Notes on: McCoy, D. and Rodricks, D. (2015). Critical Race Theory in Higher education: 20 Years of Theoretical and Research Innovations : ASHE Higher Education Report volume 41, number 3

Chapter 3

They are reviewing the literature to show how 'critical race tenets intersect to illuminate the effects of race and racism on people of colour's experience in the Academy' (16), first students, and then faculty. [ CRT seems taken for granted in its main claims and the focus seems to be on gaining experiential evidence. Methods range from focus groups to  much more controversial 'composite characters' and counterstories. I thought throughout of links with classic 'labelling theory' and wondered if any of the people of colour invovled were able to resist labels by citing contradictory lables or otherwise negating self-fulfilling prophecies as that literature suggested --after all,some of them made it into jobs as faculty in HE]

This is a US study. CRT has been used to examine the various issues that affect people of colour and their lived experiences, especially how traditional aspects of education and the structure supporting education 'perpetuate racism and maintain subordinate and dominant racial positions on college and university campuses'. CRT is a 'powerful theoretical framework and methodology' and 'an analytic tool for examining a myriad of educational issues'. It challenges '"Eurocentric epistemology and… dominant notions of meritocracy, objectivity and knowledge"', and suggests a '"liberatory pedagogy that encourages enquiry, dialogue, and participation"' (17). It is interdisciplinary, transcending 'epistemological and disciplinary boundaries, and has established its own community of scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds, all dedicated to expose critique, and transform racism and other forms of oppression, as in the 'scholar – activist tradition' found in ethnic and women's studies' and informed by various critical theories including Marxist and feminist ones. It borrows from sociology, history ethnic studies in women's studies. It centres race and racism in historical and contemporary contexts and challenges race and racism and its impact. It is a social justice project working towards the liberatory potential of schooling.

It was first introduced in education in 1995, with Ladson–Billings and Tate, who had three propositions: 'race remains a significant aspect of American society; American society is based on property rights not human rights; the intersection the of race and property offers "an analytical tool for understanding both social and educational inequity"' (18). Race had not been adequately interrogated and theorised. CRT would be a suitable analytic framework [an analytic framework?More like a sensitising political stance?]. Class and gender-based explanations were 'insufficient in describing the variance in students of colour's educational experiences and performance' — culture and poverty were not the primary reasons for their inequality

The essential component of power was the ability to define possession and property, and this related to education in various ways, explicit and implicit. For example affluent communities resented funding public schools that serve students of colour. The curriculum was a form of intellectual property. Race and property intersected, especially since whiteness conveyed property functions like: rights of disposition; rights to use and enjoyment; reputation and status property; the absolute right to exclude, and this was applied to education. CRT challenged whiteness as the norm and recognised the permanence of racism. Racial analysis will deepen the understanding of the educational barriers faced by people of colour.

Races are socially constructed concepts, so conceptual notions emerge, including those of whiteness which include '"school achievement, middle-classness and intelligence"' as opposed to '" gangs, welfare recipients and basketball players"'. In white societies everyone is ranked and categorised like this says Ladson-Billings. [No 'cool' identities -- sportsmen, sexual athletes, natural musicians and dancers?]

CRT has gone on to look at the experiences of people of colour especially things like 'racial micro-aggressions' and educational policy and legal jurisprudence, in a number of works. They have chosen works that show applicability and that will also 'enhance the audience's understanding… [Illuminate] the theories' depth and broadness' (19). These works confront the majoritarian narrative in higher education and also head towards social justice.

Starting with students' experiences, studies have shown various forms of oppression [I'm not going to give references because there are many]. Lived experiences must be 'viewed as "valid, appropriate, and necessary forms of data"' (20) [even if they are mistaken, biased, or the result of misunderstanding?]

One study used 'a critical race methodology' to 'enhance understanding' of black students' experiences that three elite predominantly white institution, via case studies and focus groups. The researchers [!] 'Sought to connect racial stereotypes, cumulative racial micro-aggressions, campus racial climate, and academic performance'. The participants' counterstories highlighted the effects of microaggression, revealed tense racial climates and struggles with self-doubt frustration and isolation. The conclusion was that 'even at elite undergraduate institutions, inequality and discrimination still exist'. [I would have liked to have seen more detail about racial microaggressions, for example, or tense racial climates, compared to say class climates and class micro aggression, how strong these were compared with routine self-doubt frustration and isolation and so on]

Another study developed a phenomenological approach conducting interviews with 143 blackmail undergraduate students at 13 predominantly white institution 'to disrupt the master narrative and deficit perspectives' [already committed then?]. It 'reviewed the etymology of "nigger"… and used the term "niggering" to explain how white people marginalised black males in education'[pretty emotional stuff then]. The participants were academic achievers and student leaders but despite their success, they experienced racism and had to negotiate their institutions, engaging with same race peers and publicising their educational achievements to white people who possessed deficit perspectives. 'They resisted being "niggered"' by being positive and resisting stereotypes, 'a form of resistance and oppositional action' (21) [very controversial I would have thought, political action against stereotyping even if it didn't take that form?].

