This past year (my junior year in high school), I took "Advanced Placement United States History"as a course at my school. The teacher for this course and for every junior year U.S. history course was a white man. There comes much responsibility with teaching American history, as it is a history built on systemic racism and other forms of prejudice. Thus, a white man teaching the course would need to be incredibly sensitive to his position of power as a white man imparting education regarding racial prejudice to young minds, and to young minds of color, specifically. Being a teacher yields him a certain amount of power granted by the authority of the teacher-student relationship. Yet even more power is given to him as he exists as a white man in a country historically dominated and controlled by white men. So, being a white male teacher of United States history, he must use his power incredibly carefully; he must communicate the experiences of People of Color in the United States while not existing as a Person of Color himself, while existing as someone who inherently profits off of the disenfranchisement of People of Color.
I, personally, do not know if there is a way to do this effectively, but I suppose if there was a law banning white men from teaching the history, we would have an uprising on our hands. My point is that white men historically raped, murdered, tortured and enslaved People of Color, and to have a white man teach the experiences of those marginalized peoples requires a certain level of carefulness.
My white man history teacher made a remark that the classmates at my table were quite bothered by. First, he showed the following picture:
The teacher shows a picture of the KKK at a carnival, most of my table mates are perhaps thinking that there may be some sort of historical significance to this image. However, the teacher goes on to say, "This is my favorite KKK picture, it shows how ridiculous the movement is" and then he begins to laugh. The rest of class (with the exception of my horrified table) laughs and calls the picture "hilarious". The teacher agrees and continues to laugh. The individuals seated at my table shared horrified looks and sent messages to each other describing their anger at the situation.
This is an example of a white, male history teacher abusing his power and being insensitive to the plight of People of Color, both historically and today. Why were his actions problematic? Because he minimized the impact the KKK had and continues to have on People of Color in America. Perhaps the KKK is funny to a white man, but to all of the People of Color that the KKK has killed and terrorized, the KKK represents a serious threat. Even more problematic is that this history teacher is teaching and shaping young people to see in the same way he does. Let us give the history teacher the benefit of the doubt for a moment - perhaps he did not intend to convey this message. Yet, this is the message I received, and the message the students at my table received. Even if it was a miscommunication or an accident, it is his responsibility to ensure that these situations do not occur. It is his responsibility to share the burden of history, not to make light of the experiences of People of Color.