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					Bruce Calvert once said, “Believing is easier than thinking; Hence so many more believers than thinkers.” It is easy to believe, especially when one is white. It is easy to go along day after day without actually thinking about what being white means. There so many “believers,” because like Calvert said, it is easier. It is easy to believe that racism does not exist and that our society functions fairly. Perhaps that is why nothing has really changed, because too few people have actually taken the time to “think” about racism and confronting its invisibility. I have to admit, I never realized that being white had “privileges.” I, like most of white students in the United States, thought that racism doesn’t affect us because we are not people of color; we do not see “whiteness” as a racial identity (MacIntosh, 1). MacIntosh talks about how society teaches us that racism is something that puts minorities at a disadvantage. No one teaches us the other side; that putting a group at a disadvantage puts another group at an advantage. I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege (2). That statement in itself defines institutional racism. It is now, at the age of twenty two, I am finally realizing that I have had advantages in my life that others have not. My whole life I have been caring around this invisible knapsack that MacIntosh talks about. However it is only now that I have finally realized its presence in my life. In this invisible weightless knapsack are special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks (MacIntosh, 4). These are things that have made my life easier without earning them. This would be white privilege. Knowing now that being white has privileges, I can take the next step in educating myself. Describing white privilege makes one newly

accountable (4). As a future educator who realizes its presence and can describe white privilege, I have to ask myself, what I will do to lessen or bring it to an end? There are many educators that believe that they are teaching a multicultural curriculum when actually they are not. Although their efforts are noted, I believe that a true multicultural classroom is something hard to find because there is such a lack of knowledge about what multicultural even means. Teachers are trying, but I know they need help. Many educators have been taking the approach of food, posters, and videos. This is not the answer. Although these things are part of cultures they do not define them or explain them. “Let me get to know something about your food and I’ll share some of my food,” (Sleeter, 1) is the philosophy of many teachers when it comes to the idea of a multicultural classroom. However Sleeter suggests that the primary issue behind a multicultural classroom is giving every student an equal opportunity at a quality education. It is when this happens that multicultural classrooms will finally begin to exist. Society teaches us to make many assumptions about different races and cultures. As teachers we need to recognize that this happens in society and prevent it from entering our classroom and school. We can realize there are differences in each other, but that those differences are not to be generalized by any group. Many intelligent school administrators and educators make assumptions about students academic abilities based on race. Kids of color are often assumed to have poor intellectual ability and family support simply because of their skin color (Sleeter, 3). This is an obvious example of institutional racism that so many overlook. Over looking this problem teaches our

students and unspoken lesson which is more powerful than a spoken one. The students are learning what we do not directly teach them, white privilege. Many educators think of themselves as accepting of all races and not prejudiced. They believe that if they stop racist acts from entering their classroom then racism does not exist in their classroom. This is unfortunately not true. …you can be a “good white” and still be in a school in which kids are being rank-ordered based on estimates of their learning ability and where lower tracks are predominately kids of color and/or low income kids. So the tracking system becomes and example of institutional racism, a way of sorting kids on the basis of both race and social class. It’s essential that multiculturalism address these institutional inequities (Sleeter, 4). Just because teachers are not committing acts of racism does not mean they are not supporting an institutional racism. Many educational institutions use some sort of tracking system. Kids that they assume are less smart then others are placed in bottom tracks with lower expectations of these students. Often these are students of minorities and lower class. The tracking system is built on presumptions about kids from low-income backgrounds and kids of color, that their parents don’t care, that they have language deficits, that nobody is around to push them with their homework, that they lack a lot of those things. Then we build teaching around that presumption (Sleeter, 5). There are schools systems that eliminated lower tracks and found that their students rose to the occasion. They just needed harder work, and to be pushed. There was nothing to assume about them as society had hoped. I have seen schools which have eliminated the bottom track and the teachers have said, “My gosh, when you start expecting more out of the kids, the kids

