Chapter 14: Resistance at City Middle School: Critical Race Theorizing in Educational Research

Article excerpt

In this paper, I will discuss both the literature addressing the role of critical race theory (CRT) in education research and the study's methodology, which utilized CRT as the conceptual framework. I will also describe the school community and the findings as they relate to resistance in the school climate. I will conclude with the study implications for both practice and further research.

The term "resistance" in education research is often used in relation to resistance theory, whereby some students are driven to actively resist the roles and identities schools provide for them (Collins, 1995). Students engage in oppositional behavior in the form of sustained challenges to authority. This is active opposition, rather than deviance, because the term generally indicates a positive and justified opposition (Collins, 1995). Generally, this term is used to describe behaviors in children and youth that explain their school failure, as Fordham and Ogbu's (1986) notion of Black students resisting school because school engagement constituted "acting White." While these definitions have typically been utilized to explain opposition in youth, in this paper, these definitions describe only the behavior of the administrators and faculty.

Teachers and school administrators did, in fact, engage in active opposition that challenged authority. I would classify this behavior as positive and justified opposition (Collins, 1995). However, the student resistance described in this paper does not fit neatly into this description. While students did engage in oppositional behavior, their opposition cannot be described as resisting school identities. In fact, their opposition was, at times, in response to others denying their school identities. For the purposes of this paper, resistance is defined as engaging in behavior that actively opposes social authority, whether that authority is the actual hierarchical decision-making processes of schooling, a curriculum, or a societal perception.

CRITICAL RACE THEORY

CRT is an oppositional theory, one that resists single-truth claims and instead examines counter-stories in challenging dominant ideology. Utilizing the lens of CRT, I specifically examined my data in search of themes relating to the six tenets described by Delgado and Stefancic (2001): (1) racism is ordinary; (2) the current system of White-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes; (3) race and races are products of social thought and relations; (4) the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times; (5) intersectionality and antiessentialism are present, whereas everyone has overlapping, conflicting identities and loyalties; and (6) there is a shared minority experience that people of color communicate about race and racism that White people are unlikely to know is present. These tenets taken together can lead us in the field of education to examine the systems of schooling for social justice for children of color through challenging dominant ideology that guides our schooling and by placing experiential knowledge of students and teachers at the heart of educational scholarship on race.

Much of the literature in the field of CRT, which is a legal theory that has recently transcended disciplinary boundaries, balances between situated narrative, based on experiential knowledge, and more sweeping analyses of the law (Tate, 1997). According to Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso (2000), "Critical Race Theory offers insights, perspectives, methods, and pedagogies that guide our efforts to identify, analyze, and transform the structural and cultural aspects of education that maintain subordinate and dominant racial positions in and out of the classroom" (p. 63).

CRT began in legal studies, but is now considered a transdisciplinary movement (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Lynn, 1999; Solorzano et al., 2000; Solorzano & Yosso, 2002) and is gaining recognition in education. …