As if learning students’ names isn’t hard enough, I’ve got four students named Mike in my class and I can’t tell them apart. At first the class laughed when I confused the Mikes, but at some point, it became embarrassing and awkward for all of us. In desperation, I asked the four Mikes to stand up and they complied. All four were wearing baseball caps pulled low on their heads, t-shirts, jeans and sneakers. They were all about the same height.
They were also all white.
The class laughed because it was so obvious why I couldn’t tell the Mikes apart, and I was quickly forgiven. The Mikes agreed to remove their hats when in class so I could see their faces.
That was 10 years ago, and today my classroom is much more diverse. If I asked four Hispanic, Black or Asian students to stand up today and take their hats off because I couldn’t tell them apart would I be considered racist?
BTW, I’m white.