In a recent article, Letter: Counter racism with action, not guilt, the author proposes several strategies to eliminate racism in America. The strategies cover a gambit of that will have a minimal impact. For White people who desire to eliminate racism in America they only need to focus on the inflection point for the systemic system that continues to perpetrate racism.

According to the article, White people can use the following strategies to eliminate racism in America:

  1. Speak up every time they hear or see racism
  2. Begin conversations about racism in schools, work, places of worship, book clubs, business lunches, neighborhood association meetings, on social media, talk radio, and in every aspect of peoples lives
  3. Educate White people of the history and sociology of institutional and structural racism
  4. Join civic group to include the YMCA, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Charleston Area Justice Ministry, the Urban League, donate to African American candidates, and donate to the International American Museum

While the recommendations are plausible, they only scratch the surface. When people and organizations implement strategies that only scratch the surface, they allow the perpetrators to drive the undesired behavior underground. Therefore, continuing as a dysfunctional organization which will continue the behaviors that contribute to racism in America.

The Dysfunctional Organization

Dysfunctional organizations exhibit several characteristics that are detrimental to its existence. There are five different levels that contribute to a dysfunctional organization. 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.

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.

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.

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.

What is the best strategy to counter the characteristics associated with racism in America that result in a dysfunctional organization?

Positive Racial Teacher Student Relationships

Developing positive relationships with students provides benefits for schools, teachers, and students. Having positive and caring relationships in schools increases resilience and protects children from academic failure, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and destructive behavior and violence. Long-term teacher-student relationships result in increased teacher job satisfaction. Teachers who have positive feelings toward their students are more likely to have students reciprocate those positive feelings. Teachers who develop positive and personal relationships with students may prevent psychological development problems in their students. Students are more willing to develop positive relationships with teachers who tend to form close friendships with their students.

Finally, positive racial teacher student classroom relationships provide the systemic inflection point that will render racism in America ineffective.

Related Articles

White America’s half century of shame: How the media’s Baltimore racism reveals a shocking lack of progress

Baltimore: Racial déjà vu

The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities

A half-century of progress and black America’s still burning


Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships




“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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