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Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Teaching about Racism: Challenges and Successes Peter Heinze, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Clinical.

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Presentation on theme: "Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Teaching about Racism: Challenges and Successes Peter Heinze, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Clinical."— Presentation transcript:

1 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Teaching about Racism: Challenges and Successes Peter Heinze, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology Ramapo College of New Jersey 2011 Learning in Action: Innovative Pedagogy & Course Redesign XI Fairfield University

2 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Background Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Ramapo College of NJ Clinical Psychologist in private practice in New York City Member of community group addressing inequities based in race in local school system.

3 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Assessment “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

4 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Pre-Course Assessment 10 Items 6 Point Likert Scale

5 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Pre-course assessment I consider myself to be White Affirmative Action results in minority groups receiving privileges which they did not earn. I feel that people of color have really “made it” in our society and have equal access to everything that Whites do. Poverty is a more important issue than race. I don’t consider myself to be racist White people benefit from privileges that people of color do not. In the past, many poor immigrant groups such as the Italians, Irish and Jews were able to work hard and struggle to obtain the American dream. I can’t understand why African-Americans today can’t do the same. I think African-Americans are justified in using American slavery as the reason for injustices today. Having a volunteer army is racist. In this day and age, a middle-class African-American family that moves into a predominantly white suburban town, should not expect to be victims of racism.

6 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author The Continuum of Racism How does one answer the question “Am I racist?” Is “No” a realistic response? This implies a dichotomy (e.g. one is either a racist or not) and defies the reality of implicit bias.. Euro-American (white) culture is prone to dichotomous thinking (Cartesian dualism). It might be more beneficial to think of racism on a continuum.

7 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author The Continuum of Racism Two ways of considering racism. As a dichotomy based on Behavior (either/or): Not Racist - KKK - White Supremacist - Neo-Nazis - Hate Crime Perpetrator LOTS OF GRAY AREA IN BETWEEN!

8 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author The Continuum of Racism Not Racist? (Is it really possible to be “bias free”?) KKK Skinhead Neo-Nazi Hate Crime Perpetrator (Violent Behaviors) Discrimination Segregation (Non Violent Behaviors) Prejudice Bias Stereotyping (Thoughts, often unconscious )

9 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Should I be Teaching about Racism? Should a white, Euro-American instructor, be teaching about racism and white privilege? What is the instructor's awareness of his/her own racism ?”

10 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Should I be Teaching about Racism? Ironically a white instructor's ability to acknowledge his/her own racism might make him/her best able to teach about it. A white instructor who thinks he/she has “worked through” all their racism might well be venturing into dangerous territory. A cornerstone of this work is learning about the lack of acknowledgment of blindness on the part of white- Americans in U.S. society. The white instructor unaware of his/her own racism is likely to reenact the dynamic of blindness to power and privilege that exists and persists in our society.

11 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Using myself as a tool Acknowledging my own humanness Self-disclosure of my own racist thoughts Emphasizing that this is about LEARNING not KNOWING (myself included!) Trying to constantly monitor myself for my own triggers (situations in which I get defensive, impatient, angry, etc.)

12 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Using myself as a tool Benefits to students of using myself as a tool: The more human I appear to them, the less judgmental I seem. The less judgmental I seem, the more willing the students are to share thoughts and feelings that are considered “politically incorrect” – thoughts that would typically go unexpressed. This is where the true “work” happens. Modeling of openness with regard to racism sends the message that it’s okay to discuss these thoughts and feelings.

13 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Role as a white, hetero, male Blindspots: I still make assumptions that are rooted in years of being socialized by the dominant white, hetero, male culture. The key is not to DENY that I have these biases, but rather to acknowledge them and make them visible to the students. This makes the process “real” for them. Example: Speaking “for” a Latina student.

14 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Role as a white, hetero, male Benefits: The class feels less threatened and judged by me, since they see me as “one of them” (white). This makes it easier for me to challenge their assumptions. I can normalize the experience of having negative thoughts and feelings that whites maintain but are typically hesitant to express. Once students feel comfortable expressing “politically incorrect” or biased thoughts, a deeper level of learning can be achieved, allowing them to question some firmly held core beliefs.

15 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Teaching an all (or predominantly) white class Advantages: There is an increased level of safety and comfort, so students are more likely to express biased thoughts. It allows for an “in vivo” experience of dominant white culture (there is typically consensus on many issues). This provides a good source of “evidence” for many points.

16 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Teaching an all (or predominantly) white class Disadvantages: Lack of alternative perspective – this can detract from the impact of some exercises (i.e. the benefits of being white) Students of color might feel silenced.

