Notes on: Solórzano D. & Yosso, T. (2002) Critical Race Methodology: Counter – storytelling as an Analytical Framework for Educational Research. Qualitative Inquiry. 8 (1): 23 – 44. DOI: 10.1177/107780040200800103

Dave Harris

[Probaby the best one on counterstories so far --good systematic on methods and I liked the emphasis on border intellectuals --  or nearly]

We need new theories to develop those at the margins of society and new theorising methods to clarify new problems, drawing on Anzaldúa. Critical race methodology will do this for racism, since it foregrounds race and racism in all aspects. It also shows how race, gender and class intersect to affect students of colour, challenge traditional research paradigms and theories, offer transformative solutions to subordination, and focus on experiences of students of colour as sources of strength. It is interdisciplinary.

According to Banks, Eurocentric versions of US history revealed race to be socially constructed, about differentiating racial groups to show the superiority of one race. Is a rationalising ideology required? — That is 'a set of beliefs that explains all justify some actual potential social arrangement' (24). In particular how is racism defined? Lorde has the most concise version — '"the belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all the others and thereby the right to dominance"'. Marable has made it more specific by referring to '" a system of ignorance exploitation and power"' specifically used to oppress African-Americans and other POC [in the US context]. Both agree that one group claims to be superior, and therefore has the power to carry out racist behaviour, and thus to benefit from negatively affecting other groups. This stresses institutional power denied to POC in the US. [Bit long winded -- not as good as Bonilla-Silva or Hall].

CRT has a broad literature base and has been defined by Matsuda as originating in progressive legal scholars of colour trying to develop an account of the role of racism in American law and working to eliminate it '"as part of a larger goal of eliminating all forms of subordination"' (25), which for S and Y means 'gender, class, sexual orientation, language and national origin' as well, in and out of the classroom. There are five basic elements useful in education:

'The intercentricity of race and racism with other forms of subordination' — race and racism are endemic and permanent, central rather than marginal, but also intersect with other forms of subordination like class and gender [seen as 'layers of subordination' -- bit weaselly as below]

'The challenge to dominant ideology' challenging traditional claims in education of 'objectivity, meritocracy, colourblindness, race neutrality and equal opportunity', which camouflage self interest and power of dominant groups, white privilege. There is no neutral or objective research, especially deficit informed research which 'silences and distorts epistemologies of people of colour' (26)

'The commitment to social justice' [citing Matsuda, so presumably legal reform?], Offering 'a liberatory or transformative response to racial, gender and class oppression'[all at the same time?, And while we are here, the elimination of poverty and the empowering of subordinate minority groups]. Educational groups are contradictory and can both oppress and marginalise and 'emancipate and empower. 'Likewise, a critical race methodology in education recognises that multiple layers of oppression and discrimination are met with multiple forms of resistance' [so education generates resistance, as Gintis and Bowles argue with gender?].

'The centrality of experiential knowledge' [opposes education's role?] — 'The experiential knowledge of POC is legitimate, appropriate and critical to understanding, analysing and teaching about racial subordination… This knowledge as a strength'. This leads to 'such methods as storytelling, family histories, biographies, scenarios, parables,,cuentos, testimonios, Chronicles and narratives' [lots of references to Delgado's work]. It challenges traditional research paradigms especially deficit informed research methods that silence and distorts experiences.

'The transdisciplinary perspective'. CRT challenges ahistoricism, a unidisciplinary focus and requires historical and contemporary context, like ethnic studies, women's studies, sociology, history, law and other fields.

These five themes can represent a challenge, to expose the disguise of racism, which can be found in rhetorics of shared values and neutral principles. Racist injuries need to be named and victims find their voice. If that happens victims can become empowered participants and hear their own stories and the stories of others, 'learning to make the arguments to defend themselves'. (27)

Racism maintains a master narrative in storytelling,  a monovocal story to explain low education achievement and attainment of students of colour.  It Is maintained by 'unacknowledged white privilege'. This is itself underresearched, but can be found in 'every social indicator from salary to life expectancy, even though it is invisible [citing McIntosh and Tatum] [this sometimes seems to involve a zero-sum game so that if a black person is denied housing, that becomes available for a white person]. Majoritarian stories make racial privilege seem natural through presuppositions. perceived wisdom and shared cultural understandings. It's not just racial privilege but gender class and other forms as well. These stories carry 'layers of assumptions' (28).

POC can often buy into and even tell these majoritarian stories, just as misogynistic stories can also be told by women. One example is the African-American scholar Thomas Soul [?], or a Latino, LauroCavazos who became US secretary of education and blamed Latino parents for dropout rate, or Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

White privilege haunt these stories, and procedures such as those found in the medical profession which force WOC to undergo procedures during childbirth without the consent [still? — The reference is to Ikemoto 1997]. The use of standard formulaes appear to be neutral and objective and yet really operate with negative stereotypes of POC, for example when reporting violent crime in particular neighbourhoods, which reinforces notions of bad neighbourhoods or bad schools, or stereotyping according to skin colour, hair texture, accent or surname.

