The world in which you were born 
is just one model of reality. 

Other cultures are not 
failed attempts at being you. 

They are unique manifestations 
of the human spirit. 

Wade Davis

White Privilege

Article by JBW Tucker, in his Reclaiming Conservative Theology blog:

Overcoming Fear of Cultural Differences 

http://www.ibm.com At IBM's THINK Forum in New York City, Errol Morris interviews Joi Ito, Director at MIT Media Lab, on the prevalence of fear between different cultures and how shared hardships can breed understanding.

Fear is one of the roots of racism, and this is a gentle introduction to the subject, but it is also fairly superficial proposal: overcoming racism or any other deeply embedded prejudice requires a lot more than intellectually understanding other cultures (or even accepting the general principle that all cultures have their rationale) but open-mindedness is certainly a good start. 

"Reverse Racism"

Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet)

Vídeo de YouTube

Humor can be a great way to show up a different point of view, whilst helping us to release some of the tension of deeply painful patterns of injustice that hurt all of us.   Aamer Rahman does a great job of delivering a big history lesson & deep social commentary wrapped up in laughter - for those with eyes to see. 

Native & Indigenous Peoples

It is important to also study the history of indigenous people in order to apreciate the devastating effects of racism on our collective understanding and especially practice of sustainability: even environmentalists are usually trying to 'save civilization' (meaning 'white people', as Lewis CK humorously points out below).

It is only possible to carry out the massive & ongoing genocide of native peoples that we have witnessed since civilization (=people living in cities & feeding off agriculture) started, if there is some psychological / cultural structure in place which makes it easy to objectify these 'other' humans, and that pattern is racism.

So this page is linked to the Indigenous People page in this e-book for that reason.

Ernestine Johnson: 'The Average Black Girl'

Vídeo de YouTube

Website: www.ernestinejohnson.com

Muhammad Ali on Racism

Louis CK - Explain The Meaning Of Being White

Vídeo de YouTube

Another comedian, this time a white ally, explaining racism in a way that can make us laugh, which is a spontaneous reaction to seeing things we are confused, fearful or deeply embarassed about told in a new way, and / or in a light, non-shaming way.    
Louis has a mixed race heritage (Jewish, Mexican, East European), and probably grew up with tales of racism that impacted his family, although he is conscious of having full white male privileges, which he asks white people to be a lot more conscious about.

Historical Dates in the Healing of Racism and Colonialism

The great value of these gestures by the leaders of these nations is that they elicit mass awareness, new dialogue and especially much grieving as the atrocities committed in the name of colonialization are admitted and apologized for. Much work remains to be done, but these are significant steps.

Canadian Apology to First Nations

12 June 2008

Canadian Prime Minister issued a formal apology to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people for the residential school system that attempted to destroy indigenous culture in Canada for many generations.


You can read the Prime Minister's statement here http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/06/11/pm-statement.html

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement of apology

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | 3:37 PM ET Comments149Recommend340

CBC News

Here are excerpts from the text of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement of apology on Wednesday, as released by the Prime Minister's Office. French sections, which repeat the English text, have been excluded:

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.

In the 1870's, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools.

Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

These objectives were based on the assumption aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal.

Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child."

Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.

Most schools were operated as "joint ventures" with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United churches.

The government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities.

Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed.

All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools.

Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The legacy of Indian residential schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today. It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered.

It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures.

Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the government of Canada.

The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation.

Therefore, on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian residential schools system.

To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you.

Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long.

The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.

There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.

You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.

The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.

We are sorry.

In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian residential schools, implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement agreement began on September 19, 2007.

Years of work by survivors, communities, and aboriginal organizations culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership.

A cornerstone of the settlement agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian residential schools system.

It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.

and learn about the Aboriginal Truth and Reconciliation Commission here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/truth-reconciliation its official site is here: http://www.trc-cvr.ca/indexen.html

Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples

House of Representatives

Parliament House, Canberra

13 February 2008


—I move:

That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

There comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future. Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time. And that is why the parliament is today here assembled: to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul and, in a true spirit of reconciliation, to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia.

Last year I made a commitment to the Australian people that if we formed the next government of the Commonwealth we would in parliament say sorry to the Stolen Generations. Today I honour that commitment. I said we would do so early in the life of the new parliament. Again, today I honour that commitment by doing so at the commencement of this the 42nd parliament of the Commonwealth. Because the time has come, well and truly come, for all peoples of our great country, for all citizens of our great Commonwealth, for all Australians—those who are Indigenous and those who are not—to come together to reconcile and together build a new future for our nation.

Some have asked, ‘Why apologise?’ Let me begin to answer by telling the parliament just a little of one person’s story—an elegant, eloquent and wonderful woman in her 80s, full of life, full of funny stories, despite what has happened in her life’s journey. A woman who has travelled a long way to be with us today, a member of the Stolen Generation who shared some of her story with me when I called around to see her just a few days ago. Nungala Fejo, as she prefers to be called, was born in the late 1920s. She remembers her earliest childhood days living with her family and her community in a bush camp just outside Tennant Creek. She remembers the love and the warmth and the kinship of those days long ago, including traditional dancing around the camp fire at night. She loved the dancing. She remembers once getting into strife when, as a four-year-old girl, she insisted on dancing with the male tribal elders rather than just sitting and watching the men, as the girls were supposed to do.

But then, sometime around 1932, when she was about four, she remembers the coming of the welfare men. Her family had feared that day and had dug holes in the creek bank where the children could run and hide. What they had not expected was that the white welfare men did not come alone. They brought a truck, they brought two white men and an Aboriginal stockman on horseback cracking his stockwhip. The kids were found; they ran for their mothers, screaming, but they could not get away. They were herded and piled onto the back of the truck. Tears flowing, her mum tried clinging to the sides of the truck as her children were taken away to the Bungalow in Alice, all in the name of protection.

