A recent article reveals that schools are challenged with teaching the subject of structural racism to students. According to Rosa Parks, “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.” Schools will benefit from teaching structural by avoiding the characteristics associated with a dysfunctional organization.
According to the article, Can Structural Racism be taught without division?, several schools have had challenges with attempting to teach structural racism in their schools. For example, a Virginia school showed students a four minute video titled ‘Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race’ which created a feeling of embarrassment amongst the White teaching staff. Kenny Manning, who is a student at the Glen Allen High School, stated ” A lot of people thought it was offensive to white people and made them feel bad about being privilege.”
The Christian Monitor believes that it is impossible to teach structural racism without the adverse affects. University of Kansas Randal Jelks who is an American and African American Studies professor agreed and stated “I don’t think there is any way you approach race in America without contention.” He went on to say, “People try to avoid contention. But slavery was contentious and brutal. Native removal was contentious and brutal. So there’s no way you can avoid conflict in this issue.”
Both the Christian Monitor and Randal Jelks have failed both Blacks and Whites in publicizing that there is no solution to teaching structural racism in schools. The approach that many schools are implementing results in characteristics associated with a dysfunctional organization.
What are the characteristics associated with a dysfunctional organization?
Dysfunctional organizations exhibit several characteristics that are detrimental to its existence. There are five different levels that contribute to a dysfunctional organization. The foundation for the dysfunctional organization begins with each person’s use of defense mechanisms for coping. Defense mechanisms are the unwritten rules an individual learns and utilizes to effectively deal with circumstances that are upsetting, embarrassing, or threatening.
The second level is skilled incompetence, which is the outcome of the defense mechanisms we have internalized. When the defensive behaviors we’ve learned are transformed into a learned behavior, that behavior becomes a skill – albeit an incompetent skill – that we consider necessary in order to deal with issues that are embarrassing, threatening, or upsetting. A skill that is learned from the regular application of a defense mechanism has a high degree of incompetence embedded within it, because we are unaware of how this skill will impact our future.
Skilled incompetence transforms into a defensive routine. Defensive routines are the third level. When the skilled incompetence is automatically exhibited at all times, the behavior is now a defensive routine.
Defensive routines lead to fancy footwork. Fancy footwork is the fourth level. Fancy footwork happens when individuals try to deny the behavioral inconsistencies they exhibit, or else they place blame on other people, which results in distancing themselves from taking responsibility for their behavioral inconsistencies.
Fancy footwork leads to organizational malaise. Organizational malaise is the final level. During this phase the individuals in the organization will seek to find fault within the organization rather than accept responsibility for their actions and correct their behavior accordingly. The individual continues the process by accentuating the negative and deemphasizing the positive in an effort to cover up their actions. The organizational malaise is further exacerbated by a refusal of one or all the members to discuss their area of responsibility.
How do the characteristics of a dysfunctional organization complicate teaching structural racism in school?
In this case, teachers exhibit characteristics associated with organizational malaise by blaming the administration for approving a video that teaches students about structural racism. Organizational malaise is a product of fancy footwork. During the fancy footwork phase, teachers deny that they are the facilitators of structural racism. Instead, they will blame the school, parents, and even students for the problems and not accept responsibility as the enforcers of the process that leads to structural racism.
Fancy footwork is a product of defensive routines. Since defensive routines are an automatic skill, teachers will exhibit behavior without second thought that contributes to structural racism.
For example, teachers with high percentages of Black students in their classroom are more likely to use an authoritarian classroom management approach. Teachers react to Black student learning experiences that are in opposition to traditional public schools by determining Blacks are incapable of following simple rules and therefore make rules that they deem intolerable. Teachers justify this authoritarian process with the belief that these students want to be disciplined and have some order in their lives for a change. Developing this belief is a product of skilled incompetence.
Defensive routines are a product of skilled incompetence. The skilled incompetence that is associated with structural racism is developed when teachers are testing their expectations for student discipline. Teachers are more likely to have negative academic and behavioral expectations regarding Black students when compared to the expectations of White students. This results in White teachers rating Black male children more deviant when compared to White children. White teachers will direct more criticism toward Black males and rate Black male children personalities more negatively when compared to White male children. Over a period of time, teacher expectations influence student achievement and the social organization of the classroom
Skilled incompetence is a product of defensive mechanisms. Many White teachers are embarrassed when confronted about the past actions of their ancestors that have lead to structural racism. This embarrassment is a product of slavery.
When incorporating students into a marginalized society by slavery, conquest, and colonization, students believe school is detrimental to their identity. Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks share the past of having been brought into the United States against their will and then downgraded to subordinate status. Blacks have learned since slavery that the way to get ahead is not through merit and talent but through White patronage. Americans of color adapt to a society that does not value their ethnicity, history, heritage, or language by establishing societal survival strategies.
Black parents prepare their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners and parenthood in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values and judges people by their skin color or ethnic background. Blacks who live in an urban society and a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure they do not become victims by approaching people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust.
What the Christian Monitor, Randal Jelks, and host of others have become privy to are responses associated with the final level of a dysfunctional organization – Fancy Footwork. In order to avoid the embarrassment associated with Fancy Footwork, schools must teach about structural racism by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Get Email UpdateAuthor of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President