'Social science theoretical models explaining educational inequality support majoritarian stories' (30), explicitly or implicitly. Valencia and Solorzano have done work on this, finding biological deficiency models, turning on the inability to master abstraction, eugenic beliefs about mental capacities, a history of cultural explanations [it's all pretty old stuff — the most recent is 1990 I think, although there is a linguistics professor in a press article in 2000 saying that black students do not try as hard as other students because they belong to an anti-intellectual culture] (31). Cultural assimilation seems to be the main recommendation, including learning English at the expense of, say, Spanish.

This is still racism but in a changed form, and sometimes that view is challenged by those advocating class-based or gender-based theories as more central. This is where intersectionality or intercentricity  becomes important, and dismissing race will produce distortion of experience. 'Indeed [such emphases] can actually serve to reinforce the majoritarian story' (32). [the old issue of intersectionality here and weasels about claiming the priority of race disguising a basic political struggle]

The counter story is a way of telling stories by people whose experiences are not often heard, ways which challenge majoritarian stories. They can 'shatter complacency, challenge the dominant discourse'. This should not just be seen as a response though because this would still let the standard story dominate. Instead we should see counter storytelling as strengthening alternative traditions and enabling cultural survival and resistance.

There is a 'rich and continuing' tradition in African-American and Native American communities especially, and CRT scholars have identified at least three general forms:

Personal stories or narratives, autobiographical reflections 'juxtaposed with their critical race analysis of legal cases and within the context of a larger sociopolitical critique'. Other people, stories or narratives are told in the third person with biographical analyses in relation to institutions and sociohistorical contexts. Composite stories and narratives use various kinds of data, biographical, autobiographical, composite characters in various situations to discuss racism sexism and other forms — Bell fits in here and so does their own work [I don't know any of the other examples of the other types given on 33]

Counter stories begin by 'finding and unearthing sources of data'. We could begin with Strauss and Corbin or Bernal. Strauss and Corbin talk of 'theoretical sensitivity', a personal quality of the researcher based on previous reading, but also personal insight and capacities to understand. Bernal talks about 'cultural intuition', an extension of personal experience into collective experience, and further analysis of data [relating especially to Chicanas and their cultural traditions] [there are longer quotes from each].

They used these terms to create counter stories from data they had gathered from research, the existing literature on the topic, their own professional experiences and their own personal experiences, primary sources like focus groups and individual interviews with students. Then they seemed to use Glaser and Strauss to winnow out concepts using the 'critical lenses of race, gender and class' (34) to get at the 'concepts of self-doubt, survivor guilt, impostor syndrome and invisibility' among Chicana and Chicano undergraduate and graduate students. [bit vague]

Then they examined other sources for secondary data analysis relating to these concepts, especially a particular set of manuscripts they'd recently read. They drew connections with these readings and the data. They focused on emotions even in the traditional academic texts, and also from poetry and short stories segments and this helped them look more deeply to understand experiences. They added their own experiences to share their own stories and draw on the 'multiple voices of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances'.

After all this data was 'compiled, examined and analysed' they created composite characters who helped us tell a story', in the form of a dialogue about their findings. This apparently emerged between the characters and they were able to 'insert the various forms of related data' (35). An excerpt follows, 35. [It's a bit forced, like Ellis and Bochner] It demonstrates how they managed to create a dialogue about 'critically illuminates concepts, ideas and experiences while it tries to use the elements of critical race theory'. The character expresses concerns about being silenced, and another about maintaining strategic silence and developing strategies of resistance.

They think the counter stories can help build community among those marginalised 'by putting a human and familiar face to educational theory and practice'. They can challenge perceived wisdom. They can open new windows into reality by showing new possibilities and demonstrating that the marginalised are not alone. They can combine elements from the story and the current reality and so 'construct another world that is richer than either the story all the reality alone' (36) this is not fictional storytelling because the characters are not entirely imaginary nor the scenarios — both are grounded in real life experiences and actual in clerical data and so other situations [so lots of fictional stories of course].

Overall, most of our research marginalises POC, and even justifies it through majoritarian storytelling. White upper class and middle class people are privileged. We need to document the voices of POC and critical race methodology offers one way to do this, challenging traditional methodologies by focusing research on the experience of students of colour and their responses to 'racism sexism classes and hetero sexism'(37). It uses multiple methods 'often unconventional and creative'. It focuses on 'substantive discussions of racism', which often missing. It believes that margins are sites a possibility and spaces of resistance [echoes of the border intellectual, even with a reference to Anzaldua]. Methodologies can give voice and encourage transformative resistance, overcome deficit discourses, encourage strategies of survival.