A few years later, government policy changed. Now the children would be handed over to the missions to be cared for by the churches. But which church would care for them? The kids were simply told to line up in three lines. Nanna Fejo and her sister stood in the middle line, her older brother and cousin on her left. Those on the left were told that they had become Catholics, those in the middle Methodists and those on the right Church of England. That is how the complex questions of post-reformation theology were resolved in the Australian outback in the 1930s. It was as crude as that. She and her sister were sent to a Methodist mission on Goulburn Island and then Croker Island. Her Catholic brother was sent to work at a cattle station and her cousin to a Catholic mission.

Nanna Fejo’s family had been broken up for a second time. She stayed at the mission until after the war, when she was allowed to leave for a prearranged job as a domestic in Darwin. She was 16. Nanna Fejo never saw her mum again. After she left the mission, her brother let her know that her mum had died years before, a broken woman fretting for the children that had literally been ripped away from her.

I asked Nanna Fejo what she would have me say today about her story. She thought for a few moments then said that what I should say today was that all mothers are important. And she added: ‘Families—keeping them together is very important. It’s a good thing that you are surrounded by love and that love is passed down the generations. That’s what gives you happiness.’ As I left, later on, Nanna Fejo took one of my staff aside, wanting to make sure that I was not too hard on the Aboriginal stockman who had hunted those kids down all those years ago. The stockman had found her again decades later, this time himself to say, ‘Sorry.’ And remarkably, extraordinarily, she had forgiven him.

Nanna Fejo’s is just one story. There are thousands, tens of thousands of them: stories of forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their mums and dads over the better part of a century. Some of these stories are graphically told in Bringing Them Home, the report commissioned in 1995 by Prime Minister Keating and received in 1997 by Prime Minister Howard. There is something terribly primal about these firsthand accounts. The pain is searing; it screams from the pages. The hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental humanity.

These stories cry out to be heard; they cry out for an apology. Instead, from the nation’s parliament there has been a stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade. A view that somehow we, the parliament, should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong. A view that, instead, we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side, to leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors, as if the Stolen Generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon. But the Stolen Generations are not intellectual curiosities. They are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments. But, as of today, the time for denial, the time for delay, has at last come to an end.

The nation is demanding of its political leadership to take us forward. Decency, human decency, universal human decency, demands that the nation now steps forward to right a historical wrong. That is what we are doing in this place today. But should there still be doubts as to why we must now act. Let the parliament reflect for a moment on the following facts: that, between 1910 and 1970, between 10 and 30 per cent of Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their mothers and fathers. That, as a result, up to 50,000 children were forcibly taken from their families. That this was the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state as reflected in the explicit powers given to them under statute. That this policy was taken to such extremes by some in administrative authority that the forced extractions of children of so-called ‘mixed lineage’ were seen as part of a broader policy of dealing with ‘the problem of the Aboriginal population’.

One of the most notorious examples of this approach was from the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, who stated, and I quote:

Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes—

to quote the protector—

will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white ...

The Western Australian Protector of Natives expressed not dissimilar views, expounding them at length in Canberra in 1937 at the first national conference on Indigenous affairs that brought together the Commonwealth and state protectors of natives. These are uncomfortable things to be brought out into the light. They are not pleasant. They are profoundly disturbing. But we must acknowledge these facts if we are to deal once and for all with the argument that the policy of generic forced separation was somehow well motivated, justified by its historical context and, as a result, unworthy of any apology today.

Then we come to the argument of intergenerational responsibility, also used by some to argue against giving an apology today. But let us remember the fact that the forced removal of Aboriginal children was happening as late as the early 1970s. The 1970s is not exactly a point in remote antiquity. There are still serving members of this parliament who were first elected to this place in the early 1970s. It is well within the adult memory span of many of us. The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.

There is a further reason for an apology as well: it is that reconciliation is in fact an expression of a core value of our nation—and that value is a fair go for all. There is a deep and abiding belief in the Australian community that, for the Stolen Generations, there was no fair go at all. And there is a pretty basic Aussie belief that says it is time to put right this most outrageous of wrongs. It is for these reasons, quite apart from concerns of fundamental human decency, that the governments and parliaments of this nation must make this apology. Because, put simply, the laws that our parliaments enacted made the Stolen Generations possible. We, the parliaments of the nation, are ultimately responsible, not those who gave effect to our laws, the problem lay with the laws themselves. As has been said of settler societies elsewhere, we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors and therefore we must also be the bearer of their burdens as well. Therefore, for our nation, the course of action is clear. Therefore for our people, the course of action is clear. And that is, to deal now with what has become one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s history. In doing so, we are doing more than contending with the facts, the evidence and the often rancorous public debate. In doing so, we are also wrestling with our own soul. This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth. Facing with it, dealing with it, moving on from it. And until we fully confront that truth, there will always be a shadow hanging over us and our future as a fully united and fully reconciled people. It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.

To the Stolen Generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification. We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied. We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments. In making this apology, I would also like to speak personally to the members of the Stolen Generation and their families: to those here today, so many of you; to those listening across the nation—from Yuendumu, in the central west of the Northern Territory, to Yabara, in North Queensland, and to Pitjantjatjara in South Australia.

I know that, in offering this apology on behalf of the government and the parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally. Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that. Words alone are not that powerful. Grief is a very personal thing. I say to non-Indigenous Australians listening today who may not fully understand why what we are doing is so important, I ask those non-Indigenous Australians to imagine for a moment if this had happened to you. I say to honourable members here present: imagine if this had happened to us. Imagine the crippling effect. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive. But my proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia. And it is to such a new beginning that I believe the nation is now calling us.

Australians are a passionate lot. We are also a very practical lot. For us, symbolism is important but, unless the great symbolism of reconciliation is accompanied by an even greater substance, it is little more than a clanging gong. It is not sentiment that makes history; it is our actions that make history. Today’s apology, however inadequate, is aimed at righting past wrongs. It is also aimed at building a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians—a bridge based on a real respect rather than a thinly veiled contempt. Our challenge for the future is now to cross that bridge and, in so doing, embrace a new partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Embracing, as part of that partnership, expanded link-up and other critical services to help the Stolen Generations to trace their families, if at all possible, and to provide dignity to their lives. But the core of this partnership for the future is to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. This new partnership on closing the gap will set concrete targets for the future: within a decade to halve the widening gap in literacy, numeracy and employment outcomes and opportunities for Indigenous children, within a decade to halve the appalling gap in infant mortality rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and, within a generation, to close the equally appalling 17-year life gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous when it comes when it comes to overall life expectancy.

