White principals' perceptions of race

Date

2015-05

Authors

Caudill, Michael Kevin

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Abstract

The history of the public school system in the United States is wrought with examples of marginalized groups and inequities (DuBois, 1989; Woodson, 1933). Public schools throughout the United States are still struggling to equitably meet the needs of all students. Students of color and students from marginalized groups continue to find the public school system difficult to successfully navigate and racially biased educational gaps are still prevalent. These struggles are compounded by the increasing percentages of students of color in our public schools today. Utilizing critical theory as the theoretical underpinning and qualitative interview methodologies, this study examined the perceptions five White principals held on race and racism. These five White school leaders were current elementary or middle school principals from a large racially diverse school district in the southern United States. The critical examination of these White school leader’s perceptions of race and racism yielded six themes: 1.) The White principals utilized deficit thinking. 2.) The White principals employed racial erasure and colorblindness. 3.) The White principals did not recognize Whiteness. 4.) The White principals did not understand systematic and institutional racism. 5.) The White principals were reluctant to address racial issues. 6.) The White principals demonstrated a nascent level of White racial identity. These findings invoked a need to better prepare our White public school leaders for the increasingly diverse student populations they serve. If White school leaders are to effectively address the racially biased outcomes in our public schools today they must develop a greater White racial identity. Formal training and instruction for White school leaders around race and racism is lacking and must be reconsidered and improved. Principal preparation programs in the United States must begin to weave discussions of race and racism into and throughout their programs to better address this profound knowledge gap. In order to effectively address racism and racial equity within our public school system White principals must stand up, recognize, and address race.

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