How white adult educators challenge racism
Manglitz, Karen Elaine
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to understand how White antiracist adult educators challenge racism. This was accomplished by examining the experiences of both People of Color and White antiracist adult educators. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) What understandings of racism and white privilege do the adult educators bring to their work; 2) How do their understandings of racism and white privilege guide them to take action to challenge racism? Data for this study were collected over a five month period by using interviews, documents, and participant observations. The twelve participants belonged to one of five different antiracist educational organizations. At least two participants, one White and one person of color were interviewed from each organization. Data analysis was completed using the constant comparative method. Data were analyzed separately for the Whites and People of Color in the study followed by a comparison of the commonalities between the two groups to explore the impact of their positi onalit y. Analysis of the data from the White adult educators revealed the following understandings of racism and white privilege: 1) racism as institutional and systemic; 2) importance of historical perspective; 3) colorblindness as a rhetoric of denial; and 4) an analysis of white privilege that included whiteness revealed first through difference, development of antiracist identity over time, "always undoing racism," and awareness of the contradictions related to being White and working to challenge racism. Their understandings guided their actions to challenge racism by helping them to maintain commitment, helping them to understand their own and others' behavior, and prompting them to use particular educational approaches. Analysis of the data related to the People of Color revealed the following understandings of racism and white privilege: 1) racism as institutional and systemic; 2) recognition of the power embodied in the system of racism; 3) importance of historical perspective; and 4) an analysis of white privilege that included an understanding of the attributes of whiteness, the ability to interpret the impact of white privilege, and an understanding of the significance of emotions and pain for Whites who are challenging their own racism. Their understandings guided their actions by helping them to maintain commitment, to attain clarity about the system of racism, and to develop and maintain mutual respect and accountability. Four major conclusions were drawn from the findings of this study. First, the system of racism continues to impact our society and the lives of everyone, albeit in different ways and with different ramifications. Second, there are White adult educators who are struggling with their own white privilege and racism in their continuing efforts to challenge racism. Third, the positionality of White adult educators both enables and constrains their ability to challenge racism. Finally, the findings emphasize the significance of commitment, hope, and the educational process for challenging the system of racism that significantly impacts us all.