In our professional lives as well as our personal lives, we at some point in time have experienced some type of “ism” whether it was personal or happened to a family member or loved one. “An ism is about the institutional advantages and disadvantages people experience due to their membership (or perceived membership) in certain social identity groups” (Derman-Sparks, & Edwards, 2010, p. 24). Consequences that I might expect for the children and families I work with while encountering racism is the lack of trust and shattered partnerships and relationships with the children and their families. Due to the fact that some families may be private they might not want to share any pertinent information with me about their family. Some of the families may feel like they are welcomed in regards to their child’s education. Because of the lack of self-assurance and feelings of subordination within myself, I feel that the children would suffer because of my lack of showing affection, warmth, and nurture towards them. A person that may experience racism might have feelings of internalized oppression. Internalized oppression can be defined as the “belief in the entitlement and superiority of oneself ad one’s social identity group(s), based on societal myths and misinformation” (Derman-Sparks, & Edwards, 2010, p. xii).
Having adverse feelings as to who I am may cause me to communicate less efficiently with the children and their families. Children are keen observers. “As children observe their families and the world around them, they form understandings about the status of different groups in th
e broader society” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 15). They watch and imitate adults in the way that they act and talk. Because children are such great observers they pay close attention to the small but significant clues as in how teachers are feeling (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). So we have to be careful what we say or do around children. “Moreover, children are quick to notice double messages-what adults do teaches as least as much as what they say” (Derman-Sparks, & Edwards, 2010, p. 32). Children also watch how adults interact with one another within their program.
Children and families who are targets of racism will also feel a certain level of discomfort. Sometimes families feel helpless when they are not able to do anything about certain things because they do not have the resources and do not know how to move further when they are rejected. This can be damaging individual’s self-worth and self-image, and harmful to the group because it continues discrimination and oppression. In growing up I experienced racism and class-ism when I was in elementary school. No one wanted to play with me because of the way I was dressed. I did not have the best of clothes or shoes. I come from a family that was at the poverty level and we survived off of bologna and bread. It was a struggle for my mother and seven children and a grandchild. We were put into foster care when I was six years of age and remained in care until I was twenty. I felt all alone and left out. I was told by my first Caucasian social worker that I would never be anything in life and that I would be nothing but a number in the system because I was black and in foster care. I was really hurt by that statement. Although I was young, I still knew what it meant and I could not believe that she said that to me. I had it hard growing up but I did not let that stop me from graduating from high school, obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree and now working on my Master’s. I took the negative words that she told me and used them to motivate me to become somebody in life and to make her out to be a lie. I am more than just a number. I am what God created me to be.
As an educator I need to be aware of how the different ‘isms” affect me in my personal and professional life because it will affect the children and families that I will be working with. That is why I think that it would be a great idea to do a self-reflection and vigorously monitor my personal and professional well-being.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.