The Myth of Colorblindness: Helping Educators Recognize the Role of Race in the PreK-12th Grade Classrooms

The Myth of Colorblindness: Helping Educators Recognize the Role of Race in the PreK-12th Grade Classrooms

Stephanie R. Logan (University of Northern Iowa, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2520-2.ch004

Abstract

The United States is becoming a more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse nation. More specifically, in public schools, students of color and those of Native American ancestry are anticipated to represent the majority of the student population in the near future. In contrast to the change in student demographics, the majority of classroom teachers remain White and monolingual. The differences in racial, ethnic, and linguistic experiences of the student and teacher populations could create cultural conflicts between the two groups. In response, this endeavor is purposed to provide an instructional framework for teacher educators who are tasked with preparing culturally competent teachers for increasingly multicultural classrooms.
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Background

Changing Classroom Demographics

In 2011-2012, 82% of the teaching population in the United States was White, non-Hispanic, female, and middle class (Howard, 1999; National Center for Education Statistics 2013b; Swartz, 2003). While most of today’s teachers are of European ancestry or White, only 52% of the student population is White, non-Hispanic (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013a). Given the anticipated increase in the number of students of color in public schools, it is a pressing issue that teacher educators prepare teachers to be knowledgeable about diversity and cultural responsiveness (Delpit, 1995; Gay, 2000; Irvine, 1997). Teachers need to have a full understanding of their culture, the culture of different racial/ethnic groups, and how culture impacts teaching and learning (Gay & Kirkland, 2003). Teachers also need to be able to participate in and facilitate constructive and meaningful conversations about race, racism, and privilege (deKoven, 2011). However, most White teachers graduate their teacher preparation programs with little to no knowledge of other cultural groups or understanding of their own racial socialization. A great concern arises in preparing White teachers for multicultural classrooms given their limited knowledge about others and their own racial socialization. As a result of the way many Whites learn to talk or not talk about race, many Whites utilize colorblind discourse when presented with issues of race, racism, and White privilege making it difficult for deep engagement on these topics (Bell, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Racism: Institutional discrimination based on race.

Action Research: An inquiry process utilized by teacher researchers within their classroom environments in order to gain insight into their teaching, student learning, or how the classroom functions.

Colorblindness: A choice to not consider or recognize racial differences.

Cultural Competencies: Knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to work in culturally diverse classroom settings.

White Identity Development: A six stage process for understanding Whiteness. However, because White is considered the norm, most individuals classified as White may never consider their racial identity.

Black Identity Development: A five stage process for understanding Blackness. This is not a linear process with a goal of everyone who identifies as Black reaching the final stage. Environmental cues prompt progression and regression in the understanding of Blackness for most individuals.

Race: A socially constructed concept used to classify humans into groups based on skin color and ancestral origins.

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