The Urban Review

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 32–50 | Cite as

Breakin’ Down Whiteness in Antiracist Teaching: Introducing Critical Whiteness Pedagogy

  • Cheryl E. MatiasEmail author
  • Janiece Mackey


Because of the changing nature of race the role of antiracist teaching is a forever-evolving process. Acknowledging that the majority of the U.S. teaching force, from K-12 to teacher education in institutions of higher education, are white middle-class females, it becomes imperative to unveil pedagogical applications of critical whiteness studies. Unwillingness to do so maintains the recycled nature of the hegemonic whiteness that dominates the field of education. This reflective paper examines the implemented pedagogies of a teacher education diversity course which begin to break down the whiteness ideology embedded in teacher candidates (i.e., pre-service teachers). Although the course’s application of critical whiteness studies was in no way complete, it framed a pedagogical strategy for self-interrogation of whiteness, one that can be implemented in other teacher education courses across the nation. Adding to the existing field of research, this paper provides concrete teaching strategies about how to employ critical whiteness studies in teacher education, and examines the implications of such pedagogies in relation to the roles of racial justice and antiracist teaching. By including feedback from teacher candidates themselves, this paper demonstrates how effective the pedagogies were in preparing a majority of white female teacher candidates for urban teaching.


Critical race theory Whiteness Teacher education Antiracist Pedagogy Teaching 



To my co-author, Dr. Cheryl Matias, mentora, a dynamic educator who taught me how to reach and teach to the soul and minds of youth and how to navigate “Breakin’ Down Whiteness.”


  1. Ahmed, S. (2004). The cultural politics of emotion. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, R. L. (2001). The globalization of white supremacy: Toward a critical discourse on the racialization of the world. Educational Theory, 51(4), 467–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin, J. (1963). Talk to teachers.
  4. Ball, J. (2013). Hip Hop fight club: Radical theory, education, and practice in and beyond the classroom. Radical Teacher, 97, 50–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2009). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. (2002). A womanist experience of caring: Understanding the pedagogy of exemplary Black women teachers. Urban Review, 34(1), 71–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bell, D. (1992). Faces at the bottom of the well: The permanence of racism. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and education. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2006). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Brodkins, K. (2000). How did Jews become white?. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cabrera, N. L., & Cabrera, G. A. (2008). Counterbalance assessment: The chorizo test. Phi Delta Kappan, 89(9), 677–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de Jesús, M. L., & Ma, S. M. (2004). RAW: “Raunchy Asian Women” and resistance to queer studies in the Asian Pacific American studies classroom. The Radical Teacher, 26–31. Retrieved from
  13. Dubois, W. (2005). Souls of black folk. Stilwell: Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fordham, S. (1988). Racelessness as a factor in Black students’ school success: Pragmatic strategy or pyrrhic victory? Harvard Educational Review, 58(1), 54–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  17. Freire, P. (2004). Pedagogy of hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the oppressed (New ed.). New York, NY: Continuum.Google Scholar
  18. Garcia, A. (2013). Beautiful dark twisted pedagogy: Kanye West and the lessons of participatory culture. Radical Teacher, 97, 30–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gillborn, D. (2006). Rethinking white supremacy: Who counts in ‘WhiteWorld’. Ethnicities, 6(3), 318–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Giroux, H. A. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals: Toward a critical pedagogy of learning. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  22. Haj-Ali, R. (2006). Just because I choose to be me. In C. Stanley (Ed.), Faculty of color in predominantly white institutions (pp. 175–181). MA: Anker Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  23. Helms, J. (1990). Black and white racial identity. Westport: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Hooks, B. (2003). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope (Vol. 36). Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Howard, G. R. (2006). We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multiracial schools. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ignatiev, N., & Garvey, J. (1996). Race traitor. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Leonardo, Z. (2009). Race, whiteness, and education. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Leonardo, Z. (2013). Race frameworks: A multidimensional theory of race. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  32. Leonardo, Z., & Porter, R. (2010). Pedagogy of fear: Toward a Fanonian theory of “safety” in race dialogue. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 13(2), 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lipstiz, G. (2006). The possessive investment in whiteness: How white people profit in identity politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Lorde, A. (2001). Age, race, class and sex: Women redefining difference. In M. Andersen & P. Collins (Eds.), Race, class and gender: An anthology. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning.Google Scholar
  35. Lynn, M. (1999). Toward a critical race pedagogy a research note. Urban Education, 33(5), 606–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matias, C. E. (2013). On the" Flip" side: A teacher educator of color unveiling the dangerous minds of white teacher candidates. Teacher Education Quarterly, 40(2), 53.Google Scholar
  37. Matias, C. E. (2014). “And our Feelings Just Don’t Feel it Anymore”: Re-Feeling Whiteness, Resistance, and Emotionality. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 4(2).Google Scholar
  38. Matias, C. E., & Liou, D. D. (2014). Tending to the heart of communities of color: Toward critical race teacher activism. Urban Education, doi: 10.1177/0042085913519338.Google Scholar
  39. Matias, C. E., & Zembylas, M. (2014). ‘When saying you care is not really caring’: Emotions of disgust, whiteness ideology, and teacher education. Critical Studies in Education, 55(3), 319–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McIntosh, P. (2001). Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In M. Andersen & P. Collins (Eds.), Race, class, and gender (pp. 95–105). Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  41. Mills, C. (2007). White ignorance. In S. Sullivan & N. Tuana (Eds.), Race and epistemologies of ignorance. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  42. National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Fast facts: Teacher trends. Retrieved from Institute of Educational Sciences. Retrieved from
  43. Netcoh, S. (2013). Droppin knowledge on race: Hip Hop, white adolescents and anti-racism education. Radical Teacher, 97, 10–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Neuman, W. L. (2011). The meanings of methodology. In social research methods (7th ed.). NY: Allyn Bacon.Google Scholar
  45. Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2008). Racism, discrimination, and expectations of students’ achievement. In Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  46. Oliver, M., & Shapiro, T. (1997). Black wealth/white wealth: A new perspective on racial inequality. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Picower, B. (2009). The unexamined whiteness of teaching: How white teachers maintain and enact dominant racial ideologies. Race Ethnicity and Education, 12(2), 197–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rodriguez, D. (2009). The usual suspect: Negotiating white student resistance and teacher authority in a predominantly white classroom. Cultural Studies↔Critical Methodologies, 9(4), 483–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roediger, D. (2005). Working toward whiteness. How America's Immigrants Became White. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  50. Sleeter, C. (2001). Preparing teachers for culturally diverse schools: Research and the overwhelming presence of whiteness. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(2), 94–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Solomona, R. P., Portelli, J. P., Daniel, B. J., & Campbell, A. (2005). The discourse of denial: How white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege’. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(2), 147–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tatum, B. D. (1997). “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”: And other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  53. Thandeka, (1999). Learning to be white: Money, race, and God in America. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.Google Scholar
  54. Williams, D., & Evans-Winters, V. (2005). The burden of teaching teachers: Memoirs of race discourse in teacher education. The Urban Review, 37(3), 201–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Winans, A. E. (2012). Cultivating critical emotional literacy: Cognitive and contemplative approaches to engaging difference. College English, 75(2), 150–170.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education and Human DevelopmentUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Masters in Social Science ProgramUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations