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Department of Sociology, Humboldt State University
Approaches to Diversity Education A Critical Assessment
Author(s): Thomas W. Brignall III and Thomas L. Van Valey
Source: Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, Vol. 39, Special Issue 39: Diversity & Social
Justice in Higher Education (2017), pp. 117-127
Published by: Department of Sociology, Humboldt State University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/90007875
Accessed: 13-12-2017 01:43 UTC
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Department of Sociology, Humboldt State University is collaborating with JSTOR to
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Approaches to Diversity Education:
A Critical Assessment
Thomas W. Brignall III, Lewis University
Thomas L. Van Valey, Western Michigan University
The idea that differences in race, gender, religion, sexuality, age, or other categories deemed unworthy of group
inclusion shouldn’t matter when it comes to people’s access to all that a society has to offer, is central to the
teaching of diversity. Diversity courses can be powerful vehicles, not only for teaching students about social
change and reclaiming the principles of past and present civil rights leaders, but also for refuting the notion
that we already live in a largely egalitarian society. This paper examines what a small sample of diversity texts
employ with respect to key concepts and definitions. It also makes recommendations for changes and tools to
help move the discussion from diversity and tolerance to inclusion and social justice. Lastly, it argues that there
is need for specific training for faculty who teach about diversity in order for them to be prepared for some of
the critical questions they will be asked by their students.
Keywords: diversity, critical pedagogy, content analysis, textbooks
O
ne of the basic missions of
Sociology is to understand
diversity and explain its
impacts, both positive and
negative, on the world in
which our students live. The American
Sociological Association’s Task Force on the
Undergraduate Major makes this clear in
recommending that all Sociology curricula
should “…underscore the centrality of race, class
and gender in society and in sociological
analysis” (McKinney et al. 2004:18). That same
report calls for students to be exposed to content
that is “…multicultural, cross-national, and
cross-cultural” (McKinney et al. 2004:19). Thus,
teaching about diversity is simply at the core of
the discipline.
Teaching about diversity, however, is not
without challenges, both for the teacher and for
the students. The teacher, often depending on the
type of institution, may be faced with either a
class full of highly homogeneous students or
highly diverse ones. These extremes of
composition may require the teacher to be aware
of widely different teaching/learning styles.
Similarly, all students come to each class with
unique experiences and perspectives on the
world. The teacher needs to become familiar with
the students’ perspectives to respond critically to
their positions.
In the following sections, we briefly review
the notion of critical pedagogy, then present a
synopsis of our analysis of a set of diversity
textbooks, focusing on concepts that we believe
are essential–white identity and privilege, colorblindness, and the nature of the definitions that
are employed. This is followed by
recommendations that we believe can improve
the teaching of cultural diversity.
One Purpose of Diversity Education–Critical
Pedagogy
Freire’s early statement of critical pedagogy
appeared in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970).
Since then, several authors have built on his
philosophical
foundation
(Postman
and
Weingartner 1971; Shor 1987; Mayo 1999). For
example, Giroux (1988) argued there was a shift
in the 1980s that was part of the conservative
agenda, and involved a movement away from
issues of equity and justice to a focus on
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Page 118
conservative values. He further contended that
there was little concern with how public
education would prepare students to understand
the sociopolitical forces that influence their
futures.
In the recent edition of his classic, Freire
(2000) states clearly, “There is no neutral
education. Education is either for domestication
or for freedom” (p.vi). Following in that
tradition, but to a sociological audience, Howard
(2010) asserted that teaching is not a neutral act.
Rather, teaching is highly political, and teacher
actions can contribute to or hinder the
development of student identities. It is not
unreasonable to further assert that a liberal
education should have a primary goal of assisting
students to develop their critical thinking skills
and independent worldviews (Bourdieu 1973;
Reynolds 2011; Watanabe-Crockett 2015). Thus,
from a critical pedagogy standpoint, education is
in part about encouraging students
to embrace change, and in part about
challenging
the
dominating
elements of society (Shor 1987;
Giroux 1988; hooks 1994). This
strategy focuses on helping students
embrace critical thinking, and
assisting them in the development
of the skills necessary to evaluate
the varied perspectives that exist on
any issue they will encounter.
When a teacher adopts a critical
pedagogy approach, students are
more likely to gain respect not only
for their own knowledge and
experience, but for the knowledge
and experience of others. The
assertion is that students learn most when they
are an active part of the learning process.
Similarly, teachers must also view the student’s
knowledge as a viable and an important part of
their educational development. Unlike Socrates,
who expected his students to use questioning to
arrive at what he thought was the right answer,
teachers embracing critical pedagogy understand
there are multiple answers to most issues.
Moreover, they recognize that an important part
of education is the recognition of the value of the
students’ interpretational journeys. While we do
not think a critical pedagogical approach in its
purest form is currently practical (e.g., Freire
2000), there are elements of critical pedagogy
that can and should be incorporated into the
classroom.
One of the important elements of critical
pedagogy relevant to any class, especially one
centered on diversity, is the textbook and/or other
reading materials the teacher chooses for his/her
students. How the teacher makes that decision
and what criteria s/he employs can help
determine the effectiveness of the course and the
learning that takes place within it. In that context,
the Department of Sociology was tasked with
revising an introductory-level course on cultural
diversity so it would match the needs of a new
general education curriculum. We were faced
with selecting a textbook that met the desired
content of the course, yet also provided the
students with the multiple perspectives that are
required for critical thinking and analysis.
Choosing a Textbook for Cultural Diversity
The text to be selected would be used in all
sections of the cultural diversity course
(routinely eighteen per semester, with class sizes
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DIVERSITY EDUCATION
from 25-35). The basic content requirement was
for the text to cover at the very least the topics of
race, class, gender, and sexuality. The
department also thought it was critical that the
text contain ample current, real world examples.
Other considerations were cost, publication date,
and student support materials. To inform our
selection, we looked at how each text presented
the key concepts and definitions we felt were
important in teaching students about cultural
diversity: white identity and privilege, colorblindness, biological definitions and stereotypes.
We began by ordering books from publishers that
might apply. When they arrived one of the three
members of the department reviewed it to
determine if the content was minimally
acceptable. We eliminated the texts that did not
cover the minimum required topics, and focused
only
on
the
following
ten
texts:
Bakanic 2009: Prejudice: Attitudes About
Race, Class, and Gender
Feagin and Feagin 2012: Racial and Ethnic
Relations, Census Update
Healey and O’Brien 2014: Race, Ethnicity,
Gender, and Class: The Sociology
of Group Conflict and Change
Healey 2014: Diversity and Society: Race,
Ethnicity, and Gender
Marger 2011: Race and Ethnic Relations:
American and Global Perspectives
McLemore and Romo 2005: Racial and
Ethnic Relations in America
Meer 2013: Key Concepts in Race and
Ethnicity
Parrillo 2014: Strangers to These Shores
Schaefer 2014: Race and Ethnic Groups
Scupin 2012: Race and Ethnicity: The United
States and the World
White Identity and Privilege
Two related key concepts we believe critical
to the discussion of racial diversity are white
identity and privilege. We contend that it is
simply impossible for students to understand
racial and other forms of diversity and their
impact in the United States without engaging
these key concepts. Questions with which
students often struggle include: when did the
concept of white become important; what does
middle class mean; and is there such a thing as
gay culture?
Within the texts reviewed, Healey and
O’Brien (2014) addressed white identity only
once. They defined it as “a racial privilege that is
largely invisible to whites because, unlike
minority group members, they don’t have to deal
with its restrictions. Our racist cultural traditions
make whiteness normal, the standard against
which others are contrasted and differentiated”
(p. 25). Parrillo (2014) addressed white identity
indirectly, but did not formally cover it. He did,
however, briefly note how Senator Dillingham,
in the congressional commission hearings on
immigration between 1907 and 1911, used the
same arguments that are being used today in
regards to recent immigrants (Parrillo 2014).