The truth is: a business as usual approach towards Indigenous Australians is not working. Most old approaches are not working. We need a new beginning. A new beginning which contains real measures of policy success or policy failure. A new beginning, a new partnership, on closing the gap with sufficient flexibility not to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach for each of the hundreds of remote and regional Indigenous communities across the country but instead allows flexible, tailored, local approaches to achieve commonly-agreed national objectives that lie at the core of our proposed new partnership. And a new beginning that draws intelligently on the experiences of new policy settings across the nation. However, unless we as a parliament set a destination for the nation, we have no clear point to guide our policy, our programs or our purpose; no centralised organising principle.

So let us resolve today to begin with the little children—a fitting place to start on this day of apology for the Stolen Generations. Let us resolve over the next five years to have every Indigenous four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal community enrolled and attending a proper early childhood education centre or opportunity and engaged in proper preliteracy and prenumeracy programs. Let us resolve to build new educational opportunities for these little ones, year by year, step by step, following the completion of their crucial preschool year. Let us resolve to use this systematic approach to building future educational opportunities for Indigenous children to provide proper primary and preventive health care for the same children, to begin the task of rolling back the obscenity that we find today in infant mortality rates in remote Indigenous communities—up to four times higher than in other communities.

None of this will be easy. Most of it will be hard—very hard. But none of it, none of it, is impossible, and all of it is achievable with clear goals, clear thinking, and by placing an absolute premium on respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility as the guiding principles of this new partnership on closing the gap. The mood of the nation is for reconciliation now, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The mood of the nation on Indigenous policy and politics is now very simple. The nation is calling on us, the politicians, to move beyond our infantile bickering, our point-scoring and our mindlessly partisan politics and elevate at least this one core area of national responsibility to a rare position beyond the partisan divide. Surely this is the spirit, the unfulfilled spirit, of the 1967 referendum. Surely, at least from this day forward, we should give it a go.

So let me take this one step further to take what some may see as a piece of political posturing and make a practical proposal to the opposition on this day, the first full sitting day of the new parliament. I said before the election the nation needed a kind of war cabinet on parts of Indigenous policy, because the challenges are too great and the consequences too great to just allow it all to become a political football, as it has been so often in the past. I therefore propose a joint policy commission, to be led by the Leader of the Opposition and myself and, with a mandate to develop and implement—to begin with—an effective housing strategy for remote communities over the next five years. It will be consistent with the government’s policy framework, a new partnership for closing the gap. If this commission operates well, I then propose that it work on the further task of constitutional recognition of the first Australians, consistent with the longstanding platform commitments of my party and the pre-election position of the opposition. This would probably be desirable in any event because, unless such a proposition were absolutely bipartisan, it would fail at a referendum. As I have said before, the time has come for new approaches to enduring problems. And working constructively together on such defined projects, I believe, would meet with the support of the nation. It is time for fresh ideas to fashion the nation’s future.

Today the parliament has come together to right a great wrong. We have come together to deal with the past so that we might fully embrace the future. And we have had sufficient audacity of faith to advance a pathway to that future, with arms extended rather than with fists still clenched. So let us seize the day. Let it not become a moment of mere sentimental reflection. Let us take it with both hands and allow this day, this day of national reconciliation, to become one of those rare moments in which we might just be able to transform the way in which the nation thinks about itself, whereby the injustice administered to these Stolen Generations in the name of these, our parliaments, causes all of us to reappraise, at the deepest level of our beliefs, the real possibility of reconciliation writ large. Reconciliation across all Indigenous Australia. Reconciliation across the entire history of the often bloody encounter between those who emerged from the Dreamtime a thousand generations ago and those who, like me, came across the seas only yesterday. Reconciliation which opens up whole new possibilities for the future.

For the nation to bring the first two centuries of our settled history to a close, as we begin a new chapter and which we embrace with pride, admiration and awe these great and ancient cultures we are blessed, truly blessed, to have among us. Cultures that provide a unique, uninterrupted human thread linking our Australian continent to the most ancient prehistory of our planet. And growing from this new respect, to see our Indigenous brothers and sisters with fresh eyes, with new eyes, and with our minds wide open as to how we might tackle, together, the great practical challenges that Indigenous Australia faces in the future.

So let us turn this page together: Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Government and Opposition, Commonwealth and State, and write this new chapter in our nation’s story together. First Australians, First Fleeters, and those who first took the Oath of Allegiance just a few weeks ago. Let’s grasp this opportunity to craft a new future for this great land: Australia. I commend the motion to the House.

Critical Whiteness Studies and the Challenges of Learning to be a ‘White Ally’

"People with privilege need to take responsibility for engaging other people with privilege in antiracist education and awareness."


Nado Aveling

Murdoch University

In working with teacher education students (most of whom are white) to develop an explicitly ant-racist consciousness, it is one of my aims as a white teacher educator to examine how the boundaries of ethnicity, race and power make visible how whiteness functions as a social construction that is specific to its historical and social location.

While I want white students to own their whiteness and to become aware of white race privilege, at the same time it is important to provide future teachers with strategies and resources that enable them to move beyond the feelings of guilt that critically examining whiteness frequently engenders.

One way of addressing this is through the model of the ‘white ally’ (Tatum 1994), a concept that is inextricably tied to, not only the notion of "working with, rather for the Other" (Giroux 1993, 29), but also to the injunction to "work on racism for your sake, not their sake" (Yamato 1990, 423).

In this paper a range of responses from a representative subgroup of the 2003 cohort of my students are presented with particular reference to the ways in which these students reflected on ‘being white’ and the ways in which they felt that being a white ally would help them in their own teaching.

