Whiteness and Racism

This page has links leading to notes (NB -- these are my notes -- go off and read the real things). on articles discussing various aspects of the recent debates about critical race theory (CRT), its notions of whiteness as 'epistemic' and its discussions about how to disrupt such whiteness in policy and in research. I have focused on educational research and practice in particular, and they have been pursued in two rather specific and possibly arbitrary ways:

(a) The debates about teaching race and racism that occupied 4 volumes of  a series produced by a QUANGO called C-SAP, designed to  focus on teaching and learning in the social sciences in UK Higher Education. That series, and some associated conferences, were instrumental in introducing Critical Race Theory (CRT) to me, and possibly lots of other UK academics, and led to a more general interest in the issues.

(b) A recent special issue of a journal on educational research (International Journal of Research and Method in Education) which proposed to focus on 'racially-just' and 'post-colonial'  epistemologies, to move forward to do actual non-racist or anti-racist research. I gathered that  there was some controversy about this special issue, however. Indeed, the whole area has become controversial, and I pursued some of the background debates, such as the controversies over the recent Sewell Report on racism in the UK. Any critics clearly run the risk of being accused of still being enmeshed in some kind of racism, possibly epistemic racism, which is sometimes seen as all-encompassing and almost impossible for white people to break with. I must run that risk myself, even with my preferred approach which is 'immanent critique' -- taking the claims made by the writers themselves and investigating them critically rather than using some alternative approach to raise doubts, in so far as that is possible

These foci will not produce a systematic review of the field, of course which is massive anyway. I am a retired academic: I have let myself off the task of producing such a review. I tended to snowball -- if I saw an interesting piece cited in a work I was reading anyway, I looked it up. To cite a minor annoyance, I cannot access free copies of all the articles in the Journal until  the publisher's embargo is lifted in 18 months, and then possibly not even then, so finance may affect my sampling technique! (I could afford the exorbitant fees Taylor and Francis charge to read their journal articles but I don't know that I want to). I offer these notes as possible steps to interest any readers.

I intend to keep adding material to these sections, so keep coming back. These are only rough subdivisions.

I have summarised some of my own thoughts in an unpublished critical discussion: Counterstories, Critical Race Theory, and Symbolic Violence.

Critical Race Theory -- more general debates

Bell on civil rights -- an early but devastating critique of the defeat of civil rights movements in the USA. One of the sources of the turn to CRT. Also used fictional 'chronicles' as an early 'counterstory'
Birthrights -- a lengthy report on claims of systemic racism in UK maternity services, mostly qualitative
Blackcrit -- an argument within CRT focusing specifically on blackness as a cultural development. Covers some criticisms on emphasis on the black/white binary in CRT
Black educational underachievement in the UK -- a review of official UK statistics over 25 years by Gillborn et al., but still informed by CRT on institutional racism
CRT and quantitative research -- argues for no incompatibility with quantitative modelling, no exclusive focus on qualitative research, and gives some interesting examples of non-dominant cultural capital
Fraser on the politics of identity -- an eminent feminist raises some problems with zero-sum approaches and suggests an alternative model
Gillborn et al -- submission to Sewell, containing useful criticisms, especially of the emphasis on underachieving white working class boys qualifying  for free school meals
Kennedy on CRT -- an early, lengthy and copiously-referenced refutation of CRT attacks on US legal academia. Very generalisable to CRT in education and social science
Ladson-Billings -- an early piece on CRT and education. Very informative, influential and much borrowed and cited. Lots of overlap with the piece below
Ladson-Billings and Tate --another  much-cited foundational piece introducing CRT to education from legal scholarship, showing serious limitations compared to social science methodology
Marmot Review 2020 -- on health inequalities during Covid-19, including those affecting BAME groups and arguing 'structural racism' was a 'cause of [the other socioeconomic] causes'
Microaggressions -- a devastating critique of the concept and the methods that underpin the main research supporting applications in eg campus codes of conduct
Plan4Sport -- recent well-publicised review on institutional racism in Cricket Scotland consisting of weak positivist 'research' and managerial paper-shuffling
Pluckrose -- Demystifying Critical Race Theory.-- a post on her campaigning Counterweight blog. A condensed version of the critical arguments in Pluckrose and Lindsay on CRT and its evolution
Racism in UK HE -- a polemical piece based on 'othering' in a study in a 1992 UK university
Runnymede Trust survey on racial prejudice in Britain 2017 -- marvellous examples of positivism
Sewell -- the UK Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities 2021 arguing that socioeconomic and geographical inequalities were as, if not more, important than 'racial' differences. Furious responses -- eg D. Olusaga in the Guardian, joining Sewell to Farage and various Conservative politicians criticising 'woke' and 'gesture politics':

