Critical Race Talk in Teacher Education through Movie Analysis: From Stand and Deliver to Freedom Writers

Article excerpt

Introduction

In an attempt to enact equitable practices in U.S. public schools, many critical multicultural and anti-racist theorists, researchers, and practitioners strongly suggest that teacher educators move beyond diversity approaches to multicultural education in their teacher preparation programs to address the more uncomfortable issues of power and equity-namely, racism (Banks & McGee-Banks, 2006; Lee, Menkart, & Okazawa-Rey, 2006; Nieto & Bode, 2008; Sleeter & Grant, 2007).

Banks and McGee-Banks (2006), for example, argue that multicultural education must go beyond the "contributions approach," wherein educators merely insert discrete ethnic heroes, holidays, and cultural artifacts into the already existing curriculum. Nieto and Bode (2008) similarly argue that while it is important to sensitize students to one another by teaching about their diverse cultural and linguistic knowledge, this approach alone fails to examine underlying asymmetrical relations of power that produce inequitable outcomes in our schools and society.

At the same time that discussions about racial inequities are essential to have with teacher education students, teacher educators commonly find that race talk, especially with their White students, leads to a host of dysfunctional classroom dynamics that may actually perpetuate the racial logic teacher educators, and even teacher education students, would hope to disrupt (Dixson & Dingus, 2007; Haviland, 2008; Heinze, 2008; Hytten & Warren, 2003; LaDuke, 2009; McIntyre, 1997; Mueller & O'Connor, 2006).

This article seeks to provide a rationale for some of the dysfunctional aspects of race talk in teacher education programs and offers an alternative framework for engaging students in critical race talk. As a way to demonstrate how teacher education students in a graduate multicultural course critically examined race through a discursive framework of racism, this article includes excerpts from students' papers wherein they apply critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine how discursive racism is produced through films, including Stand and Deliver and Freedom Writers.

Race Talk and Teacher Education

It is not uncommon for teacher educators to identify various manifestations of resistance that White students display when faced with the task of discussing race. In fact, there seems to be a continuous stream of publications in multicultural education, Whiteness studies, and teacher education that highlight White students' resistance to race talk. McIntyre (1997), for example, elaborates on how the White preservice teachers in her study employed a host of tactics to avoid such discussions. Some of these tactics included:

...derailing the conversation, evading questions, dismissing counterarguments, withdrawing from the discussion, remaining silent, interrupting speakers and topics,... colluding with each other in creating a "culture of niceness." (p. 46)

...[and took part in] interruptions, silences, switching topics, tacitly accepting racist assumptions, talking over one another, joining in collective laughter that served to ease the tension, [and] hiding under the canopy of camaraderie. (p. 47)

Hytten and Warren (2003) similarly report finding a total of twelve different discourses White students engaged in which worked to recenter Whiteness in their graduate course. More recently, LaDuke (2009) found that White teachers resisted the multicultural content and assignments in a multicultural class by remaining silent, verbally denying that racism exists, debating whether particular events should be interpreted as racist, and attempting to negotiate classroom assignments that asked students to engage in a "border crossing" project.

While I could go on to cite countless other research studies, the message remains the same: White teacher education students, more often than not, resist teacher educators' attempts to engage in critical discussions on race. …