What I seek to do, in fact, is to clarify the effect that deconstructing whiteness has on students’ perception of themselves as educators. At the same time I also take the opportunity to reflect on the challenges that working in this way poses for teacher educators.

1. I have been teaching a course titled "Aboriginal and Multicultural Education" for the past ten years. It is the only course within the four-year initial teacher education program at my university that specifically focuses on Indigenous and multicultural issues. It is a large course with annual enrolments of around 250 students. As a white teacher educator I have learned much about myself over the years and some things about the craft of teaching. If the majority of my students’ responses are anything to go by, I am improving. Their comments, culled from a number of different cohorts, are likely to sound something like this:

Excellent course! I think it should be compulsory for all educators. Examining my own prejudices and beliefs during workshop discussions has been hard at times but I am conscious that there have been some real changes.

I came to realise that being Aboriginal in this country isn't as rosy as us whites see it to be.

Taught me lots I didn’t know. It shocked me and made me think.

2. I also know that despite my best efforts I fail to reach a small proportion of students. I know that some of them only enrol in "Aboriginal and Multicultural Education" because it is a mandatory course. These students are apt to comment along the following lines:

I would never have done this course if I wasn’t forced to and find it offensive that I need to pay for the privilege.

I felt I was forced to take on her views, otherwise I would not get anywhere with my marks.

Anti-racist content needs to be changed to ensure that white students are not affronted.

3. The feelings that these students expressed are not peculiar to my students. As Cochran-Smith has pointed out:

When we unleash unpopular things by making race and racism explicit parts of the curriculum, responses are often strongly emotional, and resistance, misunderstanding, frustration, anger, and feelings of inefficacy may be the outcomes (1995, 542).

4. Despite the above comments, it would be too facile to divide students’ responses into two opposing camps.

It would also be naïve for me to assume that all my students enter my course presenting the same ‘blank slates’, or that some exit with a fully developed anti-racist consciousness and that others exit with their racism intact. What I want to do in this paper, therefore, is to present a range of responses from a representative subgroup of the 2003 cohort, with particular reference to the ways in which these students reflected on ‘being white’ at the end of the course and how they felt that this would help them in their own teaching. What I seek to do, in fact, is to clarify the effect that deconstructing whiteness has on students’ perception of themselves as educators.

At the same time I also take the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of remaining grounded within an anti-racist perspective while becoming increasingly pragmatic in my approaches.

Why teach about ‘whiteness’?


5. ‘Whiteness’ is a construct that is not easily pinned down because it is not a trans-historical essence, but rather it refers to "a set of locations that are historically, socially, politically, and culturally produced" (Frankenberg 1993, 6). This "set of locations" is, moreover, gendered and class-based. As Moreton-Robinson has argued in the Australian context:

White women’s privilege in theory has become normalised because it is grounded in the assumption that the womanness of all women was the same version of womanness experienced by white middle-class women (1999, 33).

6. Further, whiteness is a relational category and whether acknowledged or not, it tends to be the norm against which other ‘races’ are judged. While whiteness is frequently invisible to those of us who are white, it is burdened with different layers of meaning: it is not just about skin colour but is "rather more about the discursive practices that because of colonialism and neocolonialism, privilege and sustain the global dominance of white imperial subjects and Eurocentric world views" (Shome 1999, 108-109).

7. In teacher education courses, critical whiteness studies reflect, as Levine-Rasky has pointed out, "the realisation that the failure of equity education initiatives is attributable to a misidentification of change object" (2000, 263). In other words, instead of studying down in the power structure and focussing upon racially oppressed groups, the gaze in critical whiteness studies is averted from "the racial object to the racial subject; from the described and imagined to the describers and imaginers; from the serving to the served" (Morrison 1991, 90).

8. Given that whiteness has been simultaneously ignored and universalised, and thus is both "opaque and transparent" (Delgado and Stancic 1997, 1), the critical study of whiteness is important in the field of education because:

Analysing whiteness opens a theoretical space for teachers and students to articulate how their own racial identities have been shaped within a broader racist culture and what responsibilities they might assume for living in a present in which Whites are accorded privileges and opportunities (though in complex and different ways) largely at the expense of other racial groups (Giroux 1997, 314).

9. In "Aboriginal and Multicultural Education", therefore, my students and I examine how the boundaries of ethnicity, race and power make visible how whiteness functions as a social construction that is specific to its historical and social location. To avoid the trap of "white fetishism", a phenomenon that "puts whites at the centre again" (Clark and O’Donnell 1999, 5) we also explore ways in which we can "affirm and interrogate the histories, memories and stories of the devalued others who have been marginalised from the official discourse of the canon" (Giroux 1993, 101).

10. For me as a teacher educator, the critical examination of whiteness is part of a larger project of anti-racism. In practice this means that without deconstructing "whiteness as ‘race’, as privilege, and as social construction" (Fine et al. 1997, vii) we cannot even begin to think in ways that are explicitly anti-racist. In other words, we cannot "hide behind our anti-racist credentials and avoid taking responsibility for the effects of our whiteness" (Nicoll 2000, 381).


My teaching agenda and the context in which I teach

11. In many ways "Aboriginal and Multicultural Education" is about letting loose "the stinkbomb" of racism and to make my students (as well as myself) "uncomfortable in our Racism" and to encourage all of us to "take a stance against it" (Anzaldua 1990, xix). This is not an easy task, especially as "racism is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of Australian society and, as such, racist practices may be routinely enacted by people who do not consciously accept racist views" (Stephenson 1997, 1).

12. Each semester my students and I grapple with the issues that are embedded within "a pedagogy that speaks with rather than for the Other" (Giroux 1993, 29).

Teaching against the grain is not simply a matter of teaching as one would any other ‘subject’ because exploring ‘race’ and racism with white students goes to the core of our socially constructed identities.

I am well aware how confronting the risky business of examining our own social locatedness as privileged and white can be (see Aveling, 2001) and thus begin introductions to the course by sharing with my students stories about my own struggles to acknowledge my white subject position.

