Notes on: Dumas, M & ross, k . (2016) "Be Real Black for Me ": Imagining BlackCrit in Education. Urban Education 51(4): 415--442. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916628611

Dave Harris

They want to develop BlackCrit within CRT and then apply it to education to get at the specificity of blackness.

Early advocates of CRT in education include Ladson-Billings and Tate, drawing on Woodson and Du Bois and their studies of black history and black communities. Dubois talks of double consciousness, looking at oneself through the eyes of others. CRT and legal studies led to understanding schooling as a site in which whites exercise an absolute right to exclude black kids requiring a defensiveness which involves commitment to race as the primary issue. Thus CRT became a black theorisation of race, an attempt to make sense of and respond to institutionalised racism as experienced, focused on antiblack racism. It is therefore a black critical theory, and also a theory of race or racism looking at laws and policies intended to subjugate black people in the USA [NB]. It is a critique of white supremacy and the limits of liberal multiculturalism.

However, it is not the same as a theory of the specificity of anti-blackness, and antagonism 'in which the black is a despised thing in itself' (416), in opposition to everything pure and human. Hence the need for BlackCrit. This is partly in response to a number of other crits that developed in response to CRT -like LatCrit, Asian Crit whiich critiqued the black-white binary of CRT as well as addressing specific racial oppressions. They tried to deepen and complicate the deployment of race and extend CRT theoretically and empirically. However this assumes that CRTadequately addresses blackness, or that 'race' does .

BlackCrit is necessary because CRT cannot adequately analyse the specificity of the black,how anti-blackness is different from white supremacy, how it informs racist ideology and practice, how the counter stories of black experience construct black subjects and positions them [which exceed race?] In more detailed ways. BlackCrit looks at how black bodies become marginalised disregarded and disdained even 'within celebratory discourses on race and diversity' (417).

The themes picked up in a song by Flack and Hathaway inviting listeners to embrace blackness as something beautiful in real, black imagining. This should be developed by Black Lives Matter as well, and should include 'black queer and trans folks'  (418). Black bodies have long been dehumanised, denied education resources, treated badly by school discipline policies, insulted, ordered to change their bodily appearance and it is this that needs to be understood .

We can extract some themes from CRT, and its 'theoretical imagination' [as depicted in a novel], which is focused on the USA as 'eager to be rid of black people…  a pointed antipathy to black existence  … The easy market exchange of black things for other desired goods'. Whiteness is seen as property, leading to specific entitlement to domination preserved as claims to particular benefits in status, so that claims for redress were seen as 'unwarranted and unequal taking from whites '(421), and even policies of affirmative action are still affected by these conceptions [equal opportunity rather than redistribution].

Whiteness as property appears in education research as well, including access to culturally relevant curricula, entitlement to educational opportunities, privileged spaces. Black people are seen as a form of property themselves rather than people. All land is white property and indigenous people are not entitled to it, but can only be labour expanding the property of whites. Indigenous people must be dispossessed because they cannot claim property. Slavery was clearly justified by this notion. Poor whites see themselves as always worth more than blacks, still connected to property whites, still identified as white.

What about into sexuality and other differences like gender or sexuality in social class? The original intention was to address black women who could find themselves disqualified from sex discrimination if race was a factor in their unequal treatment, and vice versa [in law]. Gender tended to be seen as a white issue and race as a matter of the experience of black men, marginalising or making invisible the others,and leading to things like lack of support for feminism by black women. Race becomes a coalition between men and women of colour, and extends to include people with different social classes and other differences. However BlackCrit wants to not insist on the unitaryracial location, but stress instead 'an essential black counter story or political project' (423 [shades of Sivanandan and black as a political identity?], But one that must acknowledge difference and interdependence.

Although CRT is not intended particularly to be a black theory, it was forced to pay attention to blackness and anti-blackness, and this led to criticism of it being excessively binary and generalising to all racialised subjects.

CRT sought to demystify racism and racial oppression by seeing it as normal and rooted firmly in white hegemony, with race as the organising principle of society .The original reference was to people of colour, although African-Americans and heterosexuals were originally privileged. Afrocentrism was criticised early, especially by 'nonblack CRT scholars of colour' (424), exacerbated by the prevalence of a black/white paradigm. This excluded Latinos and offered a mere recognition that other people of colour existed. Other outgroups were marginalised. In contrast, this critique was seen as 'alienating black people', and gave succour to white critics. One suggestion was to refer to the '"white over black paradigm"' instead (425).

Antiblack racism was clearly central, but whether it was the fulcrum of white supremacy is more debatable — some argued it was, because it was rooted in the very structure of the US economy with its history of slavery ownership rights federal election system, criminal codes and national politics. [Not so for the UK? — We have a history of benefiting from slavery of course]. Nevertheless specific oppressions of nonblack groups also had to be investigated and other '"race crits"' were developed to address Latinos and Asians and indigenous peoples and how they were 'raced' (426).

