Because we have spent time in class together and you have heard me speak up in class, you know that I am a white American male, the basic vanilla of the class. I feel as if I have spoken confidently through the first part of this class, but I generally find myself struggling when I get to talks about diversity and inclusion. I grew up in a rural area with limited interactions to minorities, but I generally held the same respect for everyone regardless. My collegiate experience opened my mind as I went to a school where 48% of the student from from diverse backgrounds. I enhanced that experience by being on the varsity track team.
I was actually terrible with had no business competing, and I left the team soon after the first season due to disagreements with my white head coach. I met some great friends on the team and we stayed friends throughout my time at Virginia Wesleyan. Through this point in my life, I had friends that were gay, racially diverse, female, and like me. I tried to treat them the same way every time. I met up different people for lunch, stayed after class to help anyone that asked, I put my best face forward to everyone. But, at the end of the day as predicted by Claude Steele in “Identity and Intellectual Performance”, I returned to my mostly white fraternity where we had one person who was openly gay, and a few racially diverse…
There I go again, I find it hard to talk about race openly. I guess I am the typical white male or a victim of political correctness or both, but you can see that I have a hard time describing people’s racial identity. (Look above; thrice I used “diverse” instead of stating the person’s racial identity.) I am going to try my best, against the crawling of my skin, to describe people’s identity for the rest of this blog post. I have black friends, and they are as important to me as my white friends. I have one black friend in particular, Dondre, that I always go to for advice, not only because he was in my fraternity, but he was successful despite what people thought of him. But, having black friends is not enough.
I took three implicit bias tests this week. Every time I scored a slight tendency to equate good/non-threatening with white and bad/threatening with black. That is not something that I thought was my tendency or my behavior. I try to stay conscious and physically correct myself when I feel it happening, but I know I do a terrible job of it. I attend a mostly white church. My department is mostly white and Asian. When asked on my recent application into the Virginia Tech Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence to write about the importance of inclusion and diversity in learning environments, all I could say in the entire application was:
While I know that white males dominate the teaching field in higher education, my student-centered teaching style will be able to connect with students of all backgrounds, shying away from the traditional lecture styles to that dominate the teaching field. The replacement of lecturing with projects, small group activities, and online modules will allow me to equalize the talent and backgrounds of each individual student. Ultimately, each student will be able to showcase their understanding of the material on a more level plane that allows for passion and creativity.
A summary of what I said be quickly stated as, “I will teach in a way that your background will not matter.” I feel that is a terrible thing to say, but I don’t have a better way of describing how I would handle inclusion and diversity. I am a white male that is scared to have a real conversation about diversity with diverse students. I want to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, and be forced to interact with people who diverse backgrounds, races, genders, and sexual orientations. I just don’t know where to start as a white male. (Just to clarify, I hope I am not using my race or gender as an excuse, I just find that it is hard for me to insert my opinion, when I don’t feel that I can contribute to the inclusion spectrum.)
As always, I appreciate comments, and I will do my best to respond to you as soon as possible. I know this week’s posts will be more charged and have the potential to offend. If this post hits you that way, I apologize. I did not seek to hurt anyone in any way. I would ask that if something in my post did aggravate you, please comment and call me out. I would take any opportunity to be taught.