In this article, I trouble the pedagogical practice of comforting discomfort in the social-justice classroom. Is it possible to support white students, for instance, and not comfort them? Is it possible to support white students without recentering the emotional crisis of white students, without disregarding the needs and interests of students of color, and without reproducing the violence that students of color endure? First I address the dangers of comforting discomfort and discuss Robin DiAngelo's notion of white fragility, which has (...) been used to explain the tendency of white people to flee discomfort rather than tarry with it. Employing Erinn Gilson's work on vulnerability, I argue that white fragility is not a weakness but an active performance of invulnerability. I conclude by arguing that developing vulnerability is a counter to white fragility, and that one way such vulnerability can be encouraged is through offering critical hope, which I maintain is a type of support that does not comfort. (shrink)
The book highlights how well-intentioned white people who might even consider themselves as paragons of antiracism might be unwittingly sustaining an unjust system that they say they want to dismantle.
Being White, Being Good focuses on white complicity and white complicity pedagogy. It examines the shifts in our conceptualization of the subject, language and moral responsibility that are required for understanding white complicity and draws out implications for social justice pedagogy.
Calls for vigilance have been a recurrent theme in social justice education. Scholars making this call note that vigilance involves a continuous attentiveness, that it presumes some type of criticality, and that it is transformative. In this essay Barbara Applebaum expands upon some of these attributes and calls attention to three particular features of vigilance that, while they may be alluded to in the aforementioned discussions, are rarely made explicit. These three features are critique, staying in the anxiety of critique, (...) and vulnerability. Using the lens of Judith Butler's recent work and the discussions that her work has provoked, Applebaum examines these three features of vigilance and demonstrates how they are crucial for white people interrogating their complicity in systemic racism. Finally, she discusses how the expanded three features of vigilance can offer guidance to one of the enormously thorny questions that arises in the social justice classroom. (shrink)
In this article, Barbara Applebaum examines “the inability to disagree claim” as it arises in objections made by those who want to ban “critical race theory” from being taught in schools and universities. Employing insights from the recent scholarship around willful hermeneutical ignorance, she discerns the important role that marginalized conceptual resources play in conditions of just and constructive dialogue. When such resources are misinterpreted and denied uptake, the resulting harm impedes the epistemic agency of marginally situated knowers. Applebaum claims (...) that many high-profile anti–“critical race theory” arguments put forth by politicians, scholars, and others are a form of willful hermeneutical ignorance, and she concludes by showing how more just communications, in which disagreement is distinguishable from dismissal, can be achieved. (shrink)
A common remedial response to a culture of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression on college campuses has been to institute mandatory implicit bias training for faculty, staff and students. A critical component of such training is the identification of unconscious prejudices in the minds of individuals that impact behavior. In this paper, I critically examine the rush to rely on implicit bias training as a panacea for institutional culture change. Implicit bias training and the notion of implicit (...) bias it is grounded in is examined and the advantages and limitations of this approach is elaborated. An exclusive focus on implicit bias, it is argued, can protect ignorance rather than correct it. Similar to implicit bias, microaggressions is a concept that has played a role in campus diversity interventions. An examination of microaggression education demonstrates how it corrects for some of the pitfalls of relying on the concept of implicit bias to improve campus climate. The ambiguity that is characteristic of microaggressions, however, hints at the need to explore the type of “unknowing” that both implicit bias education and microaggression education attempt to remedy. Building on the recent scholarship around the idea of epistemic injustice, crucial insights can be gleaned about the significance of shifting the focus from lack of knowledge to a willful resistance to know. In the final section, some implications for improving campus climate are drawn out. (shrink)
This essay begins with the story of Vincent Lloyd who recounts a disturbing experience he had while teaching a course to a group of students of color. What does pedagogical uptake under conditions of systemic oppression require of educators? In the first section, I explore philosopher Nancy Potter’s (Nancy Potter. “Giving Uptake”. _Social Theory and Practice_ 26/3 (2000) 479–508; Nancy Potter. _The Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric Engagement_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)) work on uptake, whose focus on the mental (...) health field is important because she acknowledges power imbalances. Nevertheless, her understanding of uptake may be insufficient for considering such classroom cases that introduced this essay. The second section shifts the focus of uptake from a psychological approach to a more epistemic understanding of uptake that underscores credibility and intelligibility. Uptake as credibility and intelligibility reveals the everyday patterns of uptake failure that marginalized knowers experience in the socio-epistemic world, described in section three. A recent turn in the scholarship of epistemic injustice towards epistemic agency and resistance is taken up in the subsequent section and applied to the conceptualization of uptake. In the concluding section, I begin to explore how these insights contribute to a notion of pedagogical uptake under conditions of systemic oppression. (shrink)
