The Difficulties of Teaching About Race/ism

Difficulties of teaching rasicm

Reflections of a Certified Instructor

Dan Berry – May 2, 2023

How many times in our lives have we learned a truth about something and ran with it like we had all the understanding we needed to change the world – maybe to our spouse, our partner, or our kids?  Every time that happened in my life, I found out there was a lot more to learn about my so-called truth.  Many times, because I circumvented the learning process, I did more damage than good.

I heard Myles Monroe say, 

“Everything you know is not all there is to learn.”

As a retired pastor who taught on race/ism from the pulpit, and now as a Certified Instructor for What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness, I am sharing a few teaching challenges.

First of all, in my case as one who initially needed to be taught, my problems was a lack of knowledge or understanding about what race and racism are.  Racism has been around since the inception of our great nation.  Because of that, it is a complex issue that has evolved over four hundred years.  Even a basic understanding seemed beyond my reach. Most people who look like me would just as soon not be bothered by it, let alone expend the energy we need to try and understand what it is and how it works.  My understanding of race/ism must continually be expanding in order for anti-racism to be taught in a way that can be caught by those learning.

Dan Berry facilitating What LIES Between US – Fostering First Steps Towards Racial Healing

Secondly, whenever people finally come to the table to engage, it seems that all they really want to do is make sure we know that they aren’t racist.  It seems most aren’t interested in learning about and understanding their personal biases and blind spots. As teachers and students of anti-racism, the work will continually require us to explore and confront our embedded racist beliefs.  This does not make you a bad person; it just shows that you care enough to lead and learn from a position of humility.

Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that when teaching anti-racism, some people – actually, a lot of people – may get defensive and react negatively.  It’s hard for people to learn when they take the teaching personally.  We’ve all heard it said that sometimes the truth hurts.  We all tend to get uncomfortable when confronted with the truths about racism.

My encouragement to all of us is to approach this subject with a boat load of grace for our fellow learners, regardless of where they are on their journey.  With patience, allow the truth to do its work.  It has taken us time to get where we are as guides on the journey. Joining our students at the table of learning and offering them the same patience and understanding we needed to grow is a wonderful example of how we are all in this together.

Black and white females cheering

Are you interested in becoming a Certified Instructor? Our next development course is September 14th and 21st! Learn more here or contact me.

Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing through Bridge Building Solutions.
He has pastored for forty years in Iowa.  After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.

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