Given the changing racial demographics of our nation’s schools (with the white population increasingly becoming the minority) and that the main role of our teachers, most of whom are white, is shaping the education of our students, the question is: How can white teachers effectively teach students of color? Although little is known about the effectiveness of white teachers and achievement in students of color, there definitely is an underlying philosophy of multicultural education that students benefit from being taught by someone of similar race and cultural background. That being said and understood, the question remains: With the majority of teachers (those already teaching and those in college to become teachers) being white, how can we actually meet the educational needs of our students of color? Can white teachers honestly and openly examine their own cultural identity and confront race and racism in themselves and LEARN how to teach students of color effectively? How does an ethnic group who has been historically dominant in our society change to a more modest or balanced role in order to teach effectively?
These questions, and many more, have long been a part of the agenda for multicultural education but are recently coming more clearly into focus. Most of the work and studies in race relations and teaching in a multicultural environment in the U.S. have put an emphasis on the unique cultural experiences and perspectives of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American groups. These are the groups that have historically been marginalized in various ways by the repeated asserted dominance by American people of European backgrounds. As the populations of the U.S. changes to take in even larger numbers of those groups that have been previously marginalized, there is a greatly emerging need to take a closer look at the necessary changing roles of white teachers in America.
Part of this need is brought about by the increasing evidence that many white Americans might not be comfortable with the transition from their secure dominant status. As the population in the U.S. has become increasingly more diverse over the years, we have seen a distressing increase in acts of undisguised racism. The number of hate groups and the size of those groups in the U.S. are consistently rising. Overtly racist groups such as the neo-Nazis, skin heads, Westborough Baptist Church, Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation play on the ignorance, anger and fears of the disaffected, disenfranchised and uneducated in the white society.
Far too many white Americans remain committed to their position of dominance. They are committed to defend and legitimize it, even in the face of strong evidence that the world is quickly changing. If taken as a whole, these realities solidly suggest that a harmonious transition to a new kind of America, one that has no ethnic or cultural group in the dominant position, will take extensive change in education and profound...