Whiteness in racial dialogue: a discourse analysis
The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the discourses used by White preservice teachers in a dialogue about race with people of color. I used Whiteness theory to frame my observations, which defines Whiteness as a set of racialized relations that are historically, socially, politically and culturally produced. These relations result in White domination of people of color. Whiteness is a function of racism, and refers to the dimensions of racism that serve to elevate Whites.From the framework of Whiteness, I observed a series of facilitated interracial dialogues. Participants were seven White preservice teachers and five students of color. They participated in a series of four, two-hour sessions facilitated by an interracial team trained to lead dialogues on race. My analysis focused on describing the production of Whiteness in this context and the ways in which White preservice teachers discursively produced their racial positions in these conversations.I used discourse analysis to analyze my observations. Discourse analysis is the study of language use in social contexts, and is concerned with how ideologies are communicated (Evans, 2002; Gee, 1999). Discourse analysis allows for a nuanced explication of the socially and historically informed discourses that are available for negotiating racial positions, and can reveal processes of racism that would likely be formally denied by participants (Van Dijk, 1993).I document and analyze two master discourses of Whiteness in practice: individualism and universalism. Individualism posits that Whites are first and foremost individuals who have earned their place in society on their own merit. It works to deny that Whites benefit from their racial group memberships. Universalism posits that White interests and perspectives are objective and representative of all groups. An additional discourse that has not been highly visible in the Whiteness literature also surfaced: personal experience. This discourse represents racial perspectives as internal and private rather than as social or interrelational. All of these discourses serve to obscure White power and privilege and to reproduce Whiteness. I discuss the implications of these findings for teacher education, classroom teaching, and for White researchers conducting race related research.
- Education - Seattle