Using Narrative and Team-Teaching to Address Teaching About Racial Dynamics

Using Narrative and Team-Teaching to Address Teaching About Racial Dynamics

Stephen Brookfield (St. Thomas University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1213-5.ch037
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Diversity training and multicultural competency workshops typically work from a top down logic in which educators or trainers skilled in working in multi-racial settings inform less enlightened colleagues about what they need to do to communicate across difference. This ‘expert to novice' dynamic can easily create resentment as participants feel blamed for their lack of racial awareness. A missing component of this work is the use of narrative disclosure by expert instructors of how they struggle with their own learned racism as they seek to navigate racial complexities. This chapter outlines a pedagogy of narrative disclosure in which an instructor's personal experience is placed front and center as a teaching tool. It emphasizes the importance of team teaching as a way of modeling respectful disagreement and an openness to multiple perspectives for students.
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Programs designed to help people create and negotiate workforce diversity are typically framed around the construct of difference. Difference is seen as positive, as part of the infinite variety of the world. A workplace characterized by differences in culture, race, gender, age, religion, ability, and sexual orientation is held to be one with a competitive edge (Cox, 2001). This is because the kaleidoscope of diversity is assumed to create a kind of creative synergy, a spontaneous combustion of multiple perspectives and experiences. If we can create a workplace where differences are respected and valued, so the argument goes, this will be the catalyst for an unending exploration of new possibilities.

What this harmoniously appealing scenario often omits, however, is the presence of various ‘isms’; racism, sexism, ableism, ageism and so on. From a humanistic viewpoint, difference is a gift, a manifestation of the multitude of individual talents in the world. From the standpoint of critical theory (Brookfield, 2004) however, difference is often structured in ways that reflect wider inequities. So, in the case of racial and cultural difference, the broader material inequities that exist in the world are linked to racial and cultural identity. When Black, Brown and Red Americans are disproportionately poorer, less educated, and more frequently incarcerated than White Americans, critical theory inquires into the ways that structural barriers constantly marginalize those racial groups.

In this chapter I explore how instructors can use personal narratives – particularly when they work in teams – to teach about the ways that structural and systemic racism is internalized and then enacted. This kind of racism is not an individual choice, but a set of ideas and practices transmitted and learned from birth, and embedded in the way organizations and communities function day to day. I want particularly to look at the pedagogy of anti-racism involving White educators and trainers working with mostly White groups. How can White educators help other Whites, become aware of the ways they unwittingly and unknowingly reinforce structural racism and enact racist ideology on a daily basis? I propose the use of personal narrative as a relatively unexplored approach.

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