Some of the other texts did address elements of
white identity, but only with a paragraph or two
(Bakanic 2009; Marger 2011; Schaefer 2014),
while other texts (Healey and O’Brien 2014;
Parrillo 2014) did provide a few basic examples
of white privilege. Overall, however, little space
was dedicated to the concept of white identity,
especially in Feagin and Feagin (2012), Healey
(2014), McLemore and Romo (2005), Meer
(2013), and Scupin (2012).
Focusing first on race, many white students
find it difficult to understand the notion of white
privilege, and a paragraph or two are simply not
enough to deal with the nuances of such a key
concept (Healey and O’Brien 2014; Healey
2014; Parrillo 2014; Schaefer 2014; and Scupin
2012). White male students in particular often
grapple with the fact that they have never been
consciously concerned about their skin color or
their gender when interacting with others.
Moreover, they often do not understand how this
might be a problem for those students who are
not white or male. However, when students are
able to recognize such examples of privilege, and
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they are asked to review their own lives to
identify times when privilege may have benefited
them (or at the very least did not hinder them), it
is then that they truly begin to understand
privilege (Harlow 2009).
Of course, the notion of privilege can easily
be expanded to gender, class, sexuality, age,
physical condition, or to any of the intersections
of those characteristics. Nevertheless, none of the
texts reviewed developed the concept of
privilege, and none had a section that tried to
explain
how
impactful
privilege
or
intersectionality is on the full range of current
social inequalities. The focus typically was either
on class or race. However, even in those contexts,
students often react to a discussion of privilege
by saying things such as, “How can I be
privileged–my family is poor?” “My family
doesn’t own a nice home, I don’t feel privileged”
“My family wasn’t part of slavery” or “I don’t
hate anyone” (Bonilla-Silva and Foreman 2000).
Many college-level students simply do not
understand how privileged they are, especially
given the fact that a majority of Americans do not
have college degrees (Ryan and Bauman 2016).
Dealing with the concept of privilege also
involves helping the students understand that it is
easier to navigate through life when one or more
aspect of one’s identity (e.g., one’s skin color or
sex or physical condition–or combination) is not
in question. A teacher can ask those white
students who are struggling with the concept of
white privilege, “Do you ever go to the mall and
worry if the staff are going to follow you, because
you are white?” or “Do you worry about being
pulled over by a police officer?” While Gandbhir
and Foster’s (2015) discussion of the need for
every black family to have a conversation with
their sons and daughters on how to act around the
police is not surprising to the students of color,
white students are often shocked. They do not
realize that for persons of color, regardless of
how educated, law abiding, or wealthy they are,
the police are often to be feared and not trusted.
The same approach applies to privilege based
on sex, gender, physical condition, or sexuality.
For women, it may be “Can you walk alone at
night, or go to a party, without worrying about
being assaulted?” For students who use
wheelchairs, it may be “Is there a ramp into the
building, or an elevator?” It may even be “Which
restroom can I use?” When students start to
wrestle with such perspectives, they begin to
understand that many of them have managed to
avoid barriers that others must routinely face.
Moreover, they begin to comprehend that while
they may not be directly oppressing others, and
might even be strongly in favor of equality, if
they do nothing, they effectively support
structural and institutional discrimination. They
realize that ignoring privilege, and thus
inequality, ultimately allows inequality to
continue.
Color-blindness
Another key concept, which generalizes from
race to other characteristics, is color-blindness.
In reference to race, Bonilla-Silva (2006)
identifies four central frames of color-blind
racism: 1) abstract liberalism, 2) naturalization,
3) cultural racism, and 4) minimization of racism.
Abstract liberalism is the Jeffersonian idea of
simple meritocracy—without the critical analysis
of the fact that white males usually are the ones
on the top. Naturalization is the belief that
whatever bad or good things happen, it was
simply natural, and thus, the way things are and
should be. Cultural racism is the belief that while
biology may no longer explain racial inequalities,
culture still does. Therefore, it is not race per se
(or sex or sexuality or physical condition) that
holds back an individual or a group’s success.
Instead, it is their cultural practices that are
responsible. Finally, minimization of racism
occurs when individuals suggest that things are
better than they were in the past (which in fact is
the case—and which makes this approach even
more difficult to confront).
When asked about color blindness, majority
and/or male students often point to their own
successes, anecdotal evidence, and so-called
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DIVERSITY EDUCATION
“model minorities” (e.g., Colin Powell or Barack
Obama) and use it as “evidence” that
discrimination and inequality no longer exist.
Regardless of the rationale used, however, this
kind of color-blindness helps to preserve
attitudes that deny negative experiences, reject
cultural heritage, and invalidate unique
perspectives. Indeed, color-blind racists claim
not to see race or experience racial inequalities,
even when presented with convincing data to the
contrary (Cabrera 2014). The same logic applies
equally well to sex, or other inequalities. Most of
the texts (Parrillo 2014; Bakanic 2009; Feagin
and Feagin 2012; Marger 2011; McLemore and
Romo 2005; Schaefer 2014) do not include
colorblindness beyond a brief mention. There
were a few texts that did include colorblind
racism (e.g., Healey and O’Brien 2014; Scupin
2012), but those typically spend little space
discussing its implications.
As we reviewed the texts, this raised the
question: without including material that
addresses a particular problem, how can a text
expect students to comprehend that such a
problem exists? For example, it is clear that the
contributions of females and minorities (let
alone, minority females) are under-represented in
high school history textbooks (Bradburn 2015).
Furthermore, no state requires history teacher
candidates to have a major or minor in history to
teach history (Wong 2015). If high school
textbooks are inaccurate, and the history teachers
did not get trained in history, then it is reasonable
to be concerned about what the students have
been taught incorrectly, or perhaps not taught at
all. This is what Bonilla-Silva and Forman
(2000) contends moves toward the rewriting of
history. Our position is that any textbook tackling
race, class, sex, or gender relations in the United
States needs both historical and current facts as
well as documented examples of systemic
attempts to ignore history, by misrepresenting the
facts or rewriting history. That way, students can
read first-hand that social inequality is still a
current and predominant issue in American
society.
Biological Definitions and Stereotypes
Most of the texts reviewed still reflect a
biological approach in their definition of the core
concept of race (Bakanic 2009; Feagin and
Feagin 2012; Healey and O’Brien 2014; Marger
2011; McLemore and Romo 2005; Parrillo 2014;
Schaefer 2014; Scupin 2012). While they are all
explicitly critical of biological and genetic
definitions of race, they do not frame these
definitions as either outdated or incorrect. For
example, Parrillo (2014) defines race as “a
categorization in which people sharing visible
biological characteristics regard themselves or
are regarded by others as a single group on that
basis” (p. 10). He further states: “…racism is the
linking of biological conditions with alleged
abilities and behaviors to assert the superiority of
one race” (Parillo 2014:10). While this kind of
definition is certainly part of the story, it is
oversimplified, and can easily mislead students
to focus on biology. We feel any definition of
race should include cultural and social
construction concepts, as well as a sociohistorical discussion of pseudo-scientific
definitions.
Even the cultural view of race can be
discussed in biological terms. The misguided
notion that cultures are absolute, unchangeable,
and define the individual is nothing new and
should be avoided. One of the common
arguments is that physical characteristics like
skin color and cranial profile depend on
geography, nutrition, and custom (Junker 1998).
In contrast, many genetic researchers argue that
there is simply no correlation between race and
genetics (Lee, Mountain, and Koenig 2001;
Wood 2001; Burchard et al. 2003; Olson 2001).
Even those that think there is a connection
(Schwartz 2001; Mountain and Risch 2004),
contend that studying the genetic variances of
race primarily makes sense only in terms of
looking for cures for diseases. According to
Schwartz (2001), there is simply no scientific
support for the notion that human populations are
discrete, non-overlapping entities.
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Some of the textbooks (Schaefer 2014;
Healey and O’Brien 2015; Feagin and Feagin
2012, Parrillo 2014) do discuss certain cultural
stereotypes and how they are socially constructed
as negative when they are framed in the context
of a minority group (e.g., being frugal and
Jewish). At the same time, they are considered
hallmarks of maturity and success when viewed
through the lens of white identity. However, all
of the texts need more developed analyses of
stereotypes. Unfortunately, Hetley and Eberhardt
(2014) warn that asking whites to grapple with
racial disparities in the criminal justice system
may actually prompt people to support the very
policies that produce those disparities. One
contrasting approach is to present mass
incarceration rates with the numbers for whites
exchanged with those for blacks. Then, when the
students are dispersed into small groups, give
them the real data and ask them to analyze it and
discover that the numbers were in fact flipped.