Another study also 'combined critical race theory with a phenomenological approach' [looks like one of the authors], exploring intersectionalism with students of colour and first-generation college students, this time at 'an "extreme" predominantly white institution… where students, faculty and administrators of colour are grossly underrepresented… [With]… a history of racism and exclusionary politics and practices, the local community is overwhelmingly white and offers limited resources and/or services for people of colour, and there are no "visible" communities of colour' (21). Counterstories were gathered to learn how students of colour transition from their own diverse communities to such a community. They had already experienced high educational expectations, a difficult admissions process and other challenging transitions and culture shock. The conclusion was that the institutions needed to create a little more inclusive campus community to ease their transition, a more multicultural student centre and staff and a more diverse faculty [what a tame little conclusion, again just lacking detail]. [These must have been tough students, well able to resist superficial judgments and prejudices]

Yet another study drew on CRT and Latino critical theory, LatCrit, to see how educators might fully understand and respond to Latino/a students needs. Apparently there was potential for improving understanding of their experiences, and new ways to assess policy and practice, producing a better understanding of inequalities and inconsistencies. So CRT and all the other theories should be used to enhance understanding. The same goes for another study, this time looking at Chicana/o student resistance in 1968 and 1993, the first one a walkout, and the second a protest about the lack of support for expansion of Chicano Studies. The authors conclude that this form of resistance has been ignored, but that what it was doing was criticising oppression promoting social justice and had a great possibility for social change. Their method involved creating 'two composite characters (a faculty member and an undergraduate student) to illustrate the complexity' (22), again an apparent triumph for CRT and other theories to identify ways of engaging in resistance and helping 'disrupt deficit perspectives'.

Another 'conceptual piece' considered educational outcomes if black male student athletes worked with community college administrators faculty and coaches as they transferred from community colleges to four-year institutions. Both parties would benefit, but the institution and the coaches would probably 'experience greater benefits — via increased reputation, for example, or attracting future donors [Jesus, scraping the bottom of the barrel here].

There needs to be more on graduate students of colour and the discrimination they might experience. One study looks at Chicana/o students again, involving the creation of two composite characters again and gathering counterstories to illustrate 'feelings of self-doubt, survivor guilt, impostor syndrome, and invisibility' to illustrate this otherwise marginal group. Another study used CRT [how exactly?] to analyse experience of 15 graduate students of colour on a social work programme to analyse factors affecting their professional development and socialisation. In various ways they were ignored and experienced 'cultural and racial isolation [and] invisibility' (24). The recommendations include that they should be given mentors, and that the issue be addressed better in the literature on professional socialisation. The author also linked with earlier work to show that such students experienced 'numerous racialised challenges while enrolled in their academic program' [and how did they react?]

[Several points so far: is this using CRT? It's trying to test out some of the predictions about racism, or find them. It's trying to use some of the methods to gather the personal experiences of people of colour, but some of those looked rather dubious like introducing provocative terms like 'niggering'  even though no participants seem to used that, and developing composite characters and then getting 'their' stories. At the conclusion, the policies actually seemed quite mild and to involve mentoring and better advice in order to fit in — we're not exactly talking about replacing white schemes with those based on indigenous knowledge]

Turning to faculty, we can use CRT to 'develop a more nuanced understanding' [very modest and academic aims] of faculty experiences in academia. They are underrepresented and frequently concentrated in humanities, social sciences and education, 'because of our sense of responsibility and obligation to our communities' (24) they may have been under studied because they 'choose to not participate in studies because we are easily identifiable' and were not seen as an important research focus. There is also a problem that 'numerous white faculty do not believe faculty of colour are objective in their scholarship and the scholarship lacks rigour… [and]… there are those who believe "this research can be validated only with a comparison group of white faculty"' (24 – 25). [seems reasonable to me].

CRT has often provided evidence of unwelcoming and hostile climates, for example Stanley used autoethnography to illuminate participants' experiences [quite a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds it seems] and identified certain themes — 'mentoring, collegiality, identity, service, and racism' (25). They often had their authority and credibility questioned in the classroom [haven't we all] , but still experience joy in teaching. They had also been mentored by older faculty and had experienced professional development. They saw relationships with white faculty as critical. They saw that others perceive them as a result of 'multiple intersecting identities', gender and ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on. They had 'heavy service commitments' including mentoring students of colour, recruiting diverse individuals, helping local communities and 'educating white people in the University community about diversity' (26). They had racialised experiences at the institutional and individual level. Their efforts to diversify faculty were often greeted as of little value.

