Notes on: Ledesma M and Calderon D. (2015). Critical Race Theory in Education: A Review of Past Literature and a Look to the Future. Qualitative inquiry 21 (3): 206 – 22 DOI: 10.1177/1077800414557825

Dave Harris

This claims the need to go beyond just the mechanisms of race to look at 'material structural and ideological mechanisms of white supremacy'(206). [Conventional history of CRT with the usual suspects. The importance of legal tenets are stressed and the need to link theory with practice. The uncritical use of narrative or storytelling is also a problem in Ladson-Billings (2005), at the expense of the central ideas]. Critics have noted the 'hyper- emphasis on race'(207) at the expense of a critique of capitalism even though the concept has remained and been theorised, and this has been recognised to some extent by the focus on intersectionality. There is a danger of falling into simple identity politics, however. Recent serious scholarship has overcome many of the problems — especially that which aims at 'Critical Race Praxis' [some references]. Main themes include colourblindness, selective admissions and campus racial climate.

In secondary education, Lynn and Parker (2006)  also explored manifestations such as LatCrit and AsianCrit and criticised neoliberal attempts to reform [the language here seems to turn on privileging 'the rich']. Specific focuses include

Curriculum and pedagogy. Derrick Bell on legal education provided the foundation here criticising 'colourblindness, meritocracy, deficit thinking, linguicism and other forms of subordination'(208). Actual practice often means discomfort and pain because the majority tends to have dismissive narratives. The bedrock is '"perceptions, experiences and counterhegemonic practices of educators of colour"', building on techniques '"proven to be successful"' [all quoting Lynn 2004], apparently based on CRT '"and/or Afrocentricity"' and aiming at 'emancipatory epistemologies'. However we need pedagogical framing. Counter storytelling is a method which has been useful here, beginning with the lives of students it can include alternative epistemologies, for example utilising African proverbs (209). However multicultural approaches need to be accompanied with a greater awareness of racialised foundations and the effects of the 'lives of the oppressed' and their exclusion. White students might also be re-educated, for example through 'Nigrescence' or 'colorscence' [citing Matais 2013], offering 'raced history'and re-centring marginalised narratives, aimed at trying to get white students to understand themselves through the history of the other. This work can bring resistance, and preservice teachers might be trained to recognise this.

What of the curriculum? Any curricula still acknowledged the tenets of CRT according to Yosso and examined the influence of white supremacy, for example through interest convergence to combat ahistorical and acontextual discussion. Civil rights legislation is apparently often discussed that way. A critique of liberalism might be employed as well and historical revisionism, focused on specific legislation. Topics such as hip-hop might be incorporated although incorporation in school curricula could be problematic — the challenges to use its counter narrative potential to reimagine relationships among education and social justice. So critical foundations are needed for counter stories [but how are these critical foundations to be taught exactly?]

Turning to teaching and learning, there is a focus on teacher attitudes and their underlying ideologies, ending in a call for teachers of colour. There is a need for culturally relevant teaching, understanding student culture and its context which includes white supremacy. Building on Harris on property, one example invites teachers to interrogate white privilege as the right to determine meaning to be an individual, and found that white teachers systematically underestimate [cited on 211]. White teachers also tend to favour fairness rather than distributive justice. Teacher education must be maintained during school practice.

School cultures maintain ideological forms like linguicism, discursive practices, one study [Mitchell 2013] examined '"four common majoritarian stories [about race]… There is no story… Difference is deficit, meritocracy is appropriate, English is all that matters"' (212). There is also research about perceptions of contemporary US immigration and how this leads to 'racist nativist micro-aggression', perceiving Latinos as criminals, a burden on resources, suffering from 'linguistic hegemony… English dominance' which sees Spanish as an impairment or a deficit. There are implications for the design of libraries and how to make them welcome [unexamined].

Public policy is also contaminated by white supremacy and CRT can challenge it. Gentrification is an example if it affects urban schools through redevelopment. There are also various pressures push out 'working class students of colour' from desirable schools, including fines for disciplinary offences [a lot of these studies claim the power of CRT, but they really just show the importance of analysing racial inequalities — if anything, the more concrete the analysis, the less it depends on the tenets, once there is a general debunking of colourblindness and so on].

In HE there is also an emerging challenge to race neutrality and objectivity, majoritarian frameworks privileging white supremacy through colourblindness, selective admissions and campus racial climate. Parker and Lynn (2002 this time) showed connections to qualitative research methods and epistemology (213) building on early research on education there was a special issue of Qualitative Inquiry (2002).

The belief that racism is normal, that there is racial realism to use Bel'ls term is at the centre of the approach to HE, and even critical scholars tend to sideline race, some even after claiming to apply 'a Critical Race lens' (214) — differences were noted, for example in the experience of racial climates, but it was rare to trace these to structural or institutional racism [quoting Harper 2012] — '"[Un] Critical Race Theory"' was common.

In terms of practice, there is often a lot of activity around mission statements and diversity plans, but less actual effect. There may even be the perpetuation of whiteness and the privilege of normal notions of students and success, especially through 'four discourse groups commonly relied upon by universities to address diversity… "Access, disadvantage, marketplace democracy"' (215) [citing Iverson 2007].There is a need to understand history and context and how they change. Racism has evolved, for example overt displays are not tolerated but white supremacy is camouflaged especially by colourblindness. Higher education remains 'infused' (215).

In terms of selective admissions policy, there has been a lot of anti-affirmative decisions and laws in recent US history, based on claims of objectivity and meritocracy or race neutrality. Again we need to turn to CRT legal scholarship and the notion of interest convergence. It is also the case that PWI have realised that diversity is now an important marketing term. It's also the case that Asian-American experiences have become important, especially in the sense that they are often used as a model minority, sometimes as particular victims of affirmative action, Especially as they seem to do well on standardised test scores. However they are often displaced by whites even with the equivalent academic records (216). The whole debate shows how merit is still socially constructed.

For campus racial climate, there are lots of studies (217). The dominant approach has been to develop a deficit framework, but instead CRT focuses on 'macro and micro sociopolitical and institutional structures' (217) such as racial micro-aggressions. One study by Yosso focused on those directed at Latin@. This has led to a critique of the notion of diversity. The '"diversity of convenience"' is the most popular form, but there is a genuine version, '"pluralism" which is more challenging. The first one can actually maintain a hostile racial climate on campus and limits access and opportunities for students of colour [the alternative, 'truly inclusive and equitable policies and practices' are not well developed].

We need narratives that centre the voices of minoritised and usually silenced voices, as Dixson and Rousseau (2005) argue. Giving the minorities a voice undermines the majoritarian reality. Again there is a root in Delgado and legal scholarship. The '"richer, more detailed stories"' (218) that have resulted have provided more disaggregated stories [one example is a study of Pilipino American students].

One critic has suggested that CRT is now fashionable and cool, but all that is needed is to flourish a few lines of it [I like the look of this — Hughes, January 2012, Diverse Issues in Higher Education]. It should be seen instead as a revolutionary project unapologetically centring race. We need to rediscover the historical roots in legal studies and also in the other subjects. It might be too bleak and pessimistic, but it might help people endure racism. It does recommend the involvement of the community, and it has raised new issues. There are still challenges as racism assumes more covert forms.