Getting Real about Race: Complicating

A Bit About My Experience
 Since
1998 have worked with schools
across the US
Faculty development
Organizational change
Assessment regarding equity and diversity
A Bit About My Scholarship
 Largely
focused on equity and diversity
practice in educational institutions
Gaps between philosophy and practice
Gaps between “best practice” and actual
Common “pitfalls” (or how schools
operationalize “diversity” in ways that
create more inequity
So today I’d like to…
 Talk
about common ways “diversity” and
“equity” are operationalized at schools
across the U.S.
 Share my thoughts about some of the
common pitfalls I have observed (and I
and others have documented)
 Recommend some of the principles of
practice I’ve seen move institutions
forward effectively around “diversity”
Common Approaches
Celebrating Diversity
Cultural Competence
“Support” Programming
Human Relations
Equity and Justice
1. Celebrating Diversity
Characterized by:
 Surface-level cultural activities and
programming (fashion shows, food fairs)
 Stereotypical minimizations of “cultures”
(Taco Night)
 Institutional resistance to addressing
diversity concerns in ways that don’t feel
good to most privileged groups
2. Cultural Competence
Characterized by:
 Focus on learning about cultures, often in
ways that minimize or essentialize them
(“Latino culture”; “African American culture”)
 Focus exclusively on those in the “minority”
while ignoring systemic power and privilege
 An expectation that those in disenfranchised
groups will “teach” those in privileged groups
about their “culture”
3. “Support” Programming
Characterized by:
Focus on offering support services and programs
for disenfranchised communities
Often aimed at retention of faculty, staff, and
Avoids real systemic, cultural change—sometimes
called “deficit ideology” because it’s aimed at
“fixing” or “saving” disenfranchised people rather
than “fixing” what disenfranchises people
4. Human Relations
Characterized by:
 Structured opportunities for community
members to come together across
differences to hear and learn from each
other’s experiences (Mix It Up Lunch;
intergroup dialogue)
 Interpersonal focus rather than institutional
5. Equity and Justice
Characterized by:
 Institutional commitment to creating an anti-racist,
anti-sexist, etc., environment through policy and
 Continual institutional and individual assessment of
the extent to which equity and justice or present
 Strong, public, and consistent support from
campus leaders
 Full cultural, social, political, and other access by
all community members
Common Approaches
Celebrating Diversity
Cultural Competence
“Support” Programming
Human Relations
Equity and Justice
Where is your school? Where is your unit? Where
are you?
Focus Exclusively on “Support
 Effort
is placed mostly on “fixing”
disenfranchised people rather than on
fixing that which disenfranchises people
Classic deficit ideology
Parenting workshops, mentoring programs,
Marginalization of
Diversity “Experts”
 Failure
to take advantage of
institutional expertise around
So, those who want to place effort here are
 Sends
implicit message that “diversity”
isn’t important, because if it was, the
most knowledgeable people at the
school would be shaping the policy and
Stuck on “Celebrating
 Too
many resources going into programs
which celebrate diversity but which have
no impact at all on how equitable or just
the institution is
Food, festivals, and fun
Mix It Up
Test Score Obsession
 Just
because an LGBTQ student scores
well on a standardized test does not
mean she or he experiences school as
equitable or just
Doing “What’s Hot,” not
What’s Effective
 Adoption
of cool or popular (and uncool)
paradigms and programs despite lack of
evidence that they make a school more
Culture-specific “learning styles”
Missing Critical Issues
 “Diversity”
framed entirely around race
(which, of course, is critical), to the
exclusion of other identities (sexual
orientation, religion, and so on)
Tough to get buy-in if you’re asking me to
work on an issue that privileges me, but
you’re ignoring the issue that oppresses me
Peace Before Justice
 Temptation
to avoid controversy or to
lean on “conflict resolution” or “peer
mediation” rather than responding in a
more justice-oriented way to inequity
Lack of Transparency
 So
people who feel alienated or who
have experienced oppression can’t “see”
that the institution is responding, even if it
Talk, Talk, and More Talk
 Responding
to incidents with opportunities
for dialogue, but ending the response
with the dialogue
Lack of attention to policy change, cultural
change, leadership change, and so on
Lack of Clear Processes
 Often
schools do not have clear
processes for students or adults to report
experiences of discrimination
Or processes are in place, but many folks
don’t know what they are
Or processes are in place, but feel unsafe
to some people
The “Culture of Poverty” and
Other Stereotyped Paradigms
 Avoid
models which suggest we can
know anything about a student based on
one dimension of her or his identity
 CoP
model empirically debunked in the
1970s, yet remains most popular way we
talk about poverty in schools today
Professional Learning
 Research
demonstrates modest amounts
of increased teacher morale and
connectedness when done certain ways
 No
evidence that PLCs play any role in
creating more equitable learning
environments (or even in raising test
Student Diversity Clubs
 Can
be great educational experiences
for students if “diversity” isn’t completely
depoliticized, but…
 No
evidence that diversity clubs make
any school more equitable or just
because these clubs don’t have the
power to change policy or larger school
Mix It Up at Lunch Day
 Fun,
perhaps, and especially for white
 Implications
for students of color..?
Learning Styles
 Research
indicates that teaching directly
to “learning styles” does not help students
learn or decrease achievement gaps
Mostly because it has been shown to
encourage simplification and stereotyping
(especially when culture-specific)
 Intergroup
dialogue programs
 Peer mediation programs
 Conflict mediation programs
 Respect policies
 Cultural festivals
 Acknowledge
the work diversity
advocates are doing and, in some cases,
have been doing for years with little
recognition and often in the face of
strong resistance
Worst possible scenario is that these folks
burn out and walk away
Set Expectations
 Leadership
(both school and district)must
set expectations that people are to do
their part to make schools and classrooms
equitable, just environments
But equally important, schools need some
measure of accountability for those who
choose not to “participate” in this
Make Family Involvement
Accessible to All Families
 Leadership
(both school and district)must
set expectations that people are to do
their part to make schools and classrooms
equitable, just environments
But equally important, schools need some
measure of accountability for those who
choose not to “participate” in this
Reject Deficit Ideology
 Must
focus on cultural change at the
classroom, building, and district level
rather than trying to “fix” the cultures of
disenfranchised communities
Engage in Policy Review
 Inequities
often are buried in policy in very
implicit ways
Pay-to-play extracurriculars
Inaccessible family involvement
Provide Safe Feedback
 People
who are feeling alienated will not
tend to step forward and share their
feelings of alienation; they need
opportunities to share issues safely and
Perform Full Assessment
 Full
diversity assessment should include
various data collection methods (surveys,
focus groups, and so on), all
constituencies (students, staff, faculty,
admin, community, and so on), complete
demographics (for cross-comparisons),
and detailed disaggregation
And really ought to be performed by an
outside group that can do observations, as
Place Equity First
 Effort
on addressing educational
inequities must be prioritized
Starting with policy and clear indications
(through accountability measures) that
racism, sexism, and so on, even when it’s
unintentional, is not acceptable and carries
Provide Ongoing and
Advanced Professional
Development Opportunities
 Often
schools are stuck in the
“awareness-building” process, so that the
conversation starts over each time—
instead, provide a group of dedicated
folks with professional development to
continue doing the work in a more
advanced and sustained way