Monday, January 05, 2015

Clip Art and Thoughts as a Whitey

I periodically like to put clip art on the worksheets I create for my students. I've never thought much about it, I just Google Search for "free clip art _____" where the blank is replaced by my topic of choice. Then I pick the cutest or most appropriate picture. Most times it's an animal or inanimate object, but sometimes the clip art is a person. 

With all the dialog going around about "white privilege" and "what kinds of images do you see" and "what types of people are chosen to be actors in various shows" and "how are people being represented" and "do you ever see a ______ computer scientist", etc., I started to notice my clip art. 

When I scan the images, I look for "girl student" for example, and then pick from some of the choices. I guess either all/most of the images are of "white" cartoons, ..... I just stopped typing and did that search. Out of the first 22 pictures, 1 was a black student. Then I kept counting to 56 - maybe 1 or 2 more non-white kids. Also, no Asian, Hispanic .....

Sheesh. Being a harried, time-strapped teacher, I guess then most frequently I would just go with "white". Lately, (okay, last couple of worksheets), I deliberately kept searching until I found a non-white clip. I then mentioned this to a co-worker, and she asked about "Indian" clip art kids .... Nope, haven't seen them.

Then I started to think, well, if I have ___% of various ethnicities in my class, do I keep a tally of what type of images I project? Am I overthinking? Is this situation just part of the invisible problem that I was not aware of as a whitey? Do my students even notice? Some kids? All kids? Are they desensitized, too, because that's how it's been?


  1. Even if your students don't consciously notice, it's affecting them. You and I both know that it's important to include 'girl students' in our illustrations. Same thing for race. I tried to get the illustration on the cover of my book to be as racially diverse as possible. It was fun. It also took work. And I agree with you about harried teachers not having much time to go searching.

    What if you search for a particular race? I just searched on 'Black student' ... and got what all look like college students. Got more kids when I added 'clipart'.

    I wouldn't base it on percentages in your class, but on percentages in the U.S. (or your state or city, if that adds to non-white groups). And I wouldn't be perfectionist about it. I'd try to use less than half white, mixing it up between races by whim.

    I don't use clipart of people (more conic shaped structures, stuff like that), but I make up lots of problems with people who are named, and I either try for non-gendered names: Chris, Sandy, Lee (which mostly sound white), or racially diverse names: Latrice, Marisol, Paulo.

    1. Anonymous4:21 PM

      I like your thinking about not basing it on the % in the class. This could just perpetuate the "otherness" of others if you have a homogenous class.

  2. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I agree with the comment suggesting that using the percentages within your classroom may make this task to difficult to manage. Furthermore, being aware as you are now and using a variety will add to the diversity in your room. Our student demographics are forever changing. Thank you again for opening my eyes.