Sunday, September 7, 2014

So what can we do about it?

Reading: Privilege, Power and Difference- Dr. Allan Johnson

As I read this article I agreed with most, questioned some and needed clarification on other parts.  I feel like I have read, thought about, or discussed this topic many times before.  Dr. Johnson was upfront with who he was and what privileges were afford to him for being a white, male, heterosexual.  He gave examples to how privileges do exist for whites vs. non-whites, males vs. females, and hetro-sexuals vs. non-hertosexulas.  What I wonder now, as I have before: 

What can we do about it?  

What can I as a white, female, hetro-sexual, middle-class person.  How can we "all just get along?"  I believe as Dr. Johnson said "Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation and the solution is the best challenge we face." (pg 11).  How do we start this conversation with our students, how do we address the facts?  I found an article that has more to do with how to address races with your own children, but I think we can apply it here with our students as well.  Raising Racially Conscious Kids.  The article talks about six different things we can do to raise racially conscious kids, you may agree, disagree, or question how, but as long as we are thinking about it and discussing how to alter this "powerful force" then I feel like we are moving in the right direction.

1. Recognize that children experience race and that they need help to understand and contextualize it.

2. Make a conscious effort to share books, movies, and other media with your children that present diverse viewpoints and story lines.

3. Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about race in America.

4. Address your privilege and the ways you benefit from institutionalized racism, but also the ways it can allow you to challenge the system.

5. Teach your children to be “up-standers” to their peers.

6. Be careful not to paint people of color as lost and persecuted souls looking for a White Knight!

Personal Connection: When I first started working as a teacher I worked in a predominately white, middle to upper class school.  My second job was in a school that was much more diverse.  I did not think anything of my race or gender or background going into my first job, but as I started my second job at a school for low-income students of diverse backgrounds.  I thought how will they see me, a white, middle class woman coming into their school, their neighborhood and trying to educate them.  I had to be conscious of my self, more so then I had ever been before.  This school was one of the first places where I was not surrounded by people like me, who had similar up bringing,  similar categories on the "Diversity Wheel."  In the future I would love to have more tools on how to approach this situation.  I want to "change how we think so that we can change how we act, and by changing how we participate in the world, become part of the complex dynamic through which the world itself will change." (pg. viii)


  1. I enjoyed your link, especially as a parent. It's really important to pay attention to the messages we send to our children, and to the messages the are getting from others.
    I grew up in an urban, diverse neighborhood, and I teach in Central Falls, and my perspective is different based on my experiences. I remember my parents, and lots of the parents of some of my friends talking about how we are all created equally, then acting in ways that contradicted that. The messages I got from white middle/lower-middle class adults in the 70's were mixed, say what is supposed to be the right thing, but it's ok to make racial jokes or generalize and stereotype. The messages I got from my peers (who were diverse) were not mixed, what you do is who you are, and if you can't hang, you can't hang.
    As a teacher, I feel it is valuable to talk about differences, privilege and power in the classroom, and while these discussions can, at times become emotionally charged, they are instrumental in gaining a class perspective on individual values. It is also important that the class - which for me is older adolescent - is prioritized in making its opinions heard, that the voice which has the power is not that of the teacher but of all the parties in the classroom. Having the conversation is part of a change in dynamic, no longer needing to have the conversation is a signal that the change is in effect

  2. I think your 6 bullet points are wonderful. I know the advisory curriculum at our school does a great job by talking about racism, diversity, and bullying. As long was we deliver that message and model it, I think in turn we can make that difference in their lives. The earlier the better.

    For myself, I was not exposed to much diversity and race until I came to college. The only source of diversity was watching TV and my history books. Now teaching at a extremely diverse school, I recognized how important it is to deliver this message in a way where students are comfortable to share their thoughts and ideas without being judged or fear of making mistakes.

  3. Like Ken and Brian, I also really liked the list of ways to raise socially conscious kids. Being directed toward parents, though, reminds me of the care we must take in facilitating these conversations in our classrooms, especially with middle schoolers whose ideological views often come straight from their parents. Teaching kids to question the ways of society can sometimes be interpreted as trying to sway students to think in a way that the parents do not approve of. As teachers, we need to be understanding of the parents' perspective in working with difficult topics like race, class, and gender, but also be ready to defend our work. It's definitely a tricky balance and I am curious how our ideological/political debates will go in my class this year!