This tends to produce student responses that are
far different from those reported by Hetley and
Eberhardt (2014).
Recommendations for Change
There are several changes that would increase
the support cultural diversity texts would provide
a teacher. One is purely structural. Whether
intentional or not, all the texts reviewed followed
the “group of the week” approach. As a rule, they
are all organized into a series of separate chapters
on individual groups–that is, American Indians,
Asian Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic
Americans, women, LGBTQ, and the elderly.
None of them deal with any of the
intersectionality that exists. Moreover, not only
do all the texts divide the chapters similarly, they
spend little time deconstructing the problems that
exist with these broad categories. For example,
none of the texts have any discussion of how
frequently people from Northern African nations
such as Egypt and Libya are identified as white,
or what it means to be of African descent in
places like Puerto Rico, Brazil, Haiti, and the
Bahamas. In addition to intersectionality, we
believe that future authors must deal with the
impossibility that such broad groups as African
(or Hispanic or Asian) are monolithic in nature.
We also encourage textbook publishers to
include discussion exercises where students
debate some of the differences among various
groups. For example, why do many more whites
than blacks believe greater progress has been
made toward racial equality (Norton and
Sommers 2011)? Discussing comparative
incarceration rates between the United States and
other industrialized nations is another approach.
This could be followed by discussing inequalities
in U.S. incarceration rates (Schlesinger 2007;
Stolzenberg, D’Alessio, and Eitle 2013; Sutton
2013; Kutateladze et al. 2014). These kinds of
approaches would help students ground what are
otherwise abstract concepts.
One way to challenge the notion that
inequality, prejudice, and oppression are all part
of the natural order of things is to provide
students with information on some of the social
changes that indeed have occurred. Vala and
Costa-Lopes (2010) argue that courses on
diversity should focus on openness and change.
They contend that most of the strategies
considered in the literature targeting prejudiced
attitudes spend too little time on change.
Similarly, Moulder (1997) found “little
systematic inquiry into the dynamics of struggle
between dominant and subordinate groups, and
the causes of subordinate group success or
failure” (p. iv). Indeed, Moulder (1997) puts
much of the responsibility for advocating change
squarely on academia. For him, despite
affirmative action and mission statements
endorsing diversity, academic institutions have a
largely white teaching staff, which does not
reflect the growing diversity of the student
population in the United States.
Of the ten texts reviewed, few confronted
social change directly, and none presented a
detailed example of how changes have taken
place. We believe it is necessary for students to
see how change occurs–the steps in the process,
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DIVERSITY EDUCATION
the difficulty, the time involved, and the
sacrifices people make. Indeed, many students
appear to believe nothing can change; that certain
behaviors are “natural” and can’t be modified.
We suspect that much of this kind of thinking is
because they have not been exposed to examples
of successful struggles. All the texts reviewed did
include brief examples, but students would
benefit from material dedicated to at least one of
the recent egalitarian social movements (e.g.,
race, sexuality). This could detail the origins of
the movement, the many people involved, the
challenges, the organization needed, and the
various aspects of how the group(s) involved
were able to elicit change in attitudes, and
eventually create laws and modify public
behavior. Whatever the movement, students need
to understand that things can and do change, how
long it generally takes for those changes to occur,
and how important it is for people to donate their
time, money, and energy to see those movements
through.
We also agree with Lowry (2016) that
students can be active participants in fighting
against oppression. We do not ask them to give
up their own privilege. Instead, we ask them to
demand a society where all the occupants have
the same privilege. That is what “colorblind” is
supposed to be but seldom is. Part of the path to
action is to recognize that the inequalities which
currently exist are still in large part caused by the
systemic and institutional bias that persists (e.g.,
sexism and racism). Therefore, when people
argue that blacks, or women, or others, have it
bad because they are culturally or otherwise
inferior, the students will understand that this
kind of “blaming the victim” is often a tool used
to continue inequality.
Henderson-King and Kaleta (2000) concluded
that in the absence of courses that address social
diversity, undergraduate students become less
tolerant of others, even over a single semester.
Consequently, teachers of diversity courses must
also have the skills and knowledge to discuss
these issues (DeCesare 2003; Howard 2011).
Teachers should be able to provide examples of
how things have changed and offer suggestions
on how things can continue to change. Although
students may not realize it, circumstances are
better for many groups than they were in the
1960s; certainly better than they were in the
1860s. Still, that does not mean society cannot
continue to change for the better.
Proper Pedagogical Training
One of the things that would help colleges and
universities that offer cultural diversity courses is
to make sure their faculty are properly trained,
not only in the subject matter but also in the skills
of critical pedagogy. Looking just at Sociology,
a majority of the top ranked graduate programs
do require some form of proseminar (which may
or may not include material on teaching), and
some form of teaching experience. Some do have
a course for graduate student teachers, and some
even offer a teaching course that covers
pedagogical skills and practice. However, the
vast majority of graduate programs either do not
require or do not offer additional pedagogical
courses. Pescosolido and Milkie (1995)
concluded that most of the training for teaching
was informal and done individually, despite the
evidence for the effectiveness of formal teacher
training programs.
Similarly, Paino et al. (2012) contend that few
studies appear to test the reliability of teaching
methods or strategies taught in different contexts.
If one performs a cursory check on PhD-granting
programs across disciplines, few programs of any
discipline require graduate students to take
courses directly related to the actual practice of
teaching. Certainly, communication skills and
management techniques focusing on how to deal
with angry, frustrated, or challenging students
would be highly useful. Moreover, one can easily
argue that teachers of undergraduate diversity
courses are far more likely to run into contentious
situations. If a course dealing with issues of race,
class, gender, and sexuality is part of the required
general education curriculum, and students feel
like they have few or no choices, it is especially
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critical that teachers are trained in dealing with
confrontation and challenges. According to
Chang (2002), any course focused on diversity
related issues requires a significant investment in
faculty development to succeed. However, when
the investment is made, the general education
curricula can play a meaningful role in improving
our society’s social dynamics.
Conclusion
A search for a cultural diversity text made it
apparent there was only a relatively small pool of
offerings that covered the minimum topics of
race, class, gender, and sexuality. Moreover,
upon review, it seemed that many of those texts
could use updating. Suggestions include: 1) more
examples of recent research; 2) altering the
presentation of concepts; 3) inclusion of
historical and global comparative analyses; 4) a
terminology overhaul; and 5) elimination of the
“group of the week” format. Such modifications
should not only help students critically
understand the social world in which they live,
but also locate diversity in a comparative
approach that incorporates struggles from
historical, global, and philosophical perspectives.
They would, in turn, also increase the likelihood
that students will more accurately perceive the
social changes that have taken place as well as
those that still remain to be confronted.
Many colleges and universities require
students to take courses designed to address
issues of diversity. There is clear need for courses
that shed the old frameworks and embrace the
full range of diversity, including the
intersectionalities among statuses, while at the
same time aggressively deconstruct such notions
as colorblindness and cultural inferiority. Such
courses could also help prevent a reactionary
social movement that could damage the
substantial progress that has been made in race,
class, and gender relations in recent decades.
Finally,
incorporating
rigorous
critical
pedagogical training in more graduate programs
is clearly called for, especially if new faculty are
going to be able to respond to tough, and at times
reactionary, responses from their students and
convert them into useful teachable moments.
_______________________________________
Dr. Tom Brignall is an Associate Professor of
Sociology at Lewis University. His research
interests include intersectionality, critical
pedagogy, civil rights movements, pop culture,
education reform, and technology. His hobbies
include playing in bands, boardgames, and
soccer.
Since 2009, Tom Van Valey has been a
Professor Emeritus at Western Michigan
University. He received his PhD from the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
(1971). Having previously served on the faculties
of Colorado State University, the University of
Massachusetts, and the University of Virginia, he
is also a former Chair of the Department of
Sociology at Western Michigan University. He
most recently was one of the directors of an NSFfunded project on ethical decision-making.
