Beyond resistance : transgressive white racial knowledge and its limits
This critical case study investigated the experiences of ten White preservice social studies and language arts teachers as they learned about race and racism during the first semester of an urban-focused teacher preparation program. Through observation, interview, and artifact data, this inquiry analyzed how the preservice teachers engaged with the topic of race through the conceptual framework of critical Whiteness studies. This theoretical lens seeks to identify the normalized, oppressive practices of Whiteness with the goal of reorienting those practices in antiracist ways. The author identified two broad themes of transgressive White racial knowledge and conventional White racial knowledge to characterize the progressive and problematic aspects, respectively, of the preservice teachers’ engagement with race. The participants displayed transgressive White racial knowledge through the way they combatted deficit thinking toward urban students and through their knowledge of the mechanics of Whiteness and structural racism. They displayed conventional White racial knowledge through their stories of early experiences with racial difference, their use of subtle resistance discourses during race conversations, and their tendency to misappropriate critical racial discourses. As a whole, the racial knowledge of the ten White preservice teachers points to conflicted, ambivalent feelings at the core of their racial identities. Their desires to talk about race and to develop an antiracist teaching practice were mediated by competing desires to maintain their identities as “good Whites” and to protect their investments in Whiteness. The complex ways that these White preservice teachers engaged with critical racial discourses have significant implications for critical Whiteness studies, teacher education, and social studies education. Their willingness to explore race in a critical fashion should push teacher educators to resist homogenizing, deficit views of the antiracist potential of White teachers. However, their problematic engagement with race points to the importance of viewing White identity as conflicted. If antiracist pedagogies begin with this understanding of White racial identity, they can encourage profound shifts in the ontology, epistemology, and methodology of Whiteness. These shifts can help White teachers to develop racial literacy and to build an antiracist teaching practice.