A reader’s question about teaching about racism in Chilean classrooms

Emily just put up a post on racism in Chile; it was serendipitous as I just received an email from Chile about racism and how to confront it.  Here is the email:

Hi Clare my name is Valeria. I am a third year English Pedagogy student at Universidad Catolica del Maule Talca, Chile.

We have to do a little research, a Problem Based- Learning Project, about racism behavior and language in senior year High School. The problem is that some students have exhibited racist behavior towards a couple of student from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. So we have to come up with some solutions to this problem. If you have any suggestions they’ll be welcome.


I have written about racism and classism in Chile before.  See:

I get a fair number of hits on my blog with people looking for information on racism and Chile. Like Emily, I have gotten some very thoughtful and insightful comments both from Chilean readers and from expats.

But, I am not quite sure how to answer Valeria’s question.  How do we fix racism? How do we teach students?

The thing is, while at George Warren Brown Graduate School of Social Work, I spent a lot of time thinking about this and reading. I spent a lot of time during courses looking at my own privilege as a white woman, as part of the middle class, as American, as able-bodied.  It has always been easy to see areas where I am discriminated.  It is easy to cite sexism and homophobia. It was harder for me to see my privilege.

From a pedagogical standpoint, I really enjoyed the books Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice by Adams, Bell and Griffin and the book Racism Without Racists by Bonilla-Silva.

I honestly believe that racism needs to be addressed in Chilean classrooms (just as I strongly believe it needs to be addressed in US classrooms). I am trilled that a student asked, but it is hard because it can’t be taught in a single lesson.  If Valeria really wants students to stop calling other students by racial names, she needs to understand that she is looking for behavioral chance and she is looking to get kids to see the world through a different prism. This learning needs to be coupled with an conducive environment— she as a teacher can’t let things slide because it is easy or because she doesn’t want to deal with backlash.

Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice outlines some key goals for curriculum design around racism:

  • Identify and discuss racial and ethnic heritages.
  • Understand our socialization into a racist culture.
  • Learn definitions and guiding assumptions about race and racism.
  • Increase awareness and understanding of individual, institutional and societal/ cultural manifestations of racism.
  • Understand conscious and unconscious racism.
  • Explore the concepts of white priviledge, collusion, internalized racism, and empowerment.
  • Understand the experiences of people from different racial heritages.
  • Explore the costs and benefits of working to end racism.
  • Identify ways to taking action against racism in the personal, institutional, and community lives of participants.


  1. i’m glad you posted this…. as in my comment to emily, i asked how schoolteachers might have developed opinions contrary to the racism or stereotypes their students hold, they are of course a product of the same culture and education system. i’m glad this is something addressed in their training and i hope the students like the ones that wrote to you find this challenge motivating and important.

  2. Racism and Classism while different are very similar. While people are cleary discriminated against based on the color of the skin, their religion, income and sexual orientation. I think the root of discrimination goes much further than that. Everybody has discriminated against somebody, and has been discriminated against to some degree or another in there life. This is something to think about. If you’ve ever pasted judgement on somebody or laughed at somebody for any reason such as making a dumb comment or not soounding smart then you’ve technically discriminated. Discrimaination can be based on intelligence, athletic ability, mental health status (i’m talking the less obiviuos things), and a sleu of other thhings. Our need to discrimnate, I believe, comr from the natural need to feel better about our own situations in the game of life.

    You want to fight rascism, classism, cronyism, and anything else “”ism people need to look at the issue from a societial standpoint. Have you ever refered to god as a he? why would god need to be a he or a she. Have you ever killed an ant? If so, then who issued you that right. At the end of the day we have to be culturalized to accept the fact that we are entitled to nothing and everything, and have view our neighbors as friends instead of comptetion.

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