_______________________________________
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!
P , * * t L A , A ^ . t E L tt * 2 7 , t t o ,)LI
(, ie q ) j-z o .

lt t * ;
andDifference
ETHNICITY: Identity
StuartHall
This is an edited version of a speech delivered at Hampshire College, Amhers!, Massachusetts,in the Spring of 1989.
somethinglihe a “true self.’ And the languageof
identityhasoftenbeenrelaredto the searchfor a kind
of authenticityto one’sexperience,
somethingthat
tellsrnewhereI comefrom. The logic and language
I’ve chosen to talk about questions of
identity and ethniciry, first becausequestions about
idendty and ethniciry have suddenly surfacedagain in
Englishintelleauai and criticai discussionand debate.
And secondly, because the relationship between
cultural identities and ethnicities is a question that is
dso on thepolitical agendain Britain at the moment.
I’ll try to say in the course of my talk why I think
questions of identiry are once again in play
conceptudly and politically.
^(:l—:-__:_-L
ot
ruE nl l l /
I
:_
rl,-r
.
rs Ln€ l ogl c or qep[n-l n
|
.
|
nere, g eep tns l oe
me, is rny Self which I can reflecr upon. Ir is an
element of continuiry. I think most of us do
recognizethat our identities have changed over time,
but we have the hope or nosralgiarhat they changear
the rateof a glacier. So, while we’re nor the fledglingp
that we’were.when we were one year old, we are the
sarnesort of person.
The Return of Idcnriry
Disruption of Identiry
I’m concernedwith what is sometimes called
the “return of the question of identity,’-no[ that rhe
guestionof identity ever went away, but it hascome
back with a part.icularkind of force. Thar return has
something to do with the fact that the guestion of
identiry focuseson that point where a whole seriesof
different developmentsin society and a set of related
discoursesintersect. Identity emergesas a kind of
unsettled space, or an unresolved question in that
space,between a number of intersecting discourses.
My purpose is to mark some of those-points of
intersection, especiallyaround questions of culturd
identity,. and to explore them in relation to the
subjectof ethnicity in politics.
So where does the receur disruption of
identity come’from? Vhrt is displacing this deprhthe autonomous origin, point of reference, and
guaranteedcontinuiry that has been so long associated
with the languageof identity? Vhar is ir about the
turbulenceof the world we live in that is increasingly
mirrored in the vicissitudesof idenrity)
While, historically, many rhings have
displacedor decenteredthe stable senseof identiry
that I jtrst described,I want to focus on four greet
decenterings in intellecrual life and in ‘$(/esrern
thought that have helped to desrabilizethe quesrion
of identity. I’ll attachpanicular names to rhree of
thern,just for conveniencesake. I don’t want ro say
they alonedid it, but it is quite useful to summarize
by hooking the ideas to a panicular name. The
fourth cannot be attachedto a single name, bur it is
just asimportant.
Let me stan by sayingsomethingabout what
seemsto have been the logic of the way in which we
have thought and ralked about questionsof identity
until recently. The logic of the discourseof identity
assumes
a stablesubject,i.e., we’ve assumedthat there
is somethingwhich we can cdl our identity which, in
a rapidly shifting world, has the great advantageof
staying still. identities are a kind of guaranteethat
the world isn’t falling apart quite as rapidly as it
sometimesseemsto be. It’s a kind of fixed point of
thought and being,a ground of action,a still point in
the rurning world. That’s the kind of ultimate
guaranteethat identity seemsto provide us with.
The logic of
Marx beginsthe de-centeringof that stable
senseof identity by reminding us thar there are
alwaysconditionsto identity which the subjectcannot
construc!. Men and uomen mah,ehistom but not under
conditionsof $eir oun mahing. Th.y
panly made
‘We are always
by rhe histories that they make. “re
constructedin part by the pracricesand discourses
that rnake us, such that we cannor find
‘x’irhin
ourselves
as individual selvesor subiectsor idenriries
identity is the logic of
I
or history
the point of origin from which discourse
understood
to.be
has.
History
originares.
o, prr.ri..
as a continuousdialecticor dialogicrelarionship
betweenthatwhich is alreadvmadeandthat which is
making the future. Vhile Marx’s argument
deconsiructeda lot of Earnes’I’m particularly
inrerestedin his impad on the identity/language
garrte.Marx interruptedthat notion of the sovereign
iubject who openshis or her mouth andspeaks,for
the first time,the truth, Marx remindsG that we are
alwayslodgeJand implicatedin the practicesand
slnrcturesof everybociyelse’sliie.
imperial thought is condensedin the slruggle to
disio.rt. what Black usedto rneanin order to make
it mean something new, in order to say “Black is
specific
Beauriful.” I’m nor talking about Saussure’s
what
about
talking
I’m
only,
language
rheoriesof
when
one
identity
of
concePtion
happensto one’s
‘suji.nly understandsthat one is always inside a
system of languagesthat partly speakus, which we
are alwayspositionedwithin and against.
These are the great figuresof modernism’
V/e might sai’ if modernity unleashesthe logic of
identirf I was talking abour earlier, modernism is
modernity experienced as trouble. In the face of
greatfuture: “I am, I am
modernity’s
‘ promise of the
therefore I know everfthing’
Vestern
-irr,
Everything beginswith me,” modernism says,”Hold
on. lVhat about the past? Vhat about the languages
What about the unconsciouslife you
you speak?
-ktto*
about? Vhat about all those other things
don’,
that are speakingYou?”
Secondly, there is the very profound
discoverTof
r{isplacement
which beginswith Freud’-s
If Marx displacedus from the past,
the unconscious.
Freud displacedus from belos” Identity is itself
groundedon the hugeunknownsof our psychiclives,
Ind *. are unablJ in any simple way, to reach
through the barrier of the unconsciousinto the
pty.hl. life. Ve can’t readthe psychicd.irectlyinro
social,
ih. roci.l and the cultural. Nevenheless,
except
culturalandpoliticallife cannotbe undersrood
to the formationsof the unconscious
in relatioriship
the notion of the self’
life. This i.t irsetfdestabilizes
entity’ Ir is not
of identity, asa fully self-reflective
possiblefor the selfto reflectand know completely
it, o*r, identirysinceit is formednot only in the line
but
of the pracriceof other structriresand discourses,
life’
alsoin’a cornplexrelationshipwirh unconscious
!
f{6wever, there’s a fourth force of
destablization. This could be given a variety of
names. If you wanted to say within the epistemeof
ffestern knowledge, you could say Nietzsche’ But I
want to ,ry ro-rthittg else. I want to talk about the
of
decenteringof identity that arisesas a consequence
something
as
having
truth
the end of the notion of
directly to do with Vestern discoursesof rationdity’
This is the great de’centering of identity that is a
consequenceof the relativization of the Vestern
world-of the discovery of other worlds, othef
peoples,other cultures,and other languages,flestern
t”tion.l thought, despiteits imperializing claim to be
theform of univenal knowledge,suddenly aPPearsas
just
iust anotherepisteme.To useFoucault’swor&,
Absolute
rtot
*o,h.. regimeof truth. Or Niett-‘che’s,
Knowledg-e,rlot total Truth, just another particular
form of k-nowledgeharnessedto Particular forms of
historical po$/er. The linkage betveen knolrledge
po-ri is what mtde that reBirne True, what
“nd
.n.bLd that regimeto claim to speakthe truth about
identity for everyone elseacrossthe globe’
and his
Thirdly, we must considerSaussure
has so
whic-h
model of languageand linguistics

linguistics
transformedtheoreticalwork. Saussurian
enunciationitself-is
that speech-discourse,
suggests
of language’ln
placedwithin the relationships
“l*”yt to spealr,in order to say anFhing new, we
order
must first ilr.. oun.lueswithin the existingrelations
of l”ng,r.je. There is not utteranceso novel and so
creali;ethat it doesnot alreadybearon it the traces
of how that languagehas been spoken be{orewe
opened our rnou”ths; Thus we are alwayswithin
languag.. To say somethingnew is fint of all to
r.”if*ti the tracesof the pastthat areinscribedin the
words we use. In part, tt saysomethingnew is first
all the old thingsthar the words
of all to disptace
mean-to fight an entiresystemof meanings’For
example,rhink of how profoundit hasbeenin our
*orli to say the word “Black” in a new way’ In
order to say”Black’ in a new way’ we haveto fight
its
off.verything elsethat Blackhasalwaysm-eant-all
andpositivefigurations’
.onnot.tionr,tlt i,t negative
of Christian
s!ructure
the entire metaphorical
of ‘Western
whole
history
The
thought,{or example.