tend to rise to the level of expectation,” (4). As educators we need to be aware of societies assumptions about students in our classroom and school. We need to make sure we are teaching each student so that they will achieve their highest level of intellect. Many teachers use the color-blind approach. They choose to see each student as a child not as a white, black, or Hispanic child. …you are preventing yourself from knowing something about that student’s culture and community-and an important part of the student (Sleeter, 4). Each student has a background, culture, and beliefs. Ignoring these parts of the student teaches them they are not important. You are choosing to not see the whole student for who they are and limiting your ability to teach them to the best of your ability. If a teacher is insisting on being color blind, then he teacher is putting herself in a position to say, “I don’t know about the kid’s background, I don’t believe that’s really important, and I’m not going to learn about it,” (4). There are many teachers that want to help, that want to make a difference. The only problem is that they don’t know how. In the interview with Christine Sleeter she gave many suggestions for teachers to learn more. Feeling like you have to take on these issues all by yourself can be defeating (Sleeter, 6). I think acknowledging institutional racism is the first step. Realizing that it exists and being aware of the problem makes it easier to solve. Taking little steps and encouraging others to walk with you against racism is the best and only way to defeat it. Peggy McIntosh writes specific white privileges down that we experience on a day to day basis. I think that changing some of these in my classroom could help students to realize their existence and how to change them.

When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is (McIntosh, 3). Teachers can change this by making sure that students are aware of all cultures contributing to our national heritage and civilization. All students should feel that their heritage is important to world existence because it is true. Many books only talk about white men discovering the world, when in reality this is not true. Teachers may have to do extra work and more research, but if they are determined to give each student and equal education that is what needs to be done. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not be like them ( McIntosh, 3). Some parents are unwilling to allow their students to associate with students not like their child. This is a way of thinking that needs to change. Granting this wish to parents makes you, the teacher, a contributor to racism. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Students should interact with students who are not like them. If you happen to teach in a school where most of the students are of the same race, then make sure that your resources, activities, curriculum, and classroom toys are representing all races. Then students will realize that although their classroom is largely one race, the world is not. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color, who constitute the world’s majority, without feeling in my culture and penalty for such oblivion ( McIntosh, 3). Make students and parents aware of other customs and languages. Force them to realize that their own customs and languages are not the only ones that exist and learning about others is important to education.

When I think of racism in American Education there is one statement that sticks out in my head. I asked her if she thought America truly did not "have room" for her or other children of her race. "Think of it this way," said a sixteen-year-old girl sitting beside her. "If people in New York woke up one day and learned that we were gone, that we had simply died or left for somewhere else, how would they feel?" "How do you think they'd feel?" I asked. "I think they'd he relieved," this very solemn girl replied (Kozol, 1). There is something so disturbing about having a child truly believe that idea. No one has specifically taught her that she is worth less than someone else is. They have taught her through ignoring her culture and teaching a different one. They have taught her she is worth less by ignoring her needs and teaching to a white child’s. They have taught her that her culture is not important, making her not important. It is easy to believe that these issues to not exist. Many people are too afraid to admit that they do, and are too scared to give up their “white privileges.” Believing that there is not a problem is easier than thinking about the problem and creating a solution. Just like Bruce Calvert once said, “Believing is easier than thinking; Hence so many more believers than thinkers.”

Works Cited -Hsieh, Diana. Evidence for White Privilege. 12 Oct. 2005 <>. -Kozol, John. “Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid.” Harper’s Magazine 1 Sept. 1995. 5 Oct. 2005 < htm>. -McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. 9 Oct. 2005 <>. -Sleeter, Christine. “Diversity Vs. White Privilege.” ReThinking Schools Winter 2000. 14 Oct. 2005 <>. -Spring, Joel. American Education. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2005. -White Privilege Shapes the U.S. 10 Oct. 2005 <>.

White Privilege
In American Education

Ann Hager ES 395 10/17/05

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