Every now and then, my own implicit bias rears its ugly head and exposes my racist attitudes in new and unexpected ways. I have been listening to The anti-racist writing workshop: How to decolonize the creating class classroom by Felecia Rose Chavez (2021).
However sincere my intentions were, Chavez (2021) has me asking what are the underlying assumptions am I making in my teaching? The truth is, my white-skinned savior complex has been operating under the guise of helping. I have been guilty of working harder with black-skinned and brown-skinned students to ensure their success by showing and telling them how to improve their writing, speak their voice, locate references for their topics, and citing their sources in APA 7 format. Point blank, I have been assuming that black-skinned and brown-skinned need that extra help. I am guilty of upholding the white-skinned supremacy of institutional and systemic racism in my battle against the same. I have been playing the role of white savior in my classroom.
Deconstructing racism and disassembling systemic barriers requires challenging a worldview system that has privileged whiteness and, in my case, interrogating my white-skinned assumptions.
What assumptions are you making with your well-intentioned anti-racist work?
Chavez, F. R. (2021). The anti-racist writing workshop: How to decolonize the creative classroom. Haymarket Books.
DiAngelo, R. (2021). Nice racism: How progressive white people perpetuate racial harm. Beacon Press.
The power of protest and the power of words help in making white people aware of our role in keeping the status quo of systemic racism firmly in place. But you and I know that nothing will change until we back our voices beyond advocacy and into action. Action may be in the form of petitioning school boards to include accurate histories of the experiences of enslaved African Americans, it may be in the form of removing the boundaries of redlining that keep BIPOC individuals entrapped due to systemic racism in politics, and it may be in making educational access more available to persons impacted due to a history that they did not make but have suffered because of white privilege..
This is not my normal post. This is to announce the official formation of The Brett H. Cook Endowed Scholarship Fund as a recognized IRS Tax Exempt 501(c)(3) Public Charity 509(a)(2), and acceptance of the above service mark approved by the U.S Trademark and Patent Office for purposes of fundraising through sale of T-Shirts and Dress-Shirts to fund the scholarship.
Until the endowed scholarship is fully funded and can provide scholarships through accrued interest off the principal, I am making a personal commitment to award a $500.00 Fall Semester Scholarship and a $500.00 Spring Semester Scholarship for applicants who meet the requirements you may read about on the scholarship pages on this site.
I ask you to share this post as widely as possible in order that you may help in funding the education of black, brown, indigenous, and minoritized men and women, and reaching those donors who are able to make this vision happen. It’s time for reparations. Be part of the change. Thank you.
(asked by a Black seminary professor during a white fragility discussion group that I co-facilitate)
We were talking about DiAngelo’s (2018) analysis of the movie, The Blind Side (Hancock, 2009), in response to a question on white people’s motives when helping Black people. Often, even though white people think our motives are noble and pure, we may actually be operating from a posture of systemic racism. There was much discussion on how can we help Black people and not be seen as racists? It was an honest question from a church group who wanted to act in the way of Christ, and didn’t want that action to be viewed from a position of white beneficence. They did not want to be perceived as trying to “save” a Black or Brown person from racism.
That question rattled around in my brain. “Saving” Black people from themselves is a white supremacist, colonialist and imperialistic concept (García, 2017), directly rooted in chattel slavery. While García (2017) does not support the black/white paradigm of racism because he argues it excludes Mexican American’s [(García’s self-labeling)] and brown skinned persons, the question of the seminary professor hit home, as did García’s comment with regards to “saving”. It struck a chord of truth within my psyche.
Had I been doing antiracist work to save Black people from the effects of racism, or had I been doing this work to expose white people to their systemic racists biases?
I realized I had been doing this from the position of the former, and not the latter. While consciously trying not to be a white messiah of Black deliverance from white racism, I was subconsciously acting as one. This experience continues to remind me how deeply racism is embedded within white culture. It reminds me that even as an antiracist educator, I need to be called out when my racism rears its ugly head.
Since then, I have been grappling with the question of what it means to be an antiracist white person and an antiracist educator. While my answer is not quite congealed into a philosophy of antiracist education, it’s a start.
My antiracist educator role is to expose white minds to the truth of the systemic racism embedded deep within white culture. It is to challenge the status quo of white conservative and liberal minds and transform them into a mindset of active liberation.It is to advocate for change in the policies and practices white culture continues to use to keep Black and BIPOC bodies and minds oppressed. And it is to stand up, stand out, and stand with, all persons fighting for equality.
DiAngelo, R. (2018) White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.
García, R. (2017). Unmaking gringo-centers. The Writing Center Journal 36(1), 29-60.
Hancock, J. L. (Director). (2009). The blind side [Film]. Warner Bros. Pictures.