‘V/esternrationality
Vhen that installationof
begins to go and to be seeh not as absolute,
dis]nterested,objective, neutral, scientific, norl’
powerful truth, but dirty truth-trurh implicated in
ih. hr.d gameof Power–thatis the fourth gamethat
the ol d l ogi c of i denti ty.
destabi l i zes
2
i
!
r{ r
,l
4
I
I
I
,
I
I
I
I
industrial capitalism, certainly the way in rx’hich
genderwas conceptuaiized,
and,tov”ard rhe end of the
nineteenth century, the vray in which rhe entire
populationof the world couldbe thoughr of in terms
of the greatfamily of races-Ido think there is a way
in which these great structuring principles did tie
down the questionof our socialand cultural identities
and that they havebeenvery considerablyfractured,
fragmented,undermined,dispersedin the course of
the last fifty yean. That senseof fragmentation has a
peculiar and panicular shapeco it. Specificalll’, if I
m^y seythis metaphoricdly,the’fragmentationgoes
local and global ar one and the sametime, while the
Ereat $able identiries in the middle do not seem to
hoid.
Collecrive Idenriries
I’ve been rdking so far about intellectual,
the notion of
rheoretical,conceptualdisplacernentsof
of the
some
about
identity, but I want to lalk
and
socid
from
of identity that come
displacements
and
culiur.l life rather than from conceptual
rheoreticalthought. The great social collectivities
which usedto stab’ilizeour identities-the grearstable
collectivitiesof class,race, gender and nation-have
been,in our times, deeply underrnined by socialand
political developments’
The whole adventure of rhe modern world
was, for a long tirne, blocked out in terms of these
greatcollective ideutities. As one knew one’s class,
one knew one’s place in the social universe. As one
knew ooe’s race, one knew one’s racial position
within the great races of thc wodd in their
hierarchical relationship to ore another. As one
knew one’s gender,one was able to locate oneselfin
rhe huge social divisions berween men and women.
As one kaew one’s narional identity, one cenainly
krrew about the pecking order of the uaiverse. These
colleaive identiriesstabilized and stagedour senseof
ourselves. That logic of identiry that seemedso
confident at the beginning of my rdk, was in part
held in placeby thesegreat collectivesocialidentities’
Now, it is not the best kept secret in the
vrorld that dl sorts of things have rocked and shaken
those great collective stable, social identities of the
past. I don’t want to talk about any of those
developmentsin detail, but if you think, for instance,
of class,it certainly is not true that,”in societiis like
youn and mine, questionsof class-of social structure
and of socialinequaliry that are raisedby the notion
of class-havegone aq/ay. But, nevertheless,the way
in which class identities were understood and
.
experienced,the way in which people located’
themselvesin relation to classidentities, the way in
which we understood those identities as organized
politically-those stable forms of class identity are
much more difficult to find at this point in the
twentieth centuD/ than they were 100 years ago’ In
fact, looking backwards,we’re not surewhether the
greatstableidentitiesof classwere ever quite as stable
as we told ourselvesthey were. There’s a kind of
narraiive of classthat always makesthe past look
simpler than it probably was. If you go back into
English nineteenthcentury life, you will find that
classwas a pretty complex formation even then. I
think there is, nevertheless,some relative sensein
which rhe nation-state,the greatclassformations of
Take “the- nation,’ The nation-srare is
increasingly besieged from on top by the
the
the
planet-by
interdependence of
interdependencyof our ecological life, by the
enormous interpenetrationof epital as a global force,
by the complex ways in which world markets link
the economies of backward, developed, and
overdevelopednations. Theseenormous syslems are
increasingly undermining the srabiliry of any nationel
formatioo. Nation-statesare in trouble, though I am
not going to prophesy that the nation-srate,that has
dorninated the history of the world for so long, is
going to bow out gracefully.
S o on the one hand.the nari on an d all t he
identities that go with it appear to have gone
upwards-reabsorbedinro larger communities that
overreachand interconnectnationalidentities. But at
the sametime rhere is also movement down belo’q.
Peoplesand groups and tribes who n’ere previously
harnessedtogetherin the entiriescalled the nationstatesbegin to rediscoveridentities that thel’had
forgotten. So for exampleif you come ro England
and hope to seesome great stablecultural identity
called”rhe English”-s’ho representeverybodv elsewhat you will find instead is that the Scots, for
example,are about to fiy off somewhere. Thel’ say
“‘We are Scottish and we are European, but s’e
cenainly aren’t Brirish.” And the Welsh say “W’e’re
you’ve forgotten us and we
not Britisheitherbecause
might aswell go somen’hereelse.” And ar the same
time the Nonhwest and the Nonheasr of England,
that were left to rot by Mrs. Thatcher,are not truly
British any longereither-they’reson of marginalto
everybodyelse.Then the old trade unionists and all
‘ se,too. Y ou’ re l efr n’it h t he
B l acksaresomebodl el
E ngl i sh as a ti ght l i ttl e i sl and somenhere ar ound
London w i th about 25 soul s and the That cher
?
..’
*
-,
government- hovering over ir.
And they are
continually asking the quesrion-not only about the
rest of rhe world bur about most of rhe people in
their os’n sociery-“are)’ou one of us?”
