Academic journal article Educational Foundations

"Uhh, You Know," Don't You?: White Racial Bonding in the Narrative of White Pre-Service Teachers

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

"Uhh, You Know," Don't You?: White Racial Bonding in the Narrative of White Pre-Service Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

How prepared are pre-service teachers to deal with themselves, let alone think through the realities of their students? How prepared are White teachers to meaningfully examine the ways in which their Whiteness replicates White supremacy with potentially harmful effects for students? This article explores how White pre-service teachers used a semantic move (Bonilla-Silva & Forman, 2000; Bonilla-Silva, 2001, 2002, 2006; Mortensen, 2005; Van Dijk, 1985, 2000), specifically the deployment of the phrase "you know," to represent racial bonding. In using this semantic move, participants revealed racialized beliefs likely to have an effect on teacher and student interactions. Bonilla-Silva and Forman (2000) suggest that semantic moves have become "common for Whites to use" (p. 50), particularly since the civil rights movement, an era that is increasingly noted for its political correctness. When discussing semantic moves, however, the emphasis is almost always on the linguistic strategies used to avoid, hide, or mask racialized beliefs within that politically correct discourse (Fairclough, 2003; Bonilla-Silva, 2002, 2006). There are "... numerous tools available to Whites to restore a color-blind image when Whiteness seeps through discursive cracks" (Bonilla-Silva, 2002, p. 61). This article represents a shift from this traditional understanding of semantic moves. I argue that racialized beliefs are always already (Kant, 1996; Ricour, 1991) present within the narratives of White people, and in this case specifically teachers. The presence of a racially contextualized semantic move is evident when the person sharing is attempting to bond racially (Sleeter, 1990). The presence of racialized belief systems necessitates careful attention to the ways in which the linguistic serves to represent internalized beliefs beyond the words being used.

I examine how the phrase "you know" was deployed by participants to demonstrate White racial bonding within a larger study of White pre-service educators' racial identity (Bell, 1993, 1995; Sleeter, 1994). Racial bonding speaks to the linguistic, emotional, and felt acts undertaken by White people to show affinity and alliance with each other (Sleeter, 1994). One may tend to only think of this bonding in large-scale virulent racism such as the KKK, gang affiliations, or other racial pride groups. In only understanding White racial bonding from that limited perspective one misses the opportunity to understand everyday racism and the bonding of those implicated by Whiteness. As a result, Whiteness is too often "... an uninterrogated space" (Nkayama & Krizek, 1995, p. 293). Sleeter (1994) suggests that educators committed to multicultural education must work at identifying the manifestations of the bonding in order to diminish the bonding's effects. The rigorous study of the narratives of White teachers is one way to address the problem of how pedagogical beliefs and practices of teachers are shaped and influenced by race. Gay (1984) suggests that the role of identity has implications for educators' work in schools and classrooms. Implications of identity are embedded in the personal narratives of an individual (Cook-Gumperz, 1993; Fairclough, 1985, 2003). White racial bonding, demonstrated through linguistic and metalinguistic markers, plays a principal role in the maintenance of White privilege and subjugation of racial others as a manifestation of action/s linked to identity.

To begin I present a brief overview of the current educational demographic landscape to highlight why studying the narratives of White teachers (both pre-service and in-service) is necessary. With that landscape in mind I provide a brief theoretical framework as well as extant literature related to this work. I also articulate what I perceive to be gaps this research fills, as well as some of the methodological considerations of the larger study. With those pieces in place, I present how White racial bonding was evidenced using the semantic move "you know" embedded in the narratives of White pre-service teachers. …

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