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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The “Marshmallow Activity” instructs each group to make the tallest structure using only the materials inside a certain bag.  Teacher candidates notice that some bags have skewers and large marshmallows, while others hold small marshmallows and toothpicks.  Claiming a need for equity in the distribution of the materials, the professor hands out another set of bags all with equal materials; the caveat is that the students must build on existing structure.  In the end, those who were given the larger marshmallows still “win.”.

  2. 2.

    A Spanish sausage.

  3. 3.

    From 1932 to 1972 under the guise of free health care, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute conducted a secret study on 600 African American male sharecroppers, most of whom had syphilis. The men were purposely untreated despite the known cure of penicillin and the study gave rise to informed consent laws. Huerta cofounded the United Farm Workers and stood on the podium alongside Bobby Kennedy when he was killed; in 1988 she was brutally beaten by police while attending a peaceful rally against George Bush’s presidential run.

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Acknowledgments

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.”

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Correspondence to Cheryl E. Matias.

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Dedicated to Dr. Cheryl Matias.

To Teachers and Students, may we forever be strong to fight for racial justice worldwide.

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Matias, C.E., Mackey, J. Breakin’ Down Whiteness in Antiracist Teaching: Introducing Critical Whiteness Pedagogy. Urban Rev 48, 32–50 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-015-0344-7

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Keywords

  • Critical race theory
  • Whiteness
  • Teacher education
  • Antiracist
  • Pedagogy
  • Teaching