whiteness in racial dialogue a discourse analysis l.
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Whiteness in Racial Dialogue: A Discourse Analysis. Robin DiAngelo, PhD. Presentation Overview. Theoretical Overview The Problem The Study Findings Discussion Questions. Theoretical Overview of Racism.

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Presentation Transcript
presentation overview
Presentation Overview
  • Theoretical Overview
  • The Problem
  • The Study
  • Findings
  • Discussion Questions
theoretical overview of racism
Theoretical Overview of Racism

Racism encompasses economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between white people and people of color (Hilliard, 1992)

  • Racism is relational and has two primary functions
    • Oppression of people of color
    • Elevation of white people(Roediger, 1998; Razack, 1998; Sleeter, 1993; Sue, 2003)
  • Whiteness Studies focuses on the latter function
whiteness studies
Whiteness Studies
  • Whiteness scholars theorize racism as a set of relationships that is historically, culturally, and politically produced(Dyer, 1997; Frankenberg, 2001; Hilliard, 1992; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1998)
  • Racism exists today, in both traditional and newer, less explicit forms. It is unbounded and ever present(Apple, 1997; Bell, 1993; Bonilla-Silva 2004; Tatum, 2001; Van Dijk,1992)
whiteness studies6
Whiteness Studies
  • The question is not did racism take place? but …
  • In which ways did racism manifest in this specific context?
the problem
The Problem
  • Demographic disconnect between teachers and the students they teach(National Center for Educational Statistics, 2002; Suarez-Orozco, 2000)
  • White student-teachers often have had limited opportunities to hear alternative racial perspectives

“… the difficulty I always run into working with…white people is that they stop seeing some things as racist. It’s not necessarily someone hanging from a tree or being beaten out in the street, but an assumption, or all the white people going first or all the white people talking … how people identify themselves or present history, or the ways that they interact in groups and how they discuss things … things that to me are more powerful because they affect the situation that I'm in…”

(facilitator of color)

how do white student teachers talk about race with students of color
How do white student-teachers talk about race with students of color?
  • How do they respond to racial perspectives different from their own?
  • How do they respond when their perspectives and positions are challenged by alternative perspectives?
research objectives
Research Objectives
  • Describe and analyze these processes and practices in active manifestation
  • Make problematic inter-racial group dynamics more recognizable
methodology discourse analysis
Methodology: Discourse Analysis
  • The study of language use in social contexts (Gee, 1999)
  • Concerned with how ideologies are communicated (Evans, 2002; Gee, 1999; Van Dijk, 1993)
methodology procedures
Methodology: Procedures
  • 13 Participants:
    • 8 white students
    • 5 students of color
  • Interracial facilitation team
  • Four 2-hour sessions
  • Observed, audio and video taped
findings key discourses
Findings: Key Discourses
  • Individualism: denies impact of group membership; denies history (Flax, 2000)
  • Universalism: posits white perspectives as objective and representative (Dyer, 1997)
  • Personal Experience: posits racial perspectives as internal and private (Allen & Cloyes, 2005; DiAngelo & Allen, 2006)

“As a white person, I find it difficult to say that I’m white. I don’t feel white. I think it’s a really strange blanket term that doesn’t… encompass anything about myself that I really relate to.”

(white female)

how does individualism function
How does Individualism function?
  • Denies the significance of race and advantages of being white
  • Hides the accumulation of wealth over generations
  • Denies social and historical context
  • Prevents a macro analysis of the institutional and structural dimensions of social life
  • Denies collective socialization and the power of dominant culture (media, education, religion, etc.) to shape our perspectives and ideology
  • Functions as neo-colorblindness and reproduces myth of meritocracy
  • Makes collective action difficult
individualism vs universalism
Individualism vs. Universalism
  • Whereas Individualism denies race by positing that we are each unique and do not share a collective (racial) experience…
  • Universalism denies race by positing that we are all the same (“under the skin”) andunited by a shared (non-racial) experience

“There's another level, though, that's below that, below the level of groups too, that's human. I'm sort of a spiritual person, and I guess I don't identify with being part of a group... But I also think that there are ways to transcend that - to be more in tune with what's human instead of what's only white.”

