Why white teachers don’t like talking about a lack of diversity.

Preemptive Warning: Some of this will be wrong. Some of this won’t apply to do you. But if your immediate reaction as a white educator is to get your back up and decide this isn’t about you then it almost definitely is. 

Here is my list (collected with the help of twitter members cited below) of reasons…

Why white teachers don’t like talking about a lack of diversity*

*in their classrooms, schools, districts, friend groups, lives

 

  1. I am afraid of looking like a racist.
    • Good, you shouldn’t want to look like a racist! This is a great first step.
    • But… you know what racists do? Pretend racism doesn’t exist.  If you have never had a critical conversation about race then I’m sorry to report you are perpetuating racism. Which unfortunately makes you a racist.
    • You know what doesn’t make you a racist? Occasionally messing up these conversations and then listening and doing your best to fix and repair.
  2. I am well liked by my students and colleagues of color so I am a “good white”
    • Good, I am glad your students and colleagues like you.  Likely this means you aren’t an asshole.
    • But…Not being bad is not the same as being an ally.  It is not the same as fighting systems of oppression.
    • We should all probably let go of the idea of being a “good white” and just try not to be trash people.
  3. I am not in charge of hiring/diversity/student placement so I can’t do anything anyway
    • Good, so you recognize there is a problem somewhere in your school or district. That’s a solid first step.
    • Now, get on a committee! Most schools have hiring committees.  Get involved in placement.  Be radical and figure out how to eliminate tracking in your school.
    • But Anne, I am so busy. I refuse to believe there is something more important than equity for all students.  Make it work friends.
  4. I think I’m fair so I don’t understand why some kids would need special treatment.
    • It’s nice that you think you’re fair.  But honestly no matter how fair we feel in our classrooms how they students ended up there and where they are going after have to be our concern, too.
    • How are they treated in the hallways? What opportunities are they being presented with? Is everywhere in your school “fair”?
    • We either need to get over the idea of special treatment or really invest in it.  Every kid is different. Every kid has needs. Some of those needs come from fighting societal oppression. Find ways to help them with that. Meet the needs of your students.
  5. Cause I feel guilty
    • Good. White guilt is a fine thing. I have heaps of it.  Do something productive with it.  Learn about restorative justice.  Follow more people of color on twitter and for the love of god READ SOME BOOKS.  Here’s a list from Crystal Paul at Bustle.
  6. I’m still learning and don’t want to say the wrong thing and offend or even hurt someone or I want to do the right thing and support my students and my colleagues of color but worry that I’ll come off as disingenuous.
    • Dudes, I have said at least one wrong thing this week (probably ten).  I screw up all the time. Hear what you did wrong when some corrects you. Learn to apologize. Mean it.  Then move on and keep doing the work.  Would you let a student never do math again because they screwed it up? There are a bunch of you that could explain to me the learning theory around making mistakes.  This is the same.
    • As for seeming disingenuous, just keep doing it til people believe you.  Fighting for justice isn’t disingenuous, it’s your job.
  7. I’m worried that increasing diversity will threaten my job.
    • DUDE.  This one is rough. Maybe it will?  You should probably then become the most valuable teacher possible.  The teacher that most pushes the school in the right direction.  The teacher that serves the most kids.
  8.  I’m not racist and I’m not a person of color so I’m not the one who should be talking.
    • Good.  God job being not racist.  I’m going to believe you there.  I understand this is a tough line to walk. So I’ll give you some tips.
      • Don’t talk over or put your experience in front of people of color.  That’s a bad time to be talking.
      • Do be the person who brings it up in big groups.
      • Do be the person who pushes for change on committees or in meetings.
      • Do cite your sources when you make points.
    • Last night José pointed out we need co-conspirators and recently Shana called for accomplices, dismantlers, disrupters, margin fillers, decenter-ers, and action minded people.  Be those things.
    • If you need help deciding when to talk, ask.  Preferably ask a white ally. Don’t make the people of color do your work for you.
  9. I don’t care about the speaker’s background, I just care about their message.
    • This one was specifically about hiring people to speak at conferences.
    • First off, if you don’t think who we are is part of the message you don’t understand speakers. If you only hire white man speakers you are sending a very clear message.
    • Second, dig a little deeper and look at why you think race and gender don’t matter.  Is it because acknowledging that they do might make your accomplishments not as great? That’s hard.  I hear that.  But if you have enough merit to get to choose speakers for conferences then use your accomplishments to benefit everyone.  That’s when you are leveraging your privilege.
  10. We take shortcuts with our thinking so we think already ARE talking about a lack of diversity.
    • Y’all solved racism? RAD!
    • But actually, just like you are never done learning to teach this work is never done. Don’t let people around you pretend it is.
  11. I was just hired to teach.
    • Cool. You are part of the problem.  You are a racist.

 

List compiled with help from Tina, Mattie, Howie, Kathy, Ethan, Julie

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