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Recognizing Racism in the Administrator's Office

Are employment decisions at your school "color-blind" -- or are they colored by racism? Are you sure? Sociologist David T. Wellman offers criteria to help you recognize -- and eliminate -- unintended racism in your district's employment decisions.

In the United States today, minority students make up nearly 40 percent of school enrollment. Despite reports of rigorous minority recruitment efforts, however, more than 90 percent of U.S. teachers are white. "We just can't find enough qualified minority teachers" is a common lament among school administrators.

Is the shortage of minority teachers real -- or is it a result of hidden, and unintended, racism. According to California sociologist David T. Wellman, although the civil rights movement raised people's consciousness of societal racism, it didn't necessarily raise the individual's consciousness of personal racism. "There was -- is -- a discrepancy between what white Americans say in the post-civil rights movement era and what they do," Wellman, who is white, recently told the Los Angeles Times. "There's this disjunction. You need somebody who can help you interpret the codes that have developed to make it look like there's no discrepancy."

Wellman teaches community studies at the University of California Santa Cruz and is an expert on the issue of employment discrimination. He developed his "decoder" to help employers, employees, and prospective employees recognize and overcome hidden racism.

Nine Criteria for Decoding Racism

David Wellman is the author of a number of books on social issues. His first book, Portraits of White Racism (Cambridge University Press, 1977), is still widely used on college campuses to teach about racism in the United States. He offers the following criteria for decoding racism:

  1. Does fact support the employer's decision?
  2. Does the employer apply standards consistently among people of different races?
  3. Does an inconsistency in applying the standards favor whites over African Americans or people who belong to other minority groups?
  4. Did the employer's explanation of a decision change when the employee challenged it?
  5. Is there statistical data to support the claim of unfair treatment?
  6. Did the employer abide by stated rules and standards for granting jobs and promotions?
  7. Did the employer properly consider the employee's evidence and claims?
  8. Did the employer follow progressive discipline, warning the employee of unsatisfactory performance and suggesting improvement?
  9. Did the employer follow stated policies on dealing with racial inequality?

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World