In a recent article, an author proposes that White children contribute to racism because their parents teach them avoidance techniques. Once again the blame for the source of racism has been misplaced. Organizations that are truly interested in eliminating racism need to avoid the usage of children and parents as their pawns to cover-up the real source.
According to the article, the danger of teaching children to be colorblind, racism begins with White parents refusal to teach their children about racism, according to Marie-Anne Suizzo. She terms this as Colorblind socialization which involves teaching White children that “all skin colors are equal and should therefore be ignored. Many White parents practice it with their children early on in a well-intentioned but highly damaging attempt to prevent racism. The way colorblind socialization plays out is to avoid any conversations about skin color. If a child brings it up, you must quickly correct and silence them and explain that mentioning someone’s skin color is rude, and even racist.”
Marie-Anne Suizzo is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and she is a fellow with the OpEd Project which is a non-profit that works to enhance specific ideas that involves research on parenting and child development across cultures and ethnicities. She is not only misguided but those who follow her fallacy are also misguided.
She assumes that the White children become the primary contributors to racism. All children have some sort of preferences which are reinforced by their parents. It is not until they reach school that those preferences are either positively or negatively reinforced. It depends on if the children are marginalized.
For those children who are marginalized their developed value system becomes under attack as they enter into preschool. We only need to look at the recent number of preschool aged children who are suspended from school when compared to White children. For example, even though Black children represented 18% of preschool enrollment they were suspended from school at a rate of 48% while White children represented 43% of the preschool enrollment and were only suspended at a rate of 26%. It is not the values of racism that children bring to schools, it is those school and personal values of the staff members that become the tool for continuing to fuel racism.
This trend has caused 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.
This cautious approach develops distrust because Black children do not replicate many of the verbal and nonverbal behaviors that are valued by their teachers.
For example, eye contact is a major technique that Whites use to determine if they can trust an individual. However, within the Black culture, avoiding eye contact is a sign of disrespect. While some Black parents teach their children that looking an adult in the eye is a sign of disrespect, White children learn to do the opposite.
When reprimanding Black children, they tend not to look at the teacher as a sign of respect. This could make the teacher feel that they cannot trust the Black student which can eventually results in unwarranted discipline. Blacks are less likely to maintain eye contact with persons in a position of authority, and Black children increase eye contact as they begin to trust the teacher. Black students who avert their eyes and verbally express themselves may be just as attentive as White students who gaze directly at the speaker.
The puzzle can get even more complicated for other ethnicities. Extended eye contact can indicate aggressive anxiety in others. Hispanic students in mainstream classrooms address and respond to teachers clearly, concisely, and require that the teacher look at them. Hispanic students in bilingual classrooms may lower their heads, look away, and giggle. Hispanic Americans view prolonged eye contact as disrespectful. Hispanic American children lower their eyes when reprimanded. Latino Americans believe disagreement expressions and eye contact with senior citizens is rude.
Consequently, eye contact behavior can influence teacher-student classroom relationships. With that in mind, teachers must also consider how other verbal and nonverbal behaviors continue to fuel racism.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author 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