Developing anti-racist teachers has become the focal point in the San Diego Public School District. The district hopes to eliminate the stigma associated with racism in schools by providing professional development which results in classrooms that are better fitted for historically underserved students. The challenge with the anti-racism training need to focus on collective difference that permeate the need for an anti-racist teacher.
For schools to develop into an anti-racist teacher they must embrace anti-racism. According to Wikipedia, anti-racism is a form of action against racism and the systemic racism and the oppression of marginalized groups. Being antiracist is based on the conscious efforts and actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. People can act against racism by acknowledging personal privileges, confronting acts of racial discrimination, and working to change personal racial biases. The best way to teach teachers to become anti-racist and academically benefit historically underserved students is for the teachers to make plans to eliminate systemic classroom racism. Eliminating systemic classroom racism will require that the teacher advocate anti-racism as it pertains to the teacher, students, curriculum, discipline, and the structure of the classroom. This can completely disrupt the educational process that is designed to have some type of benefit for historically underserved students.
What pertinent information will help educators to become anti-racist teachers?
Teachers will benefit from nonverbal and verbal information regarding students and teachers that are exhibited in the classroom and schools. Schools and Black student conflict develop from expectation differences related to communication styles (Gilbert & Gay, 1985). The general public fails to accept that Blacks have different communication norms and conventions by assuming that Blacks communicate using standards set by socially dominant Whites (Kochman, 1981). Whites’ dispassionate and detached communication mode creates distrust among Blacks due to its similarity to Blacks who front which occurs when Blacks perceive there is a communication risk factor and chooses to remain silent in Black-White communication encounters. Rather than becoming an anti-racist teacher, the focus needs to encompass developing trust between the White teacher and the Black student.
According to Brown (2003), “Urban educators must be aware of specific verbal and nonverbal communication styles that affect students’ ability and motivation to engage in learning activities (p. 280). Blacks build trust slowly with European Americans, especially after encountering negative stereotyping and discrimination (Collier & Powell, 1990). When dominant culture persons deny or diminish information regarding Blacks or misrepresent their experiences, then Blacks will not self-disclose (Dace, 1994). European Americans are disappointed when Blacks do not trust them and disclose information early in a relationship. According to Powell and Caseau (2004), “students from Euro-American backgrounds probably disclose the most in class. Students from high-context cultures are less likely to engage in self-disclosure. Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos are less likely to engage in self-disclosure or feel that it is appropriate” (p. 123). Blacks stop self-disclosing and hesitate to self-disclose when others are partially committed to listening and understanding (Gates, 1998). When European Americans consistently demonstrate trustworthiness, then Blacks will truthfully self-disclose (Collier & Powell, 1990; Dace, 1994; Orbe, 1994). Self-disclosure may require that teachers and students engage in a question-and-answer communication process.
When teachers ask respectful questions, students feel they are in a trusting environment that makes them sense that they are safe (Wassermann, 1992). Questions that humiliate students diminish student confidence. Teachers who ask trick questions respond in an arrogant or derogatory manner when students do not respond. Teachers who ask questions to boost their egos will not gain students’ respect or admiration. Stupid questions are insulting and can cause anger and frustration. Black students do not appreciate when teachers ask direct personal questions (Patton et al., 1993).
There are many other areas of nonverbal and verbal communication challenges that cause the need for anti-racist teachers. Without the development of trust, schools such as the San Diego Public Schools, will continue to fail at ensuring that all students attain a quality education regardless of their race. The move to develop anti-racist teachers is fruitless and a waste of public funds.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell
PO Box 4707
Cherry Hill NJ 08034