‘ So ar one and the samerime people feelpan
of the world and pan of their village. They have
neighborhood idenririesand they are citizensof the
world. Their bodies are endangeredby Chernobyl,
which didn’r knocl< on rhe door and say "Can I floar radiation over your sovereignrerrirory?; Or another exarnple, we had the warmest winter I've ever experiencedin England, last year-the consequencein part of the desrruction of rain foresrsthousandsof miles away. An ecological undersrandingof the world is one that challengesthe norion thar the nation-srateand the boundariesof sovereigntywill keep rhingsstable becauserhey won'r. The universe ls c om lng. . 4-, -1*;*....:rJ t :: .: .:+ .'.t I -4j:1.igLif]i A-4lr:.ffi iEr--L properly is dwaysa srmcrurethat is split;it always hasambivalence within it. The r,ory of identityis a coversrory. A coverstory for makingyou ihink you srayedin thesamephce,thoughwirh anotherbit of your mind you do know that you'vemovedon. Vhat we'velearnedaboutthesrructureof the wav in which we idenrifysuggesrs that idenrification is not one thing, one mornent. Ve have now to reconceptualize identiryasa procettof identification, and thar is a differentmarrer..It is somethingthat happensover time, rhar is never absolutelysiable, that is subjecrro the play of history and the plzyo{ difference. I don'rwanrto boreyou auiobiographically, but I couldrell you somerhinB abourrhepiocessof my own identificatiorr. If I think aboutwho I arn,I have been-in rny own rnuch too long experiencesevcralidenriries.And mosr of rhe identitiesthat I have been I've ortly known about not becauseof somethingdeepinsiderne=therealself-butbecduse of how other peoplehaverecognizedme. So on the one hand, we haveglobal identities becausewe have a srike in somethingglobal and, on the other hand, we san only know ourselvesbecause we are pan of some face-to-face coinmunities. This brings rne back to the qrrestionof the fate of cultural identiry in rhis maelstrom. Given this rheoredcaland conceptualde-cenreringrhar I've just spoken abour, given the relarivization of the grearstableidentities thar have allowed us ro know who we are-how can we think about rhe quesrionof cultural identity? So, I wenr to Englandin the 1950s,before the grearwaveof migrationfrom rhe Caribbeanand from the Asiansubcontinenr.I camefrom a highly respectrble,lower middle classJamaicanfamily. When I went backhornear the end of rhe 50s,my rnother, who was very classicallyof thar classand culture,saidto.me"I hopethey don't think you'rean immigrantoverthere! I hadneverthoughrof myself asan immigranr! And now I rhought,well acruallyr I guessthar's what I arn. I migraredjust ar thar mornent.Vhen shehailedrne,'whenshesaid"Hello immigrant," she askedme ro refuseit and in the momentof refirsai-likealmosteverythingmy mother everaskedme to do-I seid"That'swho I am! I'm an immigrant'And I rhoughtat last,I've comeinto rny real self. Post-Idcntiry?: Cover Stories There is some lenguagefor the norion of doing withour identiry all rogether. That is my somewhat unfavorable reference to the exr.reme version of postmodernism. The argument is rhat the Self is simply a kind of perpetua! signifier ever wandering the eanh in search of a transcendenul signi/ied that ir can never find-a sort o[ endless nomadic existencewith utterly aromizedindividuals wandering in an endlesslypluralisticvoid. Yet, while there are cenain conceprualand theoreticalways in which you can try to do wirhour idenrity, I'm not yet convinced that you can. I think we have ro rry to reconceptualizewhat identitiesmight mean in rhis more diverseand pluralizedsituarion. And then,at the endof the 60sandthe early 70s,somebody saidto me "Thesethingsaregoingon in thepoliticalworld-I suppose you'rereallyBlach." ilell, I'd neverthought of myself as Black,eirherl And I'll tell you something, nobodyin Jamaica ever did. Until rhe 1970s,thet entire popularion experienced themselves asall sonsof orherthings,but they nevercalledthemselves Black. And in thar sense, Blackhasa history asan identity that is partly politicallyformed.It's not the color of your skin. It's not givenin nature. This takes rrs back [o some of the t ery profound things that people havesaidabout idenriry within recentforms of rheorizing.First of all, we are r em inded of t h e s tru c tu reo f " i d e n ti fi c a ti o n"i rsel f. I dent it v , f ar f r o m th e s i mp l erh i n g rh a rw e th i nk i t i s ( our s elv esal*' a y s i n th e s a m e p l a c e ) u n d e rstood Anotherexample: arrhatverymomentI said to rny son,who is rhe resuhof a mixedmarriage, !+ + L I 'You're Black." "No," he said,"I'm brown'" You what I'm saying!You're lookingto don'tunderstand rhewrongsignifier!I'm not talkingaboutwhatcolor you erc.Peopleareall sortsof colors. The quesrion t whether yov areculturally,bistorically,politically Black. That'swho You are' that goeson over tirne, is sgmerhingthar feminisrn has been showing us is never finished. The notion thar idenriry is complerear some poinr-rhe notion that masculinity and femininiry can view eachother as a perfectly replicating rnirror image of each another-is unrenableafter rhe slightestreadingof any feminist rext or after readingFreud's ThreeEssalts on SexualitT, The Other So experiencebelies the notion that identificationhappensonceand for ail-life is not like thar. ft goeson changingandPan of what is changing of the "red you?iruide,it is history is nor rhenucleus your conceptionof rhar'schanging.History changes younelf. Thus,anothercriticalthing aboutidentity is that it is partly the reletionshipbetweenyou and the Other. Only when there is an Other car you lcnow who you aie. To discoverthat fact is io discoverand unlock the whole enornous history nationalismandof racism. Racismis a structureof discourseand representationthat tries to expel thc Other syrnbolically-blotit ou!, put ir over therein the Third lforld, at the rnargin. The Englishare racisrnot becausethe;r hate the BlacL"but because they don't know who they are without rhe Blacks. They haveto know who they not in order to know who they are. And the ^re Englishlanguage is absolutelyrepletewith thingsthat theEnglisharenot. They argnot Black,they arenot Indianor Asian,bur they arenot Europeansandthey arenot Frogseitherandon andon. The Other. It is a fantasricrnoment in Fanon's Bhck Shin, lVhite Maskswhen he talks of-how.the.gaze.oft'heOther fixeshim in an identity. He knows what it is to be Blackwhen the white child pulls the hand of her motherandsays"Look momm4 a Blackman." And hesays"I wasfixedin that gaze."That is the gazeof Otherness.And thereis no identitythat is wirhout the dialogicrelationship to the Other. The Otheris not outside,but alsoinsidethe Self,the identity. So identityis a process, identityis split, Identityis not a fixedpoint but an ambivalent point. Identityis also the relationship of the Other to oneself. So rhe norion that idenrity is outside represenration-rharthere are our selvesand then the languagein which we describeourselves-isunrenable. Identiry is within discourse,within represenrarion.It is constituted in part by reprcsenration. Idenriry is a narrative of the self;it's rhe srory we tell about the self in order to know who .we are. rfle impose a srructure on it. The mosr imporranr effect of this reconceptualizarionof identity is the surrepririous return of difference. Identiry is a game that oughr to be played againstdifference. But now we have to think about idenrity in relation ro difference. There are differencesberweenthe ways in which gendersare. socially and psychically constnrcted. But rhere is no fixiry. to rhose opposirions. It is a relarion opposition, it is a relarion of difference. So we're rhen in the difficult conceptualareaof trying to think identity and difference. There are two diferent notions of difference operating. There are rhe grear differencesof rhe discourse of racism-Black and v,.hite, civilized and primitive, them and us. But rhis nes'conception of differenceis a conceptionmuch closerro that norion - of difference one finds in Derrida. In Derrida you find a norion of diferancethat recognizesrhe endless, ongoing nature of the construction of meaning but that recognizesalso rhat rhere is alq-aysthe play of identity and difference and alq-avs the play of differencearosr idenriry. You can'r think of them without eachother. You see,there hasbeen in our liferime--not in yours, but in mine- a,politicsof identity. There wu a politicsof identity in 1968in q'hich the various social movements tried to organize themselves politically within one identitry. So rhe idenritr. of being a wornan was the sub.iectof rhe feminist movement. The identity of beinga Black personn'as the i denti ty of the B l ach movemenr. And in r har rather si mpl er uni verse,there n' as one idenr ir l' r o eachmovement. V/hile .ou {'erein ir, vou had one i denti ty. Of course,even rhen. al l of us m oved bei w eentheseso-cal l edsrabl ei denti ri es. We s'er e samplingthesedifferentidentiries,but q'e mainr,rineJ Difference(s) You couldrell that story alsoin termsof a psychicconceplionof identity.Sorneof the most imponant work that rnodernpsychoanalysts have cione-Lacan and so forth-and that feministshave done in terms of sexualidentity is to show rhe imponanceof the relationship of the Other. The as a process,as sornething constru€tion of dtfference 5 ;l#; ::'WlJ:::*':",T,iry '.;;,,,',11'"'ffiili#'::';':::.,i'l :?il:%H: TheThatcher projecr .h,?grr,ro."tin*Ti.i':,'f:T-!:ir,t to 'l'i'ill':'"' t there. Therewe :: al i , t t themtsth' thena their "i", walkinga"*" ,rr.il'.,,:::-"ttt' l!