In a recent article, St. Cloud students continue to meet with a high school administrator with the intent to eliminate racism in education. The focus of the transition involves Somali students and White students. The only way for St. Cloud to eliminate racism in education is to empower teachers to transform the perceptions that students have regarding their intentions.

According to the article, several student groups were formulated after a student posted on social media a picture of a Somali student in a wheelchair with a caption that implied that the student was affiliated with a terrorist organization. About seventy students responded to the social media posting through a protest which involved walking out of the school. Racial tensions resurfaced two days later for which the local police responded.

One student reported that the relationships between teachers and Somali students are in need of improvement. According to the student, who is involved in athletics, performing arts, and the cultural improvement group, “Some students and teachers that I’ve seen the last couple of years have been kind of uncomfortable around each other. They’re either scared to discriminate or they just don’t know how to act around each other because they’re different. … I think a lot of people are scared of offending others, but then they also don’t want to be offended. So, because of that, I think people kind of don’t do anything. They stay to themselves.”

Why would teachers be uncomfortable with Somali students which will hinder efforts to eliminate racism in education?

Somali students represent a double negative for many teachers. The first negative that could be one source for racism in education is that Somali students are Black.

Teachers discriminate against students by stereotyping according to ethnicity. White teachers may have difficulty in understanding minorities due to the teachers’ rejection of the students’ lifestyles. Schools have a bias against students who do not share the same characteristics as White, female, middle-class teachers. Teachers are more likely to have negative academic and behavioral expectations regarding Black students compared to expectations of White students. White teachers have more negative attitudes toward Black children and rate Black students more negatively when compared to White students. White teachers rate Black male children more deviant when compared to White children. White teachers direct more criticism toward Black males and rate Black male children personalities more negatively when compared to White male children. White teachers perceive White students more positively when compared to Black students. European American teachers favor other students rather than Black students. Black students who teachers see as fun-loving, happy, cooperative, energetic, and ambitious by Black teachers are viewed by European-American teachers as talkative, lazy, high-strung, and frivolous.

The second negative is that Somali students represent Muslims. Many of the Somali students dress as Muslims which is another source of racism in education. The perception of Muslims became refined after the 9/11 tragedy.

Since the 911 incident, Americans have refined their views regarding Muslims. According to David Ray Griffin, much of America’s foreign policy since 9/11 has been based on the assumption that it was attacked by Muslims on that day. This assumption was used, most prominently, to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is now widely agreed that the use of 9/11 as a basis for attacking Iraq was illegitimate: none of the hijackers were Iraqis, there was no working relation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and Iraq was not behind the anthrax attacks. But it is still widely believed that the US attack on Afghanistan was justified. For example, the New York Times, while referring to the US attack on Iraq as a “war of choice,” calls the battle in Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” Time magazine has dubbed it “the right war.” And Barack Obama says that one reason to wind down our involvement in Iraq is to have the troops and resources to “go after the people in Afghanistan who actually attacked us on 9/11.”

Many of the perceptions regarding the Somali students are associated with their ethnicity and religious views. The only way to eliminate the racism in education that they face is to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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  1. Pingback: How can Boston Latin School eliminate the perception of racism in education? | Learning Flourishes in an Environment Free of Racism

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