This led in turn to asking whether it is necessary to have a version of CRT that explicitly focused on black experience. Other race crits tended to shift the focus away, and there was even a move to criticise black people for homophobia or for stressing the repressive bits of the black-white paradigms. CRT had perhaps overaligned itself with some of these other race crits and had decentred the experiences of blacks. It became important to include racial experience of black people outside of the USA, in Africa and the Caribbean [I now see the push behind the development of CRT in the UK]. BlackCrit seem to do better and to develop a deeper understanding of race in human rights law and the ways race and gender intersect with human rights. There were problems with separate development especially worries about 'a regressive black nationalism that may deny sexism in the black community… And deny the possibility of African-Americans being racist towards nonblack people' (427). There was a danger of essentialism, which could be avoided by denying a uniform black experience or a universal experience. Focusing on blackness would enable the particular work to be done on reproductive politics and black women (428) [in the USA, via enslavement and the control of black women's reproduction]. There are still dangers of anti essentialism.

We still lack much theoretical development, and we need one especially in education. Back to the song. It cautions against a false or grandiose front and the need to be gently admiring of blackness. We are not ready yet to present BlackCrit uncritically, as a coherent theory. We need to point out that there are a number of critical theories that might be used, but we are not ready to describe it in terms of fixed tenets. We need further scholarship. We do have some framing ideas:

1. Anti-blackness is endemic to human life, an even more definite statement than the CRT idea that racism is normal. Blackness is seen as antagonistic to humanity. We see this best developed in 'Afro pessimism' where black people are seen to exist in the social imagination as slaves, things, with no right to live, a suspect already targeted for death and social death, people who only live in '"the afterlife of slavery"' [US again], with a future it's impossible to imagine.

2. Blackness is 'in tension with neoliberal – multicultural imagination'. After World War II racial discrimination was slowly dismantled in the USA, with Jim Crow, and multiculturalism embraced. Neoliberalism was established in the 1980s and it is now assumed that racism is no longer a barrier to equal opportunity. But this places the blame for failure on groups themselves, on their own choices. Black people are still a problem. Relative successes of some other groups of colour are seen as 'evidence at the end of racism' (430). Black people are in the way of progress. In this way, modern multiculturalism and diversity is 'often positioned against the lies of black people'

3. BlackCrit should 'create space for black liberatory fantasy' and denying majoritarian stories that remove whites from racial dominance. We might find inspiration in Tupac Shaker's call for violence, or in Fanon, as long as we see this as fantasies, as 'the first taste of freedom' (431), glimpsing 'the wondrous possibilities of the ensuing pandemonium', including 'the idea that the blood of whiteness must flow in the streets'.

We must encourage policy analysis and advocacy in education, how anti-blackness supports the infrastructure of educational inequality, the misrecognition of students of colour and the distribution of educational resources

School desegregation has been criticised by CRT scholars because they maintain white material advantage more than extend opportunities for black kids, often achieving special educational benefits for white kids, or creating segregated spaces within schools. BlackCrit theorists claim that desegregation can also destabilise black communities and affect 'healthy black racial identities and the emotional and social well-being of black children' (432) who often meet race hatred and an unsuitable curriculum. Lived experiences and counter stories must be used instead, and the 'specific formations of anti-blackness' inherent in opposition must be analysed. Some policies simply backfire, for example offering attractive resources in order to persuade white parents to send their kids to black schools compounds anti-blackness. Desegregated schools threatened to reduce the mechanisms black people used to cope with prejudice, such as cultural pluralism.

School discipline 'has become the new equity issue' (434) as black students are affected disproportionately even when controlling for socio-economic status. Their 'bodies, clothing, choices and spoken and body language'   are at the centre of struggle over the required 'docile bodily presence  and the intonation and homogeneous syntax of Standard English'. We must also understand the symbolic role of discipline in schools, where the authority of the state is exercised, and kids experience 'racialised state repression' including the threat of police violence. Again Tupac Shaker is quoted. The dissonance between policies and practices should be emphasised. [Not at all sure what is being advocated here then that black bodies should not be disciplined? Only black bodies?]

Assata Shakur has written a poem [!] To celebrate black resistance in music and in various public demonstrations, advocating that the tradition is carried on, not just in street demos but also in 'Love for loud colours and love voices… Sagging pants, hoodie's, and corner store candies… Gold grills and belly laughs' dreams, free flow of language, educational imagination (436)

[All this describes black American subcultures really, and as the various quotes from songs indicates, these are quite commercially valuable]