^yi!F theirrnu5ig, so.h^-, -^_ one _ thinkabout identity n.* .on,.oiloy.'"n in rhis rxt/ I want p^ oril.i;; ilH,'j:::1', t'"1"-1!Iii._*. o*., . *o'a '(ou,;il iiLTT;l,fl-*i: Kingdom s.i.-:.r.r J,:T;i1i.,,*:,|,::JT '"il,i."i,.l llolii, Y1:Y .},:1,;:1..;;Jl'i l::d;fi}'".,:',,.yl,iJ:". ;:ff*;jiil ffg',,:" you..,, i.lhlil;l,T;.i:*iTi"rrr'tffi are a'!'lh fiT::#j;:n:*p.,**if:,:li.'.l','J,'i:: way this to saY jus ffi::::5J.:--""':'i?"o ::,irti;tliit+ilti1Tl;t'F#,l;i.# """..-,''IoaI ;.;;;;ilT;T*::i:'# fi?ll:;,jl,i',o'r), -oL been saving have,o ;y:t:;-:ki;':?"#,ffiH1itr#.',# *:oii,.;.Xin,i:'l1l ill'.i* r l.ert the suestion'"rlrr'ri.iif Ye il.ril. Engrind o,*{.i ':I'T.d.'fi"i,; of Fngrishness.ll-j! rethintr ur",;n.J,'.u..;i;:" :Tj,:: r;."ii,-.ilj9.o tle Falklands ,il;.il:L;j:i::lfn which i ffrfff::L#;.'rff;,il*ij;"T'i;.#' i*'r;lrur }:*I+fi*:i;[iij'.## l*;;1tffil'?*,T*.,*.:l.lit# if{..ifh:v*tTf',:'"""ts# fiTfi had,. r.''1i;..lii'*fi',,rTl,::itt+# ;t ;$':"'t?:,i:ifrT*Fi',T[,H '.,rJ"il'' r.oig:,lrvh;'io.v, seems to rne'in *hicir Engrishpast;r"u:ttfu:|| f ic.*, .omenrsof the p^'opr'"i,1.;;i;J"t'rt ittli"s-in a udlrrli,o .o-. somephce,rh.r.lT"ltn" ,,1?,.,..*"in ,t.y ;:$lrfi:|f .'o.,r.l thar "t-it.'gLoe '1:t,: o,,',#'-,p rnost ri'.'""r" 'o" rvhat jraditions' we've rf*, ;;;:;:;:71'rn orderto sav "nrnl.,inr '[n:ll ?:n*:':i j: i+fffi:i:: ii;:[#,i:,i:ri#: m*lnnFjrirgljx*if rhisis ,:l*i: ru""riir second,r,,,. irill*e-"The "',-"1'l nr" ,i-. is hiscory,rhe ltlt.o isalwavs ;;;;.",;ili:: rn narional .ur,ull,lh', jll rheRerurn orche Repressed ;'t1; n:,:iin*;".il"*r,.,r#:fil oetons' toGrear !'1ai'i,-.";|;,'.1:: lln"r'.:'l u..'i"", ,.*;i::T::tr'h;la"ru'c1*r'i.i',r,.r'* i :1g;ijti.,i:i*,',.81:il!t* r:"i::'i= iif'.,1',-'.ll#lxllfli;lfii uii.',,."a f;l'Ji','tr;i*:ii',"'.*31::lin','"# restorarion .,.h: or,l. fl*l"fEnglish. ";;p,.d:;ffii: id.nriri.,il..ll;; ,r',. *o.ri,',,.ril-t:: -*,,...d ^niffi'j: F* cenruries, ,h... .o,llo *'.:#[11.ff'.*.-I111"e.a," of culrura] 1o llheritances *a.*.ii"r-,y" -i.';;]:h'Tt":':f' tnthalsense' i.fiT'bl li.lll:flt: illl"llt'" position o;;;;;7'"'^"o thet theRast .:,:"#ji..tt.i:j::llffi,,l,:i# und.'"'niinf i+:i,ifi,:j:',';*i'lllili;rT on''' ,oo,,, i."'i.'ii,; :::,:::iuy*ii;:l',i1t'"#'l,liiin**jffi:il: mornenr *tr-il; nl'1,""r Justin ,t. u.i ,o-o-.Y",h:ut' ,;:l;1.i:T":i'n::'j.,:J:,p"J ve turned lv"""riffiiltjl-o::k :^Tt' counrry. rnorher "o '?1.l.ll '+* "vou,,.;J,i;;t:::::k o,;i, ordi.. n...on _ the , . But' orher h, there 'ii'#no' cornes theolav -iir, iii' t"r, *t.,i""rrri" t';fl'i'-'1"',; ,r'"1'l-l:.the.recogni,i." il"|':lli-o:'r' ""'pr'*';:';' .,;1;il#f ;,1# ',.na i*k:nnil:;YiiiT rso,,en, ;;;;;;:J;;j5::i ilT,J lili:lif:# t rn London, 6 s,here he ,7 also saw something else that *'e s'ere nor prepared for. From those local ethnic enclaves,s'hat they want to speakabout aswell is the entire world. They want to tell you how they went from the village to Manhattan. They are not prepared to be ethnic archivists for the rest of their lives. Thel' are not prepared only to have something to sa)' of marginalization forever. They have a stake in the whole dominant history of the world, rhey want to rewrite the history of the world, not jwt tell my little story. So they use photography ro tell us about the enormous migrations of the world and hos' people now move-of how all our identities are constructed out of a variery of different discounes. 9'e need a place to speak frorn, but we no longer speak about ethniciry in a narrow and essestialistwey. tell you he cornesfrom h: cowesfrom, ,T":o' his identirv is there' but he hasto P{:f i;;can't just take it out of a 'i"itr*t that identity' He uThat's table and say the it on and plop il;t lihe that' He hasto learn essence ilior.' tr', not ar.l of his past' He has to story the ,o*Jf f'ti-telf he has.to relearnthat history, ii rr.gtt. his own that hasan investmentin that culture' and in "fii".i o*pt., he'sleariring*?-"d sculp.ture, Fot the traditions orarrr do that he heshadto discover g of a societyin which he has never of sc,rlprutin lived. So the relationshipof the kind of ethnicity aboutto thepastis not a simple,essentid talking I'm one-it is a constructedone. It is constructedin history,it is constmctedpolitically in pan. It is part of narntive. l7etell ounelvesthe storiesof the pans of our rootsin orderto comeiato contact,crativeLy, wirh it. Sothis new kind of ethnicity-theemergent a relarionshipto the past,bur it is a ethnicities-has relationshipthar is partly through memory,Panly throughnarrative'one that hasto be recovered'It is an actof drural recovet7. That is the new ethoiciry. It is a new conception of our identities becarxeit has not lost hold of the place and the ground from which we can yer it is no longer cont:i'ed within that place spea-k, as an essence. It wants to address a much wider variety of experience. It is pan of the enormous cultural relativization of the entire globe that is the historical acomplishment-horresdous as it has been in pan-of the rwentieth century. Those are the new ethnicities,the new voices. They are neither locked into the past nor able to forget the past. Neither all ldenriry and the same nor entirely different' difference. It is a nes' settlement berq'een idenrity and difference. Yet it is also an ethniciry that has to recogniztitsposition in relationto the imponanceof ethniciryrhat cannotdenythe role dif{ei.nc.. tiis "n in discoveringitself. And I'll tell you a of difference About simple,quick storyto showyou what I T*. ,*o y."tt ago I was involved in a photograpl-ri,c exhibitionthat *as organizedby the Commonwealth lnstitutein England,and the ideabehindit wasvery which simple. Photoiraphy is oneof the languages.in own their people speakabout their own past and Large exp.ri.nieand constructtheir own identity. nurnbersof peoplein the marginalsocietiesof the British Common*.alth have been the objecuof of their not the subject someoneelse'srepresentation, The purposeof this exhibition own representatioru. wasto enablesomepeoplein thoseregionsto usethe creativemediumof photographyto speakandad&ess their own experience-toemPowertheir ethnicities' Of course,alongsidethe new ethnicitiesare rhe. old ethnicities and the coupling of the old, essentialisridentities.to power.i The old ethnicities still have dominance, they still gover!. lndeed, as I tried to suggestwhen I referred to Thatcherism' as they arerelativizedtheir propensiryto eat everything elseincreases.They can only be sure rhat the,v really existat all if they consumeeveryoneelse.The notion of an identity that knows where it camefrom, n'here home is, but also lives in the symbolic-in the Lacanian sense-knows you can't really go home again.You can't be somethingelsethan who you are. You've got to find out who you are in rhe flux of the past and the present. That nes' conception of ethnicity is now stnrggling in different r'avs across the globeagainstthe present dangerand the threat of the dangerous ol d ethni ci ty. That' s the stakeof t he o garne. 'Whenwe carneto look at theexhibirion,one sawtwo thingsat one andthe sametime. First of all, of peoplewho are we sawthe eno.mousexcitement what they have about to speak rime ablefor the first culture, their their about alwaysknow-to speak their people,their childhood,about the languages, in which they grewup. Th9 ans in our topography -are beingtransformedhourly by the new to.i.ty discours.,of ,rrbi..t, who havebeenmarginalized for thefirsttime' But we cominginto representation Stu2rt fhl [s hofessor of Sciologr al t-beOpeoLnirersirl*,Lrndon. He b euthorof Rcprodacingldeohgicr (l9t'l) znd Thc Hud Road to Rcncwa/(19t8). Hc hrs coeditednudltroui volumtsincluding1-lr Idea ol thcModcra gate (19&4)end Politicsud ldeolog;ll9t6l. 7 University of Toronto Press Chapter Title: Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender Book Title: Reconstructing 'Dropout' Book Subtitle: A Critical Ethnography of the Dynamics of Black Students' Disengagement from School Book Author(s): George J. Sefa Dei, Josephine Mazzuca, Elizabeth McIsaac and Jasmin Zine Published by: University of Toronto Press. (1997) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442679078.10 JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://about.jstor.org/terms University of Toronto Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Reconstructing 'Dropout' This content downloaded from 128.95.104.66 on Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:14:35 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms Chapter Five Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender Race, class, and gender represent the basis for some of the multiple social identities which students bring with them into their educational experiences. Positionality is an important factor in locating the experience of individuals within both schools and society. Schools are specific sites where social location can mediate educational outcomes and the reproduction of status roles in society. Race, class, and gender, then, are inextricably linked to how social realities are experienced and negotiated. This chapter explores the intersections of race, class, and gender as they relate to the realities of Black students and to the issue of student disengagement. However, we