The most audacious culture war play of 2021 was the publication in March of the Sewell report, a cynical attempt to dismiss the importance and even the existence of structural racism and pit poor black people against poor white people in a zero-sum game for resources and legitimacy. Characterised by the government’s supporters as a piece of work that would reframe the national conversation around race, this masterclass in gaslighting began to disintegrate within hours of publication...What the Sewell report came up against were the very people from whom it had drawn its evidence, the experts across many fields who rapidly dissected the report line by line, showing how their work had been misinterpreted or misrepresented. [The link in the article led to the Marmot Review 2020 which criticised Sewell but not totally dismissively as you can see if you follow the link above]

Structural Racism and Anti-Racism in the UK -- lots of recent controversial popular material of pretty debatable quality as evidence
Tikley -- critical analysis of the Sewell Report defending antiracism (and see Tikley on critical realism below)
Whiteness as property -- a very influential early piece full of dreadful stories of how the law in USA history consolidated white supremacy as property. Less applicable to modern UK  and intellectual property though?
White fragility -- a good explanation and argument about this concept, which is sometimes used tactically, allegedly, to resist anti-racist arguments
Wilfred Reilly page -- listing a collection of mostly short magazine articles by this US critic of BLM and CRT. Polemical but well-argued, and based on methodological critiques
Working class white underachievement -- one of several contributions on this apparent counter to the emphasis on black Caribbean underachievement. Good on redistributive justice as zero-sum game.
YMCA Report -- on experience of institutional racism by young black people in the UK. Testimony based with some tactical support from official statistics. Hints of role of social media?

Debates with marxism
Cole -- an early salvo against CRT and Gillborn in particular.
Gillborn's reply to Cole -- one of them (equally early). So far, each have accused the other of reductionism -- to class and race respectively -- and avoided some telling examples raised by each other
Walton --brings us up to date, summarises the issues very well and suggests a 'nuanced' marxism in response -- which looks a lot like old-fashioned gramscianism of the 1990s (ie please buy my 1992 book)

Black Middle Class (BMC)  and school choice -- one of a series on the BMC arising from a large research project. BMC parents balance strategically between race and class when choosing a 'good mix'. NB uses Bourdieu on social class as a matter of possessing various 'capitals', not orthodox marxism as in the debates with the marxists above
BMC at the intersection of class and race -- another in the series, a very good discussion of the 'liminality' of Black socially mobile people classically caught between two social classes, and raced as well
BMC educational strategies -- same series: coping with class liminality and  racism specifically with schools and teachers
Bourdieu, race and class -- a small case-study but prefaced with a useful discussion of Bourdieu which helps with the longer pieces above
Disability and racism -- some controversial connections explored through concepts like 'erasure' and 'colonisation'
Dis/ability and CRT -- some positive proposals (in the form of tenets)  for 'DisCrit'
Gillborn on the primacy of race -- the intersection of race and learning disability in the big study on the BMC) which reveals (contestable) claims of  the primacy of race nonetheless
Intersectionality -- Crenshaw's foundational proposals for intersectional research on black women combining antiracism and feminism. Two lengthy articles on case law. Excellent case studies Good on identity politics and 'vulgar social constructionist' critiques. Badly misunderstood by some critics of the concept. Notes on a You Tube talk too

