit in racism, and thus most whites want to deny its existence, or at the very least their involvement in it. Christine Sleeter, the author of this chapter, notes that even after approaching this topic with her students in a careful, tender way, she will still have students drop the course because they feel antagonized. She will also see students participate and seem to grasp the concept, only to go back to their prior misconceptions afterward. This is such a frustrating pattern, since white people who deny their privilege are only able to do so because their privilege allows them to. It seems almost laughable to have to approach this subject so tenderly with whites, but I do think it is necessary. People understand things through their own experiences, and if your experience doesn’t inform you that a thing exists then the concept of that thing can be difficult to grasp.

Anyway. This is all I’ve been able to think about all day.

One thought on “BH&H – teaching whites about racism”

  1. Before this course I did not give much thought to institutionalized racism and it presence in the education system aside from bogus claims in our history books about Columbus, Thanksgiving, etc. I was naive to think that school was ‘safe’ from that type of social injustice.
    I see the value in our discussion and the need to take the next step… start the conversation with a friend, family member or colleague at work and see what happens. Its not and easy thing to do but it is our responsibility.

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