When I talk to my students about some of the things that have shaped me, it is my intention to model ways in which students can critically analyse their own lives and interrogate their own assumptions about the meaning of whiteness.

Thus, issues with which we attempt to come to grips during tutorials include the invisibility of whiteness and the ways in which we learn to racialise the Other but not our white selves, the 'common-sense' ways through which we understand racism and position ourselves as 'good whites' (who are not implicated in racism because we do not commit acts of racist violence).

13. Sometimes I catch myself slipping into the ‘good white’ subject position.

This is embarrassing but at the same time it is also gratifying because when students catch me out, I know they are thinking critically.

In fact, the whole process is far from easy, however, a willingness on my part to admit that the struggle is on-going and to admit (if shamefacedly) that I have far from ‘arrived’ in the anti-racism stakes leaves an opening for students to begin to explore their own histories and value positions (see also paper by Nicoll in this issue).

14. Over time I have developed a curriculum that comprises of three dimensions related to knowledge, attitudes and skills.

These are not dissimilar from the components of multicultural education first described by Banks (1981) and built on by others (for example, Noel 1995; Villegas and Lucas 2002). Given that I am currently working on a twelve week semester schedule, I have divided the thirty-six teaching hours available to me in the following manner: one hour a week is devoted to delivering a lecture; one hour is scheduled for viewing audio-visual materials or introducing simulation games and other activities; a final hour is set aside for group discussions where the focus is derived from the readings set for each week.

While mass lectures are perhaps not the most productive of pedagogies, given student numbers and funding issues, as well as most students’ abysmal ignorance of Australia’s racist past, a weekly lecture is the most efficient way to fill in some of the gaps in knowledge about this country’s history; its past and present policies concerning Indigenous peoples and non-anglo minorities.

15. I choose readings that, I hope, speak to students’ experiences and maximise ‘story-telling’ as a strategy to explicate different positionalities. My teaching strategies purposefully include experiential work and in-depth discussions that attempt to engage students in a personal way. This is important because:

Merely representing factual information about social inequity and human diversity does not necessarily enable pre-service teachers to examine the beliefs and assumptions that may influence the way they interpret these facts (King 1991, cited in Ladson-Billings 1999, 226).

16. To be as effective as I can be, I have learned that it is important not only to begin ‘where students are at’ and to be responsive to students’ needs, but also to remain grounded in the theoretical perspective that informs my teaching.

There is an obvious contradiction here because to be responsive to what some students want would equate to abandoning an anti-racist perspective.

In other words, many students do not take readily to having just about everything they have ever thought of as ‘right’ and ‘true’ or ‘normal’ overturned in one semester and many strenuously resist my attempts to deconstruct ‘common-sense’ cultural assumptions and frames of reference.

17. I used to agonise over the ‘resisters’ (see Aveling, 2002) and they are, of course, still of concern because they too are going to graduate in the fullness of time and be let loose to teach the nation’s children.

However, as the latest student surveys indicate, no matter what I do, for a very small percentage, ‘race talk’ is simply not what a teacher education course ought to be about.

I must admit that after a decade I am frequently tempted to give up on these students despite the fact that they have taught me much.

I have, for example, learned to no longer take their harsh criticisms personally.

I have also learned that much as I might want to, I cannot simply dismiss these students as ‘hard-core racists’. It has taken me some time to arrive at this realisation, and then only after reading Ghassan Hage who might have had these students in mind when he wrote:

Such people see racism as something ugly and bad. To somehow propose a different understanding of what racism is in order to convince them that they are ‘ugly and bad’ is not only bad academic practice, but, it seems to me, also ridiculously bad political practice (Hage 1998, 184).

18. It seems to me that it is also bad teaching. Hage further argues that if we are to achieve any understanding of social reality we need to take Spinoza’s precept seriously: "not to deplore, not to laugh, not to detest, but to understand".

In terms of those students who resist my approaches to deconstruct whiteness this would make sense. I am, however, still not entirely clear about how to go about this.

As I have argued elsewhere (Aveling, 2002) I find it extremely difficult, for example, to put myself as well as the other students through racist diatribes based on some of the students' experiences with Indigenous people that they want to pass off as the ultimate 'truth' because it had happened to them.

Beyond ‘white guilt’

19. Over the years I have become much more explicit with my students about

the fact that changing ‘Whiteness’ is not the issue, that guilt and shame are not the end of our curriculum but, rather, our joint thoughtfulness about how our society might dismantle its historical practices of social injustice (Gillespie et al. 2002, 249).

In fact, this is a point that I have to reiterate throughout the semester.

I have found that it is not enough to say once: "This is not about making you feel guilty. This is about understanding how being white has shaped us as well as provided us with unearned privileges, and armed with this understanding, to do something about racism" (or words to that effect).

Nevertheless, within this context I want students to acknowledge that Australia’s history is not merely something that happened a long time ago, that it is, indeed, something that has on-going implications for Indigenous people and people of colour and by inference, for them as educators. While I want them (us) to own their (our) whiteness and to become aware of white race privilege, at the same time I believe that it is important to provide future teachers with strategies and resources that enable them to move beyond feelings of guilt, fear and alienation.

20. "But what can I do?" is a question that looms large for many of my students. This is not an idiosyncratic question, but one that seems to be echoed by teacher education students in other parts of the ‘western’ world. As Beverley Daniel Tatum suggested:

Helping students think this question through for themselves is part of our responsibility as educators who have accepted the challenge of teaching about racism. Heightened student awareness about racism without also providing some hope for social change is a prescription for despair. We all have a sphere of influence  For students, the task might be to identify what their own sphere of influence is (however large or small) and to consider how it might be used to interrupt the cycle of racism (1994, 465).

21. For me this approach has been liberating. While I acknowledge that all too frequently an unwillingness to become involved lurks behind our despair at being able to make a difference, I work from the assumption that my students want to ‘make a difference’ that is positive in students’ lives.

I would rather students enter the teaching profession confident that in some small way they can interrupt the cycle of individual racism than becoming mired in despair at the enormity and pervasiveness of institutional racism. That is not to say that such an approach is entirely individualistic or that it gives us license to place institutional racism into the ‘too hard basket’.

