A major theme of Banks’ “The Historical Reconstruction of Knowledge About Race: Implications for Transformative Teaching” is the examination of the construction of racism over the past 200 years. Knowledge about race is influenced by the social, cultural, and political positions and experiences of the people who conceive this knowledge. Racial knowledge is constructed through society and reflects both subjective and objective factors. It also transforms over time. Banks pointed out that it is important for teachers to help students understand how racial knowledge is constructed and how it also continuously evolves. This will allow them to effectively promote our nation’s democratic ideals.
As I consider the environment surrounding the reconstructed views of W.E.B. DuBois, it makes sense to me why his views of race differ so starkly from those of historians such as Thomas Dixon, Jr. DuBois lived and worked within Black institutions that offered opportunities to African Americans that were similar to Whites – opportunities that fostered education and personal development. This environment allowed Blacks to succeed and countered mainstream ideas of Black inferiority. It supported the notion that it is the environment that produces the differences, not genetics. Thomas Dixon, Jr., on the other hand, was a lay historian who was socialized in North Carolina in the years right after the Civil War. In this environment, Dixon developed sympathy for slave owners and perpetuated the idea of African Americans as less intelligent by nature.
Banks, J. A. (1996). The historical reconstruction of knowledge about race: Implications for transformative teaching in J. Banks, Multicultural education: Transformative knowledge & Action. (pp. 64-84) New York: Teachers College Press.