White Faculty’s Commitment to Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms
Edited By Nicole M. Joseph, Chayla Haynes and Floyd Cobb
4. Privilege in Mathematics Education: Some Reflections on Whiteness
Some of My Personal Story and “Aha” Experience
Though I have not had just one “Aha” moment that inspired me to make diversity, equity, and social justice a focal point of my research agenda and teaching, attending Denver East High in the 1970s largely influenced my burgeoning racial consciousness in powerful ways. At the time, the Supreme Court had just mandated that schools be desegregated so that every Denver school was demographically identical. With federal desegregation came significant challenges as kids of differing racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds were brought together, at a time when the country was struggling with the Vietnam War and coming to terms with the gains and continuing struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. The Chicano movement was prominent at the time, and Denver’s own Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles was an important leader of “El Movimiento.” Federal desegregation increased racial tensions at East High and some ugly conflicts resulted; some kids got hurt pretty badly in some of those skirmishes. I was physically confronted with my White privilege on many occasions at the school as well as prior to high school. I remember learning words like “Spic” and “Wop.” I was called a “Peckerwood” on more than a few occasions.
I have vivid memories while at East High of my White peers’ verbalizing blatantly racist stuff, particularly toward students of Mexican descent. In the 1970s, Colorado, and Denver in particular, were very politically conservative places. Large-scale...
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