Every culture perceives skin tone differently. Based on the history of the United States, such themes can seem taboo for an educator. Yet misconceptions and misinformation can quickly become the norm if educators do not address differences within a classroom. In my opinion, teachers can be proactive in the process of talking about race and ethnicity in the classroom. I would like to offer the following advice from my experience as a classroom teacher.
Archive for tag: momentous institute
If you’ve been in any conversations about race, you’ve likely heard the term “microaggressions”. You may be wondering two things – what are they, and what is the big deal?
Microagressions are small infractions that communicate a bias of some kind. They’re often unintentional or even subconscious and are not even clearly racially motivated. But they pass along small messages of racist concepts. (Microaggressions aren’t always race-related, either. People can use microaggressions related to gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability and more.)
We’ve talked about how the “colorblindness” approach is not the most helpful way to interact with people of different races and cultures here and here. If you read those posts and are ready to consider a new way of interacting with children, you may be wondering… but what is the best approach?
According to Dr. Monnica Williams, identity can be thought of at three levels: individual, group or universal. Individual is the idea that each person is unique. Group is the idea that we are all members of certain groups, and universal is the idea that we are all human beings.
The term “white privilege” has entered the common vocabulary when discussing issues related to race. We hear it all the time, but today we want to take a minute to really explore the topic. What is “white privilege” and what can we do about it?
White privilege is the idea that white people in America have certain advantages that people of color do not have.
White people often don’t have to worry about certain issues that people of color do. White people can travel to any city, move into any neighborhood, attend any school, feel comfortable at any place of employment and shop at pretty much any store without harassment. White people see people like them in leadership positions across the board, from politics to the workplace. White people can choose to interact only with other white people. White people can choose not to think about race.
While most professionals who work with kids believe that they’re genuinely accepting of all and nonjudgmental, the truth is, studies show that most people have hidden or implicit biases that shape how we feel and behave. The thing about implicit biases is that we don’t always notice that we have them. It’s not overt racism, like believing that one race is superior or that all people of a certain race are inferior. But it’s there all the same. No matter what background we come from, what race we identify as, how our parents raised us, what type of community we grew up in, we all carry prejudices and biases.
Research has disproven the commonly held belief that children only have biases if they’re taught them. Children form their own biases related to race not only from what they learn from parents and other adults, but from what they observe in their own surroundings. One researcher compared this to accents – if children only learned what they observe from their parents, the children of parents with accents would also have accents. But instead, children observe a variety of patterns from society, school, their community, etc. and adopt behaviors based on what they see.
One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is to go downtown to one of the community gathering places and watch children play in the interactive water fountain. I love to watch them run into the spouts and feel its force of energy as they splash around in the water. The run, they fall down, they get back up. When the fountain changes patterns and diminishes its force, the children giggling and jumping watch in hopeful anticipation of the water shooting up from the spout again. Not knowing when or where the next spray of water will be, the children look toward their parents or siblings for cues as to how to negotiate their next move.
I spend about five hours a day slacking off. Really: I spend that much time doing stuff I enjoy, that isn’t on a task list anywhere. I walk through the beautiful university campus near my house – during the workday. I cook for pleasure. I lay around on my daughter’s bed reading while she does her homework.
You’re probably thinking, “I could never do that!! Because I have to [insert 500 good reasons]!” Maybe you now believe that I am lazier and more pampered than you previously imagined.