Disrupting whiteness, decolonizing, indigenous knowledge as an alternative epistemology

Anti-racist research
-- introduction to an early collection I came across, which sets out the usual aims and claims rather idealistically
Bartlett and Vavrus -- on comparative case study, interesting in its own right, generally critical rather than specifically antiracist, claimed as somehow supporting the transhiphop study below (it doesn't really)
BIPOC oral history -- developed as a counter to conventional White oral history. A piece in the special edition.
Being woke-- three sistas of colour tell how they resisted white supremacy in US HEIs using counterstories ('collaborative autoethnography') and solidarity
Carter and Jocson -- critical strategies to uncover racism via da Silva, with good applications to a university statement about policy (an article in the special edition)
CRT in (US) higher education -- a review of studies of students and Faculty 'of colour' inspired by CRT. Interesting and controversial methods to tell counterstories of experiences.
Da Silva -- blackness as matter, positive substance, not just 'not-whiteness' (very obscure and pseudy way to get there though, after Fanon or Irigaray both rejected the binary not-white/male long ago)
Decolonising methodologies -- notes on Linda Tuhiwai Smith's classic and much-cited discussion. It's about New Zealand, so a very different context from the USA or UK for racism
Delgado -- a classic piece on how stories and counterstories act as effective ways to counter official neutral discourses (mostly in law in his case)
Epistemic disobedience -- a main concept from Mignolo (together with 'delinking' and 'border thinking'). Cited many times. Three articles summarised here. The actual stuff is on a very broad scale, about Third World thinking. Some good examples of indigenous thinkers, but I think they are better grasped as 'border' thinkers between two cultures
Feminist educational research on British Pakistani women -- methodological and ethical dilemmas encountered earlier by S. Rizvi (Rizvi is an editor of the special edition)
Négritude -- notes on a short piece in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy filling out the very brief mention of this concept in the hiphop pedagogy piece.
Pláticas -- principles of a Chicana/Latina research method mentioned by Carter and Jocson and Rizvi in her Intro (but never developed). Community discussion based.
Rizvi's Introduction to the special edition on racially just epistemologies and those that disrupt whiteness
Scheurich and Young -- often-cited classic early piece on epistemological/epistemic racism/whiteness
Tikley on critical realism -- mostly about international education, but some good arguments about empiricism which seems to support the critical work on racism. Contradictory implications overall though?
Transhiphop pedagogy in Senegal -- one of the pieces in the special edition claiming to show 'epistemic disobedience' among Senegalese youth. Very condensed version of Niati's doctoral dissertation (notes here)
Visual elicitation in focus groups -- claims that showing a mildly racist video as a prompt disrupts the whiteness inherent in normal focus groups (also in the special edition)

Teaching 'race' in (mostly) HE -- some dilemmas from practice

Ellsworth -- a brilliant classic early study designing a university course using critical pedagogy to tackle institutional racism -- and the contradictions it generated
Denying whiteness -- very good piece by Picower on how white teachers resist 'multicultural' education courses during training
Research and Practice Partnerships -- a case-study which claims to show racist undertones to discussions in a US RPP, using 'counterstories' of microaggressions. One in the special edition. One of several critiques of white people's 'niceness' as a diversionary technique to manage discussions of racism
Student understandings of racism -- a small survey-based study of US students, a useful model as a preliminary guide to teaching?
Teacher expectations review -- a recent survey of work in this field, with useful discussion of the complications. Not particularly focused on race though, but good critical implications eg for the YMCA report
Teaching indigenous knowledge -- a newspaper article reporting New Zealand practice and dilemmas
Woke pedagogy -- very brief intro, written earlier by A Caldera (an editor of the special edition)


I've recorded some informal audio podcasts on my personal experiences, views and asides, available here