(white male)

how does universalism function
How does Universalism function?
  • Only accorded to Whites
  • Sets White perspectives up as the reference point for humanity, allowing White experience to stand-in for human experience while setting up people of Color as defined by, and limited to, their racial location
  • Denies the significance of race and advantages of being white
  • Functions as a form of neo-colorblindness
personal experience
Personal Experience

“I think it depends on the individual experience. And since we’re all speaking from personal experience… it’s a personal thing and we know what we have perceived... And so if that’s what you want to say, then that’s what you should be able to say.”

(white female)

how does personal experience function
How does “Personal Experience” function?
  • Positions experience as private, thereby de-politicizing racial interplay
  • Closes off and protects racial positions from explication by invoking a “sacredness” to experience that blocks further examination
  • Posits perspectives as the product of a discrete individual, outside of socialization, rather than as the product of multidimensional social interaction
  • References the individual as the evidential warrant for racial realities. Since whites don’t “experience” racism, we aren’t accountable for it
  • What is one “highlight” for you from this presentation?
  • How have you seen these discourses manifesting in your classroom discussions?
  • How have you invoked them yourself?
  • What is at stake in challenging these discourses? For you? For your students?

LAURA (POC): I did notice that some White people identify themselves with their class before they said they were White. Not everybody, but I did notice that with some.

TIFFANY (W): As a White person, I find it difficult to say that I’m White. I don’t feel White. I think it’s a really strange blanket term that doesn’t really encompass anything about myself that I really relate to. And I think it’s really arbitrary and strange, so I definitely have a hard time even articulating that word sometimes. I guess I have a hard time coughing that up. So I don’t- I- I say European-American because I feel more European than I do American; that’s for sure.

LAURA (POC): Well, one thing I was thinking was that you may not necessarily connect the word “White” with your experience, but people of color definitely think you’re White.

TIFFANY (W): Right.

LAURA (POC): And I notice your Whiteness.

TIFFANY (W): Mm-hmm. Right. Right. I-

LAURA (POC): And so that’s part of, like, taking ownership.

TIFFANY (W): I’m uncomfortable with the label “White” based on what I have learned that people of color perceive “White” to mean and represent. That’s what makes me uncomfortable with it. I don’t want to be classified as White when I know that with that comes a whole lot of, uh, angry history toward, you know, White people and- or, you know, crummy stereotypes that I don’t believe I fit into. So I’m uncomfortable being associated with what I perceive to be the common perception of what “White” is.

RICH (POC): But European-Americans are White.

TIFFANY (W): I mean, I guess I feel like-

RICH (POC): Well, she said that she felt comfortable identifying herself as a European-American. European-Americans are White. Columbus, Pizarro, all these guys that came from Italy and Spain and all over, um, they’re all White. They’re all European-American. When I- when I look at you, I see a White person.

TIFFANY (W): But the term “White” conjures up different feelings, I think, in people who are European-American, from my perspective.

when white people say
When white people say:

“I don’t see color.”


“ We should live in a colorblind society”

“What they’re actually saying is:

I refuse to deal with how our culture and society treats people of color because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to understand how having a different skin color or ethnicity affects other people because that means I would have to think and consider other points of view. What I want is to not have to think. I prefer to believe I live in a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. I am part of the problem with race relations, not its great savior.”

Just so you know.

“the angry black woman” (http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com)

findings future research
Depth and role of Individualism

What effect do longer-term dialogues have? How is meaning made over time?

How do we prepare for sustained engagement?

What is the impact of MCEd

courses on SOC?

How do class and gender mediate racial discourse?

FindingsFuture Research

Effect of multicultural education courses

The role of Personal Experience Discourse