Monday, February 17, 2020

"I Don't See Color":Why Educators Should Acknowledge the Race & Ethnicity of Students.

"I don't see color".

This was a phrase that was used by a teacher in a Facebook discussion regarding an article about
why more teachers of color are needed. The educator in the group took offense because
she felt that she didn't see color in her classroom, therefore the race of the teacher
should not matter. That's the part that resounded with me.

 We all see color, it's something that can't be avoided.

There is nothing wrong with "seeing color." It's a natural way we use to identify our fellow human beings.
I once had a teacher describe a student  with every identifying feature, but their race. I finally asked her
the student's race.Did she believe that I would misinterpret the identification of the student's race as racist? 

"Seeing color" becomes an issue, when along with a person's racial identity, we focus on the stereotypes
that go along with it. When we assume the Latino children can't speak English, or that they
are in the country illegally.When we assume the black children are dumb, and their parents are drug addicts
and/or alcoholics. Even when we think our stereotypes are "positive", it can still cause anxiety.
For example, the myth that the Asian and Indian children are smart and will always excel in class.

In the article, "Color Blindness" the author states that,"race and ethnicity often play important roles in
children's identities and contribute to their culture, their behavior, and their beliefs." Therefore,how
can we,as educators, ignore something that is a huge part of who our students are?

Building relationships with our students is the most important thing we can do in our classrooms.
How can we build relationships if we ignore a central part of who our students are?

If you "see color", you are more likely to have representation of all students in your classroom.
If you "see color", you will make sure that what you teach provides role models for all students.
If you "see color", you will make sure that a student does not feel uncomfortable in your classroom,
especially if they are the "only one."
If you "see color", you will, more than likely, recognize the cultural dynamics of the
students in your room, and understand that they may not mirror yours. 

I deliberately make sure the images I use in my classroom, represent all my students. When my Muslim
students fast during Ramadan, I find a place for them outside of the lunchroom. I read stories that reflect
the cultural diversity of my room. Little things, that mean a lot. Look around your room, do the images
in your room represent all your students?

We are all human, and whether we admit it or not, we take our biases into our classrooms.
That being said, a teacher who is aware of her/his biases, should do their
best to make sure that the color of their students does not "color" their view of them. Instead, it should
enhance the view, and help develop a stronger connection between themselves and their students.