While researchers have studied how white silence protects white innocence and white ignorance, in this essay Barbara Applebaum explores a form of white silence that she refers to as “listening silence” in which silence protects white innocence but does not necessarily promote resistance to learning. White listening silence can appear to be a constructive pedagogical tool for teaching white students about their implication in the perpetuation of racism. The truth of white students' listening may make it seem as if silence (...) promotes what George Yancy refers to as “tarrying” with a critique of whiteness. Applebaum argues, however, that white listening silence is itself a manifestation of complicity and needs to be disrupted. This examination expands discussions of white silence in the scholarship not by providing a formula for when silence is or is not pedagogically necessary, but rather by demonstrating that listening silence is not a form of “tarrying.” The first section examines the unique features of listening silence and the relationship between silence, ignorance, and innocence. The second section critically examines white listening silence in cross-cultural dialogues and draws upon the work of Linda Martin Alcoff to argue that listening silence must be understood within the discursive context in which it is practiced. Finally, three implications of this emphasis on the discursive context for the role of silence in tarrying with the critique of whiteness are discussed. (shrink)
This paper argues that to study and teach ethics without due attention to feminism and other relevant aspects of critical theory (e.g. race or sexual orientation) is to be ethically handicapped. In arguing for this point, the author explains the key components of critical theory, how critical theory augments critical thinking insofar as the former points out certain limitations of exclusive abstract analysis, and how a consideration of critical theory can aid teachers to achieve their learning objectives. In illustrating these (...) points, the paper points to various perspectives on the nature and scope of sexual harassment. (shrink)
George Yancy gathers white scholarship that dwells on the experience of whiteness as a problem without sidestepping the question’s implications for Black people or people of color. This unprecedented reversion of the “Black problem” narrative challenges contemporary rhetoric of a color-evasive world in a critically engaging and persuasive study.
What does it mean to be a white educator teaching about and against whiteness to a racially diverse group of students while simultaneously acknowledging one’s white complicity? This books gleans insight from philosophical scholarship that can help respond to the challenges that white complicity creates for pedagogy.
In this collection, white women philosophers engage boldly in critical acts of exploring ways of naming and disrupting whiteness in terms of how it has defined the conceptual field of philosophy. Focuses on the whiteness of the epistemic and value-laden norms within philosophy itself, the text dares to identify the proverbial elephant in the room known as white supremacy and how that supremacy functions as the measure of reason, knowledge, and philosophical intelligibility.
This paper critically examines some of the challenges that white educators who interrogate whiteness with white students encounter. Two specific dilemmas are addressed: Is one supporting white students’ learning when one tries to teach from the place “where the student is” and/or is one colluding with whiteness by appeasing white discomfort and protecting white fragility, one’s students as well as one’s own? Does one interpret what white students say as a query to be responded to or as a white distancing (...) strategy that requires disruption? Each pedagogical challenge is described and debates around these issues are explored. Emphasis is given to the effects on students of color when white educators fail to respond appropriately. Implications for white progressive educators are drawn out. Two recommendations are discussed: Being willing to rock the boat and cultivating white double consciousness. (shrink)
In this review essay, Barbara Applebaum uses white complicity as a framework for discussing three books: Mica Pollock’s Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School, Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin’s The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racist, and Virginia Lea and Judy Helfand’s Identifying Race and Transforming Whiteness in the Classroom. She explains the notion of white complicity and discusses some of the deep philosophical questions involving moral responsibility and agency that arise when one acknowledges (...) white complicity. In particular, she examines the question of whether complicity is best described as grounded in individual intention or as an outcome of collective action, as well as whether “complicity” as a word displaces the strong sense of harm implied by the term “racist.” Finally, Applebaum explores how some of these philosophical questions crisscross through the discussions highlighted in the three books. (shrink)