The Inner Work of Transforming Whiteness

My biggest concern with talk about the achievement gap is that it is used as one more code for blaming people of color.

Gary Howard, in We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know, suggests a different approach:

“I am convinced there is a prior and equally compelling need for White people, particularly White educators in the United States and other nations of the West, to look within themselves and realign our deepest assumptions and perceptions regarding the racial marker that we carry, namely Whiteness.  We need to understand the dynamic of past and present dominance, face how we have been shaped by myths of superiority, and begin to sort out or thoughts, emotions, and behaviors relative to race and other dimensions of human diversity.

It is essential in this inner work of multicultural growth that we listen carefully to the perceptions others have of us, particularly students, parents and colleagues from other racial and cultural groups.  They can help us see ourselves in a clearer and truer light.  We cannot fully and fruitfully engage in meaningful dialogue across the differences of race and culture without doing the work of personal transformation.  If we as White educators are not deeply moved and transformed, there is little hope that anything else will significantly shift…Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there will be no meaningful movement towards social justice and real educational reform until there has been a significant transformation in the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of White Americans.  As Malcolm X reminded us years ago, ‘We can’t teach what we don’t know, and we can’t lead where we won’t go.'” (pg. 6)

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One response to “The Inner Work of Transforming Whiteness

  1. Excellent analysis. The Malcolm X quote is dead.

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