Monday, August 14, 2017

I Live In A White World by Laura D. Brown

It has taken me 44 years to realize how limited my world view is — and how that impacts my teaching.
I went to Disney World this summer and stayed at the Boardwalk Inn — I saw a sea of white faces.

I went to Myrtle Beach, SC and frolicked on the beach with other white tourists.

I went to a national gymnastics competition in Savannah, GA and cheered on white kids in pretty unis.

I volunteered at the Auburn Great Race and counted how many non-white faces I saw run, bike, or paddled by — three.

I send my children to a school where they see 99% faces that are white, just like them.

I frequent an urban YMCA in Auburn, NY and see very few non-white participants.

I have one non-white uncle married to my aunt, and one non-white Godfather (a Mohawk).
I have no non-white close friends.

I have worked with only 3–4 non-white educators in my twenty-three-year teaching career.

I teach in a school that is 79% white.

I am educated and hold very democratic egalitarian views, but I do not know what the hell I am even talking about because I live in a white world. Membership in this white world makes my life drastically different than 21% of the student body that I teach. Is it no wonder that the Tatianas and the DeShawns have challenged me over the years? I have no concept of how my non-white students adapt, learn, strive, struggle or exist in my white world. When I teach them about civil rights do they see me as a fraud? Do they see me as another well-meaning white female teacher telling them fairy-tales of democracy, freedom, and justice? Do my non-white students gather together at lunch tables during the refuge of their only free period where they choose to sit with whom they are most comfortable chatting about how their white teachers don’t “get” them? Or, are my non-white students silent because the racism is subtle? Do they accept the reality of the world they live in or does their anger simmer?

When my non-white students see images of Charlottesville, VA does it confirm or surprise? Do they wonder if their teachers hold such beliefs?

When I Googled “white teachers,” the search revealed:

The search results demonstrate the disconnect between white teachers and students of color. I feel the need to educate myself further. My teacher training and professional development have never discussed the racial and cultural divide that is growing in classrooms across our nation. I am sure my lack of training in this topic is due to many factors, including the predominance of white teachers, the systemic racism, de facto segregation of neighborhoods, and the naive belief of white teachers that we have no bias.

I wish I could finish this post with some nice conclusion, but the truth is that my colleagues and I have a lot of work to do. We have been ignorant and removed from the pain of discrimination based on race. We have comfortably lived in our white world far too long.

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