How Teachable Moments are Used to Perpetuate White Supremacy

Teachable moments don’t happen in the ways we expect. Institutions of education have trained us to create expectations around learning that are discriminatory in nature. What if I told you the expectations that we place on teachable moments are biased and can perpetuate cultural norms of White supremacy. For example, the idea that there is only “one right way” a person can and should receive information is a prime example of lingual discrimination. It is a perpetuation of language discrimination through the use of preconditioned expectations that build systems of oppression. To add an additional layer, we also believe that it must be done through certain acts of communication (which are also rooted in bias due to human interpretation). There are 5 things that come to mind when I think of how we as humanity have created raced based expectations and interpretations on teachable moments:

  1. Love — The interpretation of teaching with love has been rooted in bias that is based on cultural superiority, heterosexism, racism, traditionalism, and all of the things. We believe that love should look and be communicated a certain way. We have created a common belief that teachable moments should be rooted in a certain kind of love. This is wrong. Teachable moments here can perpetuate White supremacy’s cultural norms through the “right to comfort.” We believe that love should look and feel a certain way, even self love! The one commonality we have from love is the way we feel when we receive it. The importance of the differentiation of love and where bias falls into interpretation is the way in which it is communicated based on acts of self care and even selfishness (which can be a good or bad thing). An act of self love could be to get someone all the way together in order to protect yourself from their harm.

The definition of a teachable moment is a moment in which you learn something that you can put into practice moving forward. Whether you receive the lesson from someone or something, it is a moment in which you receive information and decide to act. It is not this romanticized idea of learning from a person and then becoming their best damn friend or their boo thang after it happens! In fact a teachable moment might even lead to a separation of a relationship/friendship.

A Teachable vs. a Traumatic Moment

The one thing I believe is that teachable moments shouldn’t put someone in danger of being harmed or traumatized. Although in all honesty trauma can teach us many things about ourselves and others, that often takes time. A teachable moment is different from a traumatic moment in that a teachable moment results in an immediate lesson. A traumatic moment, while it can be teachable, requires a process of recovery. A traumatic moment can end up being a lesson but it is not learned in the moment, the lesson comes during and/or after the recovery process. Teachable moments, happens in a moment of interaction and can come in many different forms and they can and do look like this:

  1. A person calling you out on your racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic (and the list goes on) behavior during an interaction is a teachable moment.

This list could go on!

A teachable moment might hurt your feelings, pride, and ego. The deciding factor in determining a teachable moment is: Can you take the immediate lesson and put it into practice moving forward without needing to engage in a recovery process? If so, then you have been taught well. You’re welcome.

Comment below and share with me some examples of teachable moments.



Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

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Dr. CI

Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.