17 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Importance of safety Research has shown that some attempts at teaching about diversity and multiculturalism actually BACKFIRE! The result ends up being a hardening of pre-existing biases. I am very aware of the degree of FEAR students have regarding this subject.

18 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Importance of safety I consider the learning of this subject matter analogous to therapy.  We are confronted with parts of ourselves we don’t want to acknowledge  If we do begin to change our view of ourselves and the world, it might result in uncomfortable changes in our close relationships. For some, this is often a good reason NOT to change. Hence, creating a safe space in which to address all these emotional issues is very important.

19 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Pedagogical Assumption It is counterproductive, and only serves to further tacit or unconscious racism, if multicultural psychology ignores looking at whites as “raced”, as we do with other groups we study. Once white students understand this, it will allow them to be more sensitive to the nuances of power and privilege that play into inter-cultural interactions and relationships.

20 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Pedagogical Assumption Therefore, the strategy employed in this class is to have students spend the first few weeks of the semester understanding White privilege and how it interacts with racism. This should allow the students to understand the material on the other cultural groups studied in a substantively different way.

21 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author The role of examining racism with regard to the theoretical material By de-demonizing the terms “racist” and “racism”, it helps students to be more open towards readings which they would normally dismiss.

22 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Some themes covered in class White = normal, therefore the “hyphens” (e.g. African -, Asian -, Latino -, Native – American) are somehow different from the “norm”. Student exercise to examine this tacit assumption: When referring to people in conversation, use the identifier “white”. Student reaction to this: “Feels weird”. We examine this reaction more fully and gain an appreciation that the “weirdness” is due to the fact that they are verbalizing a heretofore unacknowledged dynamic…that Whites are perceived as the norm and, therefore, do not need to be labeled.

23 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Some themes covered in class White Privilege Student exercise: Arrange small groups based on whether students identify as “white” of “people of color”. Ask the groups to come up with a list of the “Benefits of being white”. Compare the results

24 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Some themes covered in class Are you a racist? Student Exercise: Use of a continuum  Have students describe what is a racist  Examine behavior vs. thought  Draw continuum  Ask students where “Dave” (From video “The Color of Fear”) perceived himself before and after the group experience.

25 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author The Continuum of Racism Where one thinks they are on the continuum vs. where they are in reality might be a source for potential misunderstanding when dealing in situations in which sensitivity to diversity is required. (Dave in “Color of Fear”) Self-perception Reality

26 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling the reaction to student acceptance of White Privilege When students recognize their own White Privilege, it either results in an acknowledgment of the reality, or denial and resistance. Typically there are underlying feelings of guilt or shame. (e.g. “I wish I wasn’t white). There is a wish to deny the benefits of White Privilege.

27 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling guilt and shame Emphasize that this topic is not about making students feel guilty. It’s about White Privilege – and how one addresses it once it has been acknowledged This is where the opportunity to become involved in some level of activism is a helpful alternative.

28 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling Resistance Resistance can be:  Sticking to original point of view in the face of alternative evidence  Questioning the legitimacy of the authors (i.e. “How old is this stuff!”)  Denial (“I grew up in an all white town without racism”, “Some of my best friends are…”)  Arguing about unrelated issues (Classism, Sexism, Homophobia)  Avoiding suggested exercises, readings  Absence, lateness

29 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling Resistance Be aware of, and in touch with, my own anger (countertransference) I always try to consider resistance as a veiled form of interest. Be aware of, and sensitive to, the fact that for some students accepting the existence of White privilege and racism means potential conflict with their family/friends.

30 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling Resistance How are resistant thoughts and feelings handled once verbalized? Assume that the idea expressed is not simply that of one individual, but held by many members of the class.

31 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Handling Resistance Don’t argue the point – this will only cause the student to withdraw, and silence those who agree with the sentiment. Turn the resistance into a question for group discussion. This allows for the students to examine underlying assumptions without feeling attacked. Occasional appropriate humor (Laughing at oneself) helps to ease the tension.

32 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Samples of student reactions and work Student papers Willingness to try exercises Outside of class chats (Male student)

33 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author End of Semester Assessment and Data Analysis Significant differences found on mean scores for all questionnaire items.

34 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Post-course online assessment Online survey which investigates student perspectives. https://new.qualtrics.com/ControlPanel/?ClientAction=setActiveReport&Section=RP_cJbYRQan9KFVm2U&SubSection=&SubSubSection=&TransactionID=2&Repeatable=0&T=2hNCKd

35 Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author Thank you! Questions/Comments? 


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