Another study used CRT to identify 'an apartheid of knowledge'maintained 'through epistemological racism' used to patrol mainstream research. Dominant epistemology has produced scholarship that portrays people of colour as deficient and renders 'faculty of colour scholarship as "biased and non-rigourous"' (26) [might look this up: Delgado Bernal and Villapando 2002].

There are frequent racial micro-aggressions. One case study showed 'interpersonal racial oppression', such as 'micro invalidations and micro-insults' [apparently developed in a later chapter]. Micro invalidations seem to involve having your experiences questioned or dismissed, micro-insults are seen in students frequently challenging faculty members' intelligence. Racial microaggressions can lead to additional service commitments, supporting students of colour, although African-American faculty often 'continue to experience "chilly" campus climates' (27).

Another group used [?] CRT to share their collective experiences after they had presented a paper. 'To do so, they created a composite character and used counternarrative' (27) to represent all the voices and also protect authors from unnecessary scrutiny. Another study used 'counterstorytelling' to highlight racial profiling that black faculty experience in classrooms, and another study referred to '"teaching while black"' to refer to racial profiling like '"driving while black"', and developed their argument through composite stories, participant counterstories which they claimed would 'elucidate the 13 African-American faculty members' experiences', and reveal oppression in the classroom, such as having to prove their credibility to disrespectful white students. Other research showed that cross-cultural communication is often misinterpreted, and white students adhere to stereotypes that African-American faculty 'are aggressive and threatening', while there are often insufficient mentors to explain the rules to African-American faculty, including 'racialised and gendered differences [the example is how a composite character 'shared how she was objectified by a white male colleague because he considered her "a young, attractive, African American woman"' (28].

The final example shows that the field of student affairs can reveal that the participants 'experienced racial battle fatigue' as they constantly have to cope with racial micro-aggressions or hostility. The recommendation is that more diverse faculty and mentoring is required, especially to guide black faculty seeking tenure. Again, any study that looks at lived experiences apparently is 'consistent with the critical race methodology' — this one used a focus group to get the lived experiences of tenure seeking faculty members and how difficult it is to mix at work-related social events, and the need for 'a coloured space… Where faculty of colour can relate to each other beyond the scrutiny of the dominant culture' (29).

Other studies looked at the publication process and editorial review. This one suggests quantitative research as an example, especially because it seems to be more reliable and easier for decision-making bodies, while research that uses qualitative methods centred on race often find that 'scholarship [is] critiqued a subjective and non-scholarly' [well you can see why]. This particular study looked at feedback of six reviewers for a work submitted for publication and the analysis showed 'an "adherence to the master narrative"' which the analyst interpreted as 'an editorial process steeped in white privilege and research that was deemed valid only with a comparison group of white faculty members' (30) [this looks good too — Stanley 2006].

CRT allows for 'a thorough and robust analysis of higher education policy and legal jurisprudence', for those wanting to challenge racism and remedy it. It offers a proactive framework to pursue equal educational access especially for 'historically underrepresented populations'.

One example is affirmative action. Opponents say that this discriminates against white people, and there are advocates of colour blind ideology or 'race neutral meritocracy', but this adversely affects student of colour, according to CRT, and one advocate has offered a detailed discussion of the strategies employed by opponents of affirmative action.

In another example, apparently the US supreme court ruled that the separate but equal doctrine was no longer legal so that public schools had to desegregate. However, CRT questions the effects, and some theorists have argued that racial inequality was reconfigured rather than dismantled by this decision, for example by bringing about effective segregation in urban communities, the persistence of 'separate and unequal educational spaces', with some states and districts even 'closing schools instead of integrating' (31)

In another case a white male applicant claimed he'd been discriminated against because a university had reserved some places for historically underrepresented students, but lost the case because the consideration of race was legal as a remedy. However, some CRT scholars think that these legal decisions are being gradually eroded.

In another case still, another white student claimed that race-based admissions policies at the University of Michigan discriminated against more qualified white applicants. She lost the case, but the judgement was not particularly grounded or extended to other areas.

Why is change so slow in higher education? CRT can help explain why because it explains the pervasiveness of white superiority and its 'performative discourse of whiteness' as 'the cornerstone of higher education delivery which shapes people of colour is experiences.

The tenets of CRT and its focus on the counter story is central, both as a theoretical framework and as a methodology. It shows the complex power differentials and helps us critique colourblindness and meritocracy. It also shows how the law and institutional programs and policies support whiteness. There may be no systemic escape, but CRT offers much promise, offering 'both tension and possibility' how well

[Further chapters promise to discuss these issues]