Teaching and Learning Across Culture and Race: A Reflective Conversation between a White Student and a Black Teacher about Overcoming Resistance to Antiracism Practice

  • Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard Dalhousie University, School of Social Work
  • Bernedette Butler Bernedette Butler is a Social worker in Edmonton, Alberta
Keywords: race, privilege, class, religion, gender, education, teaching, tools, strategies, sexual orientation


There is increasing awareness amongst educators in multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi­cultural societies, about the need to prepare students for effective and appropriate practice. Additionally, there is agreement that teaching about racism and oppression presents both challenges and opportunities for growth for our students, and also for the faculty teaching such content, especially those who themselves live on the margins. When teaching such content resistance comes in many forms, but is particularly poignant when examining barriers created by ‘what we teach’, ‘how we teach it’, ‘the social locations from which we teach’ and the social locations from which our students are engaging and learning. These realities all influence the teaching and learning experience, yet few get an opportunity to collectively reflect on such journeys.

This article is written by an African Canadian teacher and one of her former white Canadian students and is based on research they conducted to capture their shared, although separate  journey. Focusing on the issues of racism and white privilege, they use narrative storytelling to examine how they impact both the racially marginalized and the white privileged experience. The authors’ analysis of racism, resistance and white privilege reinforce the importance of these issues to the counseling, social work and teaching professions. The results of this research indicate a need for institutions which train counselors, social workers and teachers to make antiracist and intercultural education a mandatory requirement within their university or college programs. Furthermore, the study suggests that for this type of education to successfully occur, racially marginalized faculty must be hired and, just as importantly, professionally supported within educational institutions. This article suggests that these supports should include an acknowledgement of the fact that many racially marginalized faculty may feel isolated; not only within the institution itself, but also within the community in which the institutions are housed. The article leaves readers with the hope that anti-racist teaching and learning can help to dismantle structures and systems that support the perpetuation of racism and white privilege.

Author Biographies

Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard, Dalhousie University, School of Social Work
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard is a Professor in the School of Social Work, Faculty of health professions, Dalhousie University
Bernedette Butler, Bernedette Butler is a Social worker in Edmonton, Alberta
Social worker