According to a recent article, the South African government has decided to implement anti-racism policies in a local school. Many efforts to reverse racism have had minimal impact. Anti-racism policies fail because they actually drive undesirable behavior underground rather than expose the atrocities that will result in the desired reversal of behavior.
According to the article, in the past year the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that staff members at the Viljoen Secondary School. Both the Deputy Principal and the SAHRC believe that the anti-racism polices have had a positive impact. The Deputy Principal went on to say that racism was only part of the problem at the school and that discipline has become a bigger problem. The discipline at the school is getting out of hand and has made it very difficult for teachers.
What are some of the anti-racism school policies in the United States?
According to the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights there are several laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive Federal funds from the Department of Education. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, sex, disability, and on the basis of age. The laws extend to all state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums that receive funds from the United States Department of Education.
However, with such strong anti-racism policies, racism continues to be prevalent in the United States. The United States Department of Education has reported that historically underserved students who attend public schools get punished more and has less access to veteran teachers. Specifically, Black students are suspended or expelled at rate three times more when compared to White students. Five percent of White students were suspended annually. Black students have a sixteen percent suspension rate. Black girls were suspended at a rate of 12 percent which is far greater than girls and boys of other ethnicities.
It appears that White teachers both in the United States and South Africa have responded to anti-racism polices by over disciplining historically underserved students.
Why does racism in education persist even though there are strong anti-racism policies
To over discipline historically underserved students means to shift the blame from the teacher to the student. Blame shifting is behavior that is associated with a dysfunctional organization.
Dysfunctional organizations exhibit several characteristics that are detrimental to existence of the organization such as a school. 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. In this case it is embarrassing to find that teachers and administrators are disrespectful of anti-racism policies. It also is an economical threat to teachers.
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. The defensive routine is to not take responsibility for the behaviors that are deemed racist.
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. This is where teachers blame students and parents for the need of anti-racism policies.
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.
The most effective process to eliminate racism in education is to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships). As long as schools continue to exhibit the characteristics of a dysfunctional organization, anti-racism policies will continue to be ineffective.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
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