By Asberry, Tracine D.
Multicultural Education , Vol. 15, No. 1
Courageous Conversations about Race: A Critical Analysis
The book Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools resulted from districts and schools across the country implementing strategies proposed by authors Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis Linton (2006) to close the achievement gap between students of color and their White counterparts. In the text, before student achievement could be addressed, the authors deconstructed the quantitative data to discover that the achievement of students was directly connected to the race of the students across class lines.
From this awareness, conversations developed surrounding race to address several key components that connect the disparity in student academic achievement to the disparity of staff racial consciousness. As a result, the authors refer to the standardized test qualitative data to disclose more than an achievement gap based on student ability, but rather a racial achievement gap aggregated by the racial identities of students of color, all scoring significantly below White students.
Courageous Conversations about Race therefore explores the reality that students of color can no longer afford to have ineffective strategies to address the issues of race. The authors argue that it is no longer satisfactory for teachers to merely discuss strategies that may be useful to oppose issues of race, racism, and privilege without a direct alignment with anti-racism strategies.
Courageous Conversations About Race presents a challenging approach to any productive multicultural dialogue. Thus, as a promising procedure for evaluating such dialogue, I will critically analyze Courageous Conversations about Race against the seven listed anti-racism features from a chapter in another book, "Toward an Anti-racist Research Framework" (Okolie, 2005). To expedite this examination, the Okolie chapter focuses on race and racism and the effects of these violations on those it violates-students of color. Changing directions and moving toward an anti-racist framework provides effective strategies for schools to work vigilantly to both understand and end racial oppression (p. 247).
It is within this critical approach that I will critique the commitment of Courageous Conversations about Race to ensure that these suggested conversations are not merely rhetoric, but instead are conversations grounded in an authentic commitment "to begin addressing this racial gap-intentionally, explicitly, and comprehensively" (Singleton & Linton, 2006, p. 2).
According to Okolie (2005), "anti-racism is unapologetically political" (p. 247). In Courageous Conversations about Race the authors do not completely maintain a commitment to this feature. In the first four chapters, the authors spend an extensive amount of time justifying the approach to the text in focusing on race. There are constant references to the possibility of participants feeling uncomfortable while dealing with race.
This causes me to believe that this acknowledgement will lead to the focus being directed at maintaining White privilege through a need to console the dominant group while racism continues. However, as the book progresses all participants, regardless of color, are challenged to four agreements to pursue the focus of the text: (a) stay engaged, (b) experience discomfort, (c) speak your truth, and (d) expect and accept non-closure.
Second, "anti-racism researchers are conscious of their position and subjective positioning relative to the subject matter of research" (Okolie, 2005, p. 248). Singleton and Linton disclose their identities and state their positions throughout the text. Key positions shared by the authors include the following: (a) race is the most significant factor in the struggle for student achievement, (b) educators should become anti-racist and fight against oppression, and (c) meeting the needs of students of color is effective pedagogy rather than diversity work. …