22. Given that individual and institutional racism are inextricably intertwined, when Tatum suggests that we consider our own sphere of influence and what we might do within that to interrupt the cycle of racism, she asks us to consider what we are prepared to do, both in addressing our own racism and tackling racism at the institutional level.

The counter question which is more confronting, but perhaps much more pertinent, is posed by Moreton-Robinson (2000, xvii) who asks us to consider the limits to which we are prepared to go. These are not questions that can readily be answered in the abstract because our actions are likely to be situation and context specific. However, in working with my students I ask them to consider whether or not their replies are grounded in the concept that they must "work with, rather for the Other". As Tatum explains:

The role of the ally is to speak up against systems of oppression, and to challenge other whites to do the same. Teaching about racism needs to shift from an exploration of the experiences of victims and victimizers to that of empowered people of colour and their white allies, creating the possibility of working together as partners in the establishment of a more just society. (1994, 474).

23. In fact, at the heart of the endeavour is, as Moreton-Robinson has pointed out, the sharing, indeed, the "relinquishment of power" (2000, 186).

While this may be a distant goal, Clark and O’Donnell have suggested that: "facilitating critical dialogue  may prove more valuable to realising this goal than we have previously believed, that is, talk may not be so cheap after all" (Clark and O’Donnell 1999, 3). Both my students and I need to believe that this is so because otherwise the practice of anti-racism largely becomes an exercise in futility.

If racism is so pervasive, is in fact, a ‘normal’ part of Australian society, then what is the point of teaching in ways that are explicitly anti-racist? If indeed, individual efforts are no more than band-aiding a situation that could only be healed through the large-scale dismantling of institutional racism, then why bother?

24. Thus, rather than do nothing, many of my students take up Gloria Yamato’s challenge ‘not to give up’:

Challenge oppression. Take a stand against it [...]. Do not expect that people of colour should teach you how to behave non-oppressively [...]. Work on racism for your sake, not "their" sake. Assume that you are needed and capable of being a good ally.

Know that you'll make mistakes and commit yourself to correcting them and continuing on as an ally, no matter what. Don't give up (Yamato 1990, 423).

25. While being an ally is central to Yamato’s argument, this concept must go hand in hand, not only with the notion of "working with, ratherfor the Other" but also with Yamato’s injunction to "work on racism for your sake, not their sake". Holding these thoughts simultaneously can be somewhat of a juggling act and I have no doubt that students will indeed make mistakes, just as I know I have made them.

26. The danger, of course, is that such an approach might be seen as purely individualistic and spawn a whole generation of teachers who, in acknowledging their white race privilege, slip into a new mutation of the old concept of noblesse oblige. In fact, there are dangers everywhere. Certainly in taking the concept of the ‘white ally’ on board, there are a number of issues I have not yet thought through with sufficient care.

As an ally what am I prepared to do? What am I not prepared to do? What are the consequences for me? What are the consequences for teachers? What are the implications for students and their communities? Where are the possibilities for forming alliances?

27. In sum, however, faced with the choice to give up in the face of hopelessness, or to try harder within a more individualistic framework of incremental change, I am, for the moment, prepared to live with the slippages and contradictions in my approaches and while I am never quite sure that I have gotten the balance right, I work on the principle that my role as a teacher educator is to "encourage critique and hope in equal measure" (Villegas and Lucas 2002, 58).

28. The slippages in my teaching and students’ thinking will certainly become obvious in the next section of this paper where I present students’ responses to selected readings: Gloria Yamato’s Something about the subject makes it hard to name (1991) and Mary Gannon’sWhat would a white girl from Boston know about racism (1999).

I chose these papers for discussion in the penultimate week of the semester because they both employ a first person narrative style and thus balanced nicely with the stories told in week one of the semester.

In the intervening weeks we had discussed the social construction of race, had talked about gender and social class and had analysed, probed and punctured the notion of whiteness. We had also wrestled with the implications these constructs might have for students and teachers in classrooms.

Thus, while the papers by Yamato and Gannon did not introduce unfamiliar material, they nevertheless recapitulated the ‘same story’ in a theoretically rigorous way, from ‘black’ and ‘white’ perspectives respectively. Interestingly, most students chose to discuss the paper by Yamato, which is certainly more confronting. Some told me their choice had been contingent on the relative length of each paper.

Students’ voices: Re-assessing ‘being white’

29. The data on which I draw here are derived from a group of sixteen students with whom I met on a weekly basis for discussion of the set readings. I also draw on the work of five additional students who, although they did not attend the discussion sessions, met with me on a semi-regular basis to raise issues of concern and to submit written work. All names used to identify individual quotations are pseudonyms. In the interest of protecting students’ anonymity I have also changed other (minor) details.

30. Three of the twenty-one students chose to ignore my invitations to reflect on the papers on a personal level.

These students focussed on providing summaries in the manner of: "This paper discusses racism and oppression and how difficult they are to eliminate" or "I found this paper very interesting and well written". They then proceeded to outline the nuances of the authors’ arguments without ever directly engaging with the argument in terms of what the ideas might mean for them or indeed for their future teaching. Other students, however, responded in a more personal way. In fact, the response made by Kevin could not have been more personal or eye-opening. He wrote:

When I started this course I never expected it to be so confrontational and challenging of the beliefs and values I held. As each week progressed these articles have left me questioning my position as a white person. For me it has been challenging, confronting issues such as whiteness when I have an Aboriginal background, yet I am seen as a white person by society. Gannon’s article has finally made me acknowledge my Aboriginality. This is not to say that I am ashamed of my background. I am not. But I would rather talk about this to people who respect Aboriginal culture (Kevin).

31. During the semester Kevin had been a competent but relatively quiet student. When he contributed to discussions I often felt that he was quite conservative because he seemed to subscribe to a deficit model of education for cultural minorities. Thus, his response suggested that it is not only ‘white’ students who benefit from deconstructing whiteness.