do not attempt to confine the discussion of how race, class, and gender intersect in the lives of Black students to this chapter alone. These factors provide social, political, cultural, and ideological vantage points which are inextricably linked to the issues associated with student disengagement and are therefore pervasive themes throughout the book. Race In terms of race, some students spoke about positive experiences related to being part of the Black Heritage Club or similar clubs and organizations, and also about various moments when they felt a sense of pride about being Black. For the most part, however, students focused on negative experiences, racism being a pervasive theme throughout their narratives. This content downloaded from 128.95.104.66 on Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:14:35 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 86 Reconstructing 'Drop-out' Differential treatment by teachers, but also by students and administrators, was frequently mentioned as occurring along racial lines. The experiences which students recounted often related to teachers treating some students differently than others. Sheryl, a grade 12 student, spoke about the difference between positive and negative attention: White people seem to get positive attention, meanwhile we're getting negative. Like, 'Stop talking and do your work' ... And, [for] the White people [it's] just, like, 'Oh well, she got 100 and she da, da, da' and all this stuff ... (File Wll: lines 495-501) The issue of differential treatment was also emphasized in terms of the lack of positive recognition being accorded to Black students. Bill, a student identified as 'at risk/ talked about the constant reminder of negative treatment, even when success was involved: If I was White ... with the athletic stuff that I did ... I would have got so much recognition more at school than if I was Black. Even though I did do well in that, there was still a negative side towards it that was pinned on me. No matter how good you did there was still that part of you, well, you know, 'He does get in trouble sometimes.' If I was a White kid they would overlook that... (File A07: lines 801-19) Students also spoke of teachers and administrators singling out groups of Black students as responsible for disobedient or disruptive acts. Within the classroom, students often mentioned being segregated, being picked on by teachers, being stereotyped, and so on. In the school hallways, the biggest issue for students was being singled out as a group and labelled as 'troublemakers/ Some of these features of the school environment were observed during the course of conducting ethnographic research at the four high schools participating in the study. Segregation during recreational times - for instance, in the cafeteria - was a particularly salient feature of the school's culture. Black students were observed socializing together, while White students socialized with This content downloaded from 128.95.104.66 on Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:14:35 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender 87 Whites, Asians with Asians, and so on. Black students were further divided into affinity groups based on ethnicity and language; for instance, Somali/continental African students and Jamaican/ Caribbean students. Some gender segregation was also noted within all groups. Directly addressing the issue of Eurocentrism in the school, students spoke about their inability to relate to the curriculum. The issue of Black history, raised in many different contexts, was also a direct response to the question of students' experience of being Black in the school. Angie, an OAC level student born in the Caribbean, spoke about superficial attempts to include Black history in the curriculum: Canadian history. I did not learn anything about Black people ... in the past two years, we have improved in our geography ... but we don't really learn about the cultural background ... not even the people, but just the city or the country. Basics, nothing deep ... I would like to know more about my history, yes, a lot more. I think I need to know a lot more than I know. (File W06: lines 573-88) This response speaks to the general need for greater ethno-cultural equity in education. It also addresses specifically the need to create a space for African-centred studies in order to legitimate the experience and histories of Black/African Canadians, and to create a more globally oriented curriculum for all students. Creating an inclusive school environment with diverse centres of knowledge serves to make the process of schooling more relevant for racial and ethnic minority youth and enriches the overall scope of the curriculum. Education in this sense serves as an equitable forum for the social, cultural, and academic needs of all students. Where this sort of environment was lacking, schools were described by students as hostile places full of interracial tensions. Explicit examples of name-calling, derogatory comments, and, in some cases, violence were cited as part of the experience of race within the school. Some students talked about the frustration they felt in seeing no consequences for White students when they engaged in racist language or activity, something they interpreted This content downloaded from 128.95.104.66 on Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:14:35 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 88 Reconstructing 'Drop-out' as just another example of Black students7 subordination within the system. The ideological positions of teachers were very apparent on the question of race. Most teachers claimed not to see colour, but to see only people. These teachers felt that they treated all students the same, regardless of race. They felt that it was important to treat all students equally and not to give preferential treatment of any kind to students who are racially 'different/ These teachers saw racism as a social problem that should not dominate the agenda of schools or even be dealt with in the school. Furthermore, they felt that the majority of teachers are colour-blind and that this was demonstrated by the way teachers teach. Some of these teachers stated that stereotypical ideas about Black youth are represented in society, although not necessarily within the school. As such, they saw it as the responsibility of the community to deal with racism. The fact that teachers expressing this ideological position felt that racism should not be addressed may be evidence of their own discomfort with dealing with the issue, but it should not be an excuse to disregard the reality faced by Black students in the schools as well as the community at large. To view schools as being somehow separate from the community, as some teachers stated, fails to acknowledge the function and role of schools as integrally related to society. A number of teachers also said that it did not matter whether the student was 'orange with purple polka-dots/ they would still be treated the same by teachers. Yet some teachers and administrators, less rigid in their denial of the school's responsibility to deal with racism, felt that the way to deal with diversity was by trying to assist every student to learn and to validate the experiences of all students within the school context. Brian, a high-school principal, saw this as an integral part of the learning experience: It still presents all of the basic challenges of trying to assist every student to learn as much as possible. The difference is that it involves knowing more about the background and the experiences of students ... to bring all of those backgrounds and experiences and This content downloaded from 128.95.104.66 on Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:14:35 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender 89 also things like custom and religious aspects as well into play in some way, or at least to allow all of those things to be validated in terms of the school system. (File T17: lines 74-87) Some teachers understood the disadvantage of race as a limited background in terms of literacy for certain groups of students. Others felt that English as a second language or non-White racial characteristics allow students or parents to receive 'special treatment.' Following the same logic, these teachers were noticeably frustrated in 'having to hear' about racial issues. Some teachers felt that prejudice is a fact in society, but it is the responsibility of the individual to deal with it, by speaking up and identifying racist teachers. These teachers felt strongly that the school system is based on equity and that accusations of racism in the school can be a cop-out - an excuse for personal failure. As well, these teachers felt threatened and sometimes angry when they were referred to as 'the enemy.' One teacher expressed a desire to not have to 'feel guilty' because of the past, and a need to be viewed as part of the solution. Some commented that people seem to be searching out controversy by 'crying racism/ a practice which 'gets tiresome.' Some teachers felt uncomfortable with the word Black and with the practice of citing difference. One teacher claimed that students feel the same way and do not really like to deal with ... Purchase answer to see full attachment

  
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