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)
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)
Classrooms and schools represent a "culture of power" to the extent that they mirror unjust social relations that exist in the larger society. Progressive educators committed to social justice seek to disrupt those social relations in the classroom that function to silence marginalised students, but neutralising those who attempt to reassert power is problematic. This paper investigates the questions: is it ever justified to use power to interrupt power? Does all silencing subjugate? Arguments for and against the censorship of teachers (...) who believe that portraying homosexual lifestyles in a positive light undermines their integrity are outlined. I highlight and explain two crucial considerations absent in the aforementioned debate. Finally, the implications of the debate for social justice educators are explicated. (shrink)
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.
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 the ?traditional conception of moral responsibility? authorizes and supports denials of white complicity. First, what is meant by the ?traditional conception of moral responsibility? is delineated and the enabling and disenabling characteristics of this view are highlighted. Then, three seemingly good, antiracist discourses that white students often engage in are discussed ? the discourse of colour?blindness, the discourse of meritocracy and the discourse of individual choice ? and analysed to show how they are all grounded in (...) the ?traditional conception of moral responsibility?. The limitations of these discourses are drawn and how these discourses work to conceal white complicity is established. Finally, implications for social justice education are discussed. (shrink)
This paper explores the concept of white complicity and provides illustrations of how traditional conceptions of moral agency support the denial of such complicity. Judith Butler's conception of subjectivity is then examined with the aim of assessing its usefulness as a foundation for social justice pedagogy. Butler's conception of subjectivity is of interest because it offers insights into how dominant group identities are unintentionally complicit in the perpetuation of hegemonic social norms. While Butler's conception of subjectivity is shown to be (...) useful in understanding white complicity, questions around the notion of agency that follow from such a conception of subjectivity are raised and briefly discussed. Finally, I show the implications of Butler's conception of self and agency for social justice pedagogy. (shrink)
In part of an ongoing study of white complicity, moral responsibility, and moral agency in social justice education, Barbara Applebaum asks in this essay what model or models of moral responsibility can help white students recognize their white complicity and which models of moral responsibility obscure such acknowledgment. To address this question, she explores the concept of white complicity and its relation to racism and raises some compelling conceptual and pedagogical questions. Then she reviews a recent analysis of the concept (...) of “complicity” and shows it to be inadequate as a foundation for white complicity. Finally, Applebaum describes Iris Marion Young’s conception of a Social Connection Model of Responsibility and shows it to be capable not only of elucidating white complicity but also, when incorporated in social justice pedagogy, of diminishing denials of white complicity by white students. (shrink)
Applebaum acknowledges the importance of the questions that Jackson raises and also clarifies some claims that Jackson mistakenly attributes to her. Applebaum queries Jackson's identification of ?unreasonableness? with ignorance and cautions that a concern for students becoming ?reasonable? must not preclude the possible costs to those who must endure the education of the privileged.
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)
Abstract One of the greatest achievements ensuing from contemporary commitments to multiculturalism has been a greater awareness of the indignity of ethnocentrism. However, an inadequate understanding of how to avoid ethnocentrism may lead to moral paralysis. In this paper, it is argued that extolling the voices of others does not necessarily imply denigrating our own and that respecting diversity is the only genuine antidote for ethnocentrism.
Social justice education, it is argued, is a form of and essential to moral education, especially for dominant group affiliated students. Under this condition, one of the essential goals of social justice education must be raising an awareness of dominance. The meaning of dominance is discussed and it is argued that overly simplistic conceptions of what dominance means may lead to the mistaken assumption that in order to recognise one's own dominance, one has to reject the values of the dominant (...) group. The distinction between the "dominance of values" and the "values of the dominant group" is suggested but found inadequate. What is required is a critical analysis of the complexity, subtlety and systemic interrelatedness and embeddedness of dominant beliefs, values and standards in western, democratic societies. Without a serious approach to the complexities of dominance, future teachers will not be able to tend successfully to all their students, will not be able to contribute to social justice and will be able to hide all this behind good intentions. (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)
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.
Abstract The relationship of intention to moral responsibility in contemporary notions of racism is explored. It is argued that, although the moral import of efforts to reveal and recognise dominance in western society is to be lauded, the peripheral role attributed to intentions in ascriptions of racism can be counterproductive to the aim of helping dominant group members acknowledge their embeddedness in a culture which oppresses others.
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)
This paper argues that to study and teach ethics without due attention to feminism and other relevant aspects of critical theory 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)
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.