While all students struggled with re-assessing their position as ‘whites’ and with ‘not being defensive’ only one student read Yamato’s text as a personal affront:

This chapter has a very angry vibe to it. I believe that Yamato is, perhaps unaware/unintentionally racist against ‘Whites’.

The article is littered with comments such as "white folk are just plain lazy", "whites operating on misinformation" and (my personal favourite) "whites who want to be allies of those of colour". For someone attempting to combat racism she is, in my opinion, awfully racist.

She classifies all ‘whites’ as the ‘evil oppressor’ who can’t even be nice without being racist.  If you are told often enough, as in Yamato’s article, that white people are an oppressive mob of power-driven, commercialised, homogenised, arrogant, yet educated people that need to be taught how to behave non-oppressively, you begin to believe it. 

What does it mean to me to be white? It means being reminded daily about ‘white supremacy’ and being automatically labelled as racist.

Despite what may have occurred in the past I am proud of my people, of what we have achieved and what we can achieve in a short period of time. I just want to be me, the clean slate with no skin colour or cultural stigmas, but to be white means to have ‘white power’ whether we want it or not (Jasmin).

    • 32. I was surprised by Jasmin’s comments because it seemed to me that her diatribe did not really reflect the bright and articulate person I thought I had come to know over the semester. I certainly do not know how to read her phrase "my personal favourite" when discussing the notion of being a white ally.

At first I thought she was being sarcastic but I am no longer sure because her contributions during discussions seemed to indicate that she wanted to work for racial justice. I had intended to ask her about her comments but given the frenetic discussions (and leave-taking) of our last session together she disappeared before I had a chance to do so. Perhaps I should not have been surprised because her responses are reminiscent of some of the opinions voiced in various "Letter to the Editor" sections of the print media that individualise racism and/or see whites as the ‘new oppressed’.

Given fewer time restrictions and a second semester at my disposal it is possible that Jasmin might have been able to work through her resistance within the context of our weekly discussion groups. Given another semester, Kevin might also have acquired the confidence to acknowledge his Indigeneity in class.

33. The remaining students read the text positively and did not seem to dwell overly on ‘white guilt’. They particularly related to the message of hope they detected in the exhortation to be a ‘white ally’. Elizabeth, David and Nick, for example, are not alone in finding this message inspiring:

I liked how Yamato gave clear examples of the different forms of racism, it made me think about what I might have been guilty of in the past. Also I liked her comment to white people "Assume that your effort to be a good friend is appreciated, but don’t expect or accept gratitude from people of colour" (Elizabeth).

I found this article really inspiring. Yamato’s message that white people should start to acknowledge racism and start to deal with it head-on, gave me hope that if we work together, to not give up, one day there will be an end to racism (David).

This paper has prompted me to think how I will deal with racism on different levels and how I will challenge oppression. This paper has prompted me to question how I as a white non-Indigenous person can become an ally to people from different cultures (Nick).

34. Andrew was another student who, despite some confusion about "saying the wrong thing" was buoyed by the paper because it reconfirmed for him that he could ‘make a difference’. He wrote:

I have found that this course is sometimes confusing and I am sometimes worried about saying the wrong thing and insulting someone without intending to but I am glad to have finished with such a powerful reading. This has made me really think about what it is to be white and today I saw colour: my own. My white face in the mirror of my bathroom, in the house that I had no difficulty renting and in the car that my father bought me because I graduated high school.

As I walk into university no one looks twice at me, it is easy to belong. My whiteness is all of these things and even more. The privilege of white people is simply immeasurable, it is about life chances. Yamato says "Know that you’ll make mistakes and commit yourself to correcting them and continuing on as an ally, no matter what. Don’t give up".

I look forward to teaching in ways that are socially critical and making a real difference, at least in some students’ lives. A rather fanciful notion, but I’m a bit like that (Andrew).

35. There is no doubt that the course had been a struggle for Andrew, not because he was not a highly capable student, but because he really engaged with the material at a deeply personal, as well as theoretical level. Other students too, were able to reflect on the different perspective they had developed during the course of the semester. This was not always easy as the following comments show:

A point which I didn’t really catch on to when asked earlier in the semester in a study question something along the lines of how my race has affected how I was shaped. Was that because I am white and live in a white-centred culture I’ve never had to think about my identity as a white person.

This is so true. I fit in everywhere, I’m accepted by everyone, so why would I ever have to think about my identity? But on the other hand, those excluded as ‘other’ would have to think about their identity almost everyday of their lives if they live in a white-centred culture like Australia. 

The first time I answered these questions I didn’t have much knowledge, or much of a sense of my whiteness, but now I seem to have a whole new perspective.  In analysing my earlier responses I would have to say the answers were made out of ignorance.

I really had no sense of what my life meant in the context of racial differences and ultimately I have never been in a situation that has forced me to question my whiteness. I hope to be able to use the things I learned in my teaching (Sam).

As much as I agree with Yamato that racism can’t be wished away there are a number of things when I first read the article I felt that her opinions are very generalised because they are focused on black versus white.

Is this not being racist herself? I felt that this is failing to identify the individuality that occurs between groups. I felt that she is being very limited to the racism she is challenging by focussing purely on colour. When I read it again I changed my mind. This is definitely the most powerful and thought-provoking article that I have read in this course. Even though I don’t want to admit it, I think because I am white and have had my own thoughts challenged I reacted defensively (Thomas).

For me, the reading prompted a review of other materials covered during the semester which caused me to confront my racial and social positioning. The reading in week 9 was the real catalyst for self-examination, forcing me to use my ‘white self’ instead of the ‘other’ as the starting point and helping me to face the awful truth of both my own racism and ethnocentric attitudes and the privileged position in society I have taken for granted. This questioning of my position is now filtering into my daily thinking and becoming an inseparable part of my character (Kate).

36. These self-reflective pieces show how students felt they had grown. Within the context of teacher education, however, what is of greater significance are the implications of these insights for students’ future professional praxis. In other words, to what extent does deconstructing whiteness help them to become better teachers?

