Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Black Lives, Literacies, and Homelessness in the Smog of Whiteness

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Black Lives, Literacies, and Homelessness in the Smog of Whiteness

Article excerpt

The 2016 presidential campaign and the period since the election has unveiled the White supremacist ideologies represented in U.S. policies and institutions that have further marginalized the lives of People of Color (Chang, 2016). Though economic insecurity played a significant role in the election results, the ubiquitous view of situating blame with the working class White vote oversimplifies U.S. political affiliations (Bonilla-Silva, 2014). Along with class, race played a significant role (Blake, 2016), something unsurprising to many People of Color committed to the fight for social justice for generations (Taylor, 2016). While class divides run deep in this country, class cannot displace or silence conversations about racism, race, and racial inequality in the United States (Bonilla-Silva, 2014).

The notion of White fatigue provides one explanation for why many White people ignore and silence conversations about racism and specifically institutional racism, in turn, endorsing the structures that sustain the normalized structures of White supremacy, such as in their response to the Black Lives Matter movement (Flynn, 2015). Taylor (2016) defines institutional racism as "the policies, programs, and practices of public and private institutions that result in greater rates of poverty, dispossession, criminalization, illness, and ultimately mortality of African Americans" (p. 8). White politicians, both Democratic and Republican, illuminate the notion of White fatigue in their hesitance to endorse the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrate that the racial divide exists within progressive circles. Therefore, White progressives, too, must recognize and expose the oppressive and dehumanizing conditions under which so many African Americans live and die prematurely (Hill, 2016). Widespread discriminatory housing policies and policing, permissive gun laws, inequitable schools, and underserved communities suggest that Black lives do not matter, or at least not as much as other lives. Many Black lives are separated by incarceration (Alexander, 2012; DuVernay, 2016), isolated by economic segregation (Chang, 2016; Lipman, 2012), poisoned by toxic drinking water (Hill, 2016), displaced by evictions (Desmond, 2016; Taylor, 2016), threatened by gun violence (Hill, 2016), and, as what has become more public since the protests of Michael Brown's murder, lost to police brutality (Taylor, 2016).

Black Lives Matter exposes the intersection of race and class as manifested in racