Notes on: Dixson, A. & Rousseau, C. (2005) And we are still not saved: critical race theory in education ten years later, Race Ethnicity and Education, 8:1, 7-27, DOI: 10.1080/1361332052000340971

Dave Harris

[Good intro to excellent early legal US work and US education. Good US summaries of 'tenets']

This is an article that follows up anything published after Ladson Billings and Tate (1995), which in turn built on Harris and the notion of whiteness as property, stressing especially the right to exclude. Ladson Billings and Tate said that this was demonstrated by denying blacks access to schooling altogether, then by setting up separate schools, then by white flight, private schools and more school choice, then '"re-segregation via tracking"' (8). Two track systems are perhaps the most important current manifestation of whiteness as property.

Matsuda (1993 p 6) identified six unifying themes to define the emerging legal scholarship in CRT (9):

'… Racism is endemic to American life… Expresses scepticism towards dominant legal claims of neutrality, objectivity, colourblindness meritocracy… Challenges ahistoricism and insists on the contextual/historical analysis of the law… Presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage… Insists on recognition of the experiential knowledge of people of colour… Interdisciplinary… Works towards the end of eliminating racial oppression as part of the broader goal of ending all forms of oppression'

Ladson Billings and Tate built on this framework, but warned against moving away too quickly from this foundation in legal studies. This article assesses the progress made, by searching several databases using the descriptors '"critical race theory in education"' [ 169 hits], and 'critical race theory and education"' [163 hits] with lots of overlap. Most alluded to the legal antecedents. They focused on those that were clearly tied to the legal literature. The first section summarises work that uses legal constructs in educational scholarship, and the second one shows the interrelated nature of ideas, such as CRT scholarship on Brown versus Board of Education and other legal cases. (9)

In the first section, one of the central tenets on experiential knowledge shows in the theme of '"voice"' (10), the importance of personal and community experiences of POC, which we find in communities or even when we '"look to the bottom"', to cite Matsuda, those who have experienced discrimination. We look at personal narratives and stories as valid forms of evidence rather than just numbers or other quantitative perspectives. However there is no single common voice. Delgado (1990) suggests there is common experience however. We use voice and stories to counteract the stories of the dominant group and claims that its identity and shared reality makes its own superior position natural. Instead POC learn to trust their own senses which give them authority, provide a counter story.

Solorzano and Yosso ( 2002) argue that this has provided a '"critical race methodology"' to expose majoritarian stories of racial privilege. Fernandez (2002 has a counter story of a Latino college student reflecting on his experiences in high school and recounting low expectations, a focus on discipline, lack of academic rigour. Another one on Filipino students has negative stereotypes, lowered expectations, tracking into vocational courses — both are 'set within a CRT framework' where CRT helped provide a voice for the students who were not otherwise heard.

Solorzano (2001) did the same for American HEI students at white research universities and noticed feelings of invisibility, low expectations and negative assumptions, self-doubt, isolation and 'daily "micro-aggressions" – subtle, automatic or unconscious racial insults'. He also studied Chicano/Chicana students and found similar feelings, and that their experiences were ignored and invalidated, that they met lowered expectations and experienced differential treatment. Villapando and Delgado Bernal (2002) describe what they call an '"apartheid of knowledge" in which the dominant discourse within the mainstream research community devalues the scholarship faculty of colour' (12) and reduces it to the margins. That scholarship often focuses on race and ethnicity which in turn means that that subject is seen to be legitimate or biased, lacking neutrality. Tate agrees. The struggle for voice has revealed micro-aggressions and macro forms of institutional racism, and the ways in which 'voices of scholars of colour are silenced in the Academy' (12).

Telling the stories is important, but we might need deeper analysis, perhaps going through social activism. One ethnographic study of black male students could be an example, contrasting their counter story with the dominant discourse, using Delgado to show how black males have been written off, by particular schooling conditions (13) [systematically denied interaction majority societies].

Crenshaw discussing antidiscrimination law notes there are two visions of equality — restrictive and expansive. In the expansive view, black subordination is to be eradicated using the power of the courts. For the restrictive view, actual outcomes are to have their significance downplayed and future wrongdoing prevented, especially in the form of isolated actions against individuals. The two have been in tension.

Rousseau and Tate (2003) have used this idea in examining the beliefs of high school maths teachers about equity and how they attempt to treat students equally, when dealing with students of colour who generally achieved lower than average. They did not reflect deeply on their own practices and their effects, but focused on providing what they saw as equal treatment. Many practices of teachers can be questioned like this. Whether the vision of colourblindness would survive a more expansive vision of equality remains 'problematic' (14)

For Crenshaw, 'integration, assimilation and colourblindness have become the official norms of racial enlightenment', but this is obviously problematic, and, for CRT theorists, expresses '"particular colour consciousness… a deeply politicised choice"'. Gotanda (1991) argues similarly that the concept of race in the Supreme Court refers to '"formal categories"' which is seen as neutral and apolitical, but you which are in fact socially constructed and related to matters such as '"culture, education, wealth or language"' (15) [as usual the lawyers are bloody good at spotting ideologies — Gotanda apparently even talks of connections between race and the '"real social conditions underlying litigation or other constitutional disputes'.

Analyses of particular desegregation cases can illustrate that. In one case, Tennessee State University had an historically black student population, but the state schools were predominantly white — the university was'deemed a problem'[and may have been obliged to desegregate?]. Another study of high school maths teachers demonstrated a similarly formal and a contextual view of race: they refuse to acknowledge race -related patterns in achievement and the role of racism, denied that these differences existed, adopted a colour blind stance and this prevented them reflecting on their own practices according to a study by Rousseau and Tate (2003).

Colourblindness can appear in micro-aggressions such as 'seemingly innocent schooling discourse… [Which]… Covertly pathologise students of colour'. Williams 'another founding member of the CRT movement' describes an incident affecting her son. Teachers thought he might have a problem with his vision and be unable to identify colours because he kept saying he did not know in response to questions about colours. Williams eventually realised that his teacher had made comments about skin colour being unimportant as liberals, so when the kid said the colours of other objects didn't matter, he had really internalised 'the colourblind discourse' 'as a physical malady' (16). It is impolite to see skin colour in some quarters.

This is part of a larger critique of liberalism found in CRT, and extends to multicultural education. In this case, no radical change is on offer — it is incremental just like civil rights law. This is a call to action rather than a dismissal of inclusive schooling, because multicultural education has often been too superficial (16). Other examples from HE include white students demonstrating 'a "false empathy"' for black kids at a particular field site [social work?] , something paternalistic to white liberals [shades of white saviour syndrome].

Turning to more specific legal cases. Brown versus Board of Education can be examined through an explicit CRT lens. Bell has seen it as a '"magnificent mirage"' (18). After ending de jure  segregation students of colour still attend minority skills and there is 'increased segregation' especially in urban school districts [data on page 18] together with differential educational opportunity. That is because of interest convergence [explained a bit further via Bell 18--19]. According to Harris the judgement failed to challenge the property value of whiteness, but rather allowed it to appear in a more subtle form, as a neutral state [and as displaced to the housing market].

Another case would be affirmative action and the legal challenges it has faced, based on 'the rhetoric of "merit" (21). The argument is that this has led to less qualified applicants being admitted. Usually, white students with lower test scores are also admitted, but this is not challenged, nor is the weighting given for factors such as legacy geographic location and so on. Only white privilege is seen to be valid [Harris again], via the colourblind norm. Harris has a number of court cases which have upheld particular significance of race or ethnicity in admissions decisions — '"always unconstitutional"' (21).

So some educational scholarship is consistent with legal scholarship and has stuck to the tenets of CRT outlined by legal scholars. That has been successful. However some tenets outlined by Matsuda have been less clearly articulated in education [and need to be] — first the interdisciplinary nature, extending beyond qualitative research. This should be a focus on the problems rather than the choice of approach and method and, 'CRT scholarship in education is neither inherently "qualitative" nor "quantitative". Rather, such scholarship should employ "any means necessary"' (22) [but this buggers up counter stories and their claimed privilege?]. Second that CRT works towards eliminating racial oppression as part of the broader goal of all oppression, that is it does active struggle, changing the world, like Bell actively protesting about Harvard's lack of WOC. In education we have to expose racism,. identify strategies to combat it and act on those, make organised and concerted efforts, get organised, study the legal literature, be aware of interest convergence and the property value of whiteness, use the constructed CRT to their full extent, examining matters such as 'curricula, school choice, and even student behaviour that sets standards for "normal" and "acceptable" actions' (24)

Good examples might be Vavrus (2002) who has used CRT to criticise colourblindness and white privilege within multicultural education. Tracking mentioned at the start referred to teacher education, and that might still be examined

Vavrus, M. (2002) Transforming the multicultural education of teachers: theory, research and practice (New York, Teachers College Press).