37. As I indicated earlier, I am frequently caught in a dilemma when working with students: on the one hand I want my students to enter the teaching profession knowing that they can make a difference and that they can play their part in working against racism. On the other hand, however, this means I tend to gloss over (quite unwittingly sometimes) and almost negate the pernicious effects of institutional racism. This has come back to bite me, as the following responses show:

I have learned that there is a great importance in acknowledging racism. It is easy for people to say "I’m not a racist, I don’t call people names or treat them unjustly".

People need to realise there is more than verbal or physical abuse associated with racism and by ignoring that there is a problem emphasises the need to tackle racism.

Yamato also suggests that the problem of racism will not go away until there is a more even distribution of power (this relates to the class structure) within society. Teachers can assist this process by creating a fair and inclusive classroom in which students learn about racism. This was never addressed while I was at school and I believe that by educating the youth of Australia we can come close to eradicating the problem (Veronica).

There is no doubt in my mind that we are a long way from eradicating racism in our society and it certainly can’t just be wished away. As a future teacher I can at least help combat racism by changing or eradicating any racist attitudes that may be present in my class. I think that if we can tackle racism at a grass-roots level in the schools then eventually this will spread through the wider community and may indeed lead to the end of racism. It may take a few hundred years, but if we can live in a society that is free of all types of racism then it will surely be worth the wait (Angie).

38. In the first quote, Veronica discusses the varieties of racism (including institutional racism), and in the next breath suggests that racism in its diverse manifestations can be overcome through education. Angie, similarly resorts to the classic liberal interpretation and suggests that even if it takes a century, tackling education at the grass-roots level can end racism. These two responses are not atypical. I would even go so far as to suggest that they are fairly representative of the majority of students.

And herein lies the dilemma because I do not want to disabuse entirely the notion that education can be a powerful change agent and that racism is something we can overcome. To do that would make the course I teach almost meaningless. I have spent some time pondering this quandary and have, I am afraid, no answers.

All I have is a sense of optimism that critically deconstructing whiteness and working with students to explore different ways of seeing social reality, will allow them to see that there are different perspectives and that they will take that knowledge with them as they mature as educators. Ultimately, however, I will never know.

Further reflections

39. When reading through my students’ responses the inescapable conclusions for me were that individual students will always respond to the course and read the material according to the ways in which their "history and their present come together" (Kenway 1992, 69), no matter how much I might want to shape the process.

As a teacher educator this should not come as a surprise. By way of conclusion then, I want to frame ‘the problem’ differently and rather than thinking in terms of binary opposites (that is, thinking in terms of achieving the desired outcomes or not achieving the desired outcomes) I propose that it is more useful to think in terms of a continuum that moves from dys-consciousness at one end of a continuum and consciousness at the other.

40. Villegas and Lucas (2002) have articulated this particularly well. They suggested that culturally responsive teachers are those who have (among other attributes) socio-cultural consciousness as well as a sense that they are both responsible for and capable of bringing about educational change that will make schooling more responsive to students from diverse backgrounds. The authors place dys-consciousness at one end and consciousness at the other end of a continuum that might be labelled socio-cultural consciousness. Developing a socio-cultural consciousness is central to the work I do with my students and, it seems to me, an important foundation of anti-racism.

41. Villegas and Lucas suggested that dys-conscious individuals:

See their own world view as universal  are insensitive to the fact that power is differentially distributed in society  they have an unshakable faith that society operates according to meritocratic principles and that existing inequalities in social outcomes are justified (Villegas and Lucas 2002, 32).

Certainly this has a ring of ‘truth’ to it when it comes to the beliefs that a great many of my students hold at the beginning of the semester. However, as end-of-semester evaluations attest, it is only a small proportion of students who hold fast to those views.

42. By contrast, Villegas and Lucas argue that:

those at the consciousness end of the continuum are fully aware that a multiplicity of perspectives on the world exist  they understand that power is differentially distributed in society and that social institutions, including the educational system, are generally organised to advantage the more powerful groups; and they are critical of existing inequalities (Villegas and Lucas, 2002, 32).

43. It is useful to keep in mind that, no matter how aware we might be, we fall somewhere along the continuum, rather than inhabit either/or spaces. When reflecting back over the semester, this certainly makes a great deal of sense. While I am not prepared to locate my students at different points along the continuum or to attempt to measure the distance they have travelled, I can see that distances have indeed been travelled. In my more optimistic moments I think perhaps even the ‘resisters’ have moved somewhat along the continuum. Given the nature of the task and the extent of the institutional constraints under which we work, that is perhaps the best we can expect.

Nado Aveling lectures in Education at Murdoch University with responsibilities for teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in social justice studies. Her most recent research has focused on the use of auto/biographical narratives to deconstruct the normativity of 'whiteness' and the social construction of gendered and racialised subjectivities. Email: n.aveling(at)murdoch.edu(dot)au**

Ella Fitzgerald & Marilyn Monroe

A real story...

Marilyn was a big supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Ella Fitzgerald was one of Marilyn’s idols and a major inspiration. However, the Mocambo nightclub in West Hollywood, the most popular dance spot at the time, refused to let Ella perform there because she was black. Outraged, Marilyn told the owners that if they would let Ella perform, she would be there in the front row every time Ella was onstage. She did, and the two became friends.

According to the great Ella Fitzgerald:
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt…it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him - and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status - that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman - a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.” ~ Ella Fitzgerald

"Our conditioning does not emphasize 
generosity or relinquishing. 

Wanting, getting, and hoarding 
are dominant emphases 
in our culture...

In the Buddhist cosmology 
one of the realms of being
is that of 'hungry ghosts.' 

When asked what life is like 
in that realm, 
teacher Thich Nhat Hanh 
answered with one word: 

(Sharon Salzberg, "Lovingkindness")

There's a dialogue related to this page in the Integral Permaculture FB group (click icon to go there)

There's a dialogue in our FB group on this topic (click icon to go there)

The Black Hermione Controversy

"I love how Hermione being black is somehow more implausible to some people than a universe where the entire postal system depends on owls

— Snukes (@QueerDiscOx) December 20, 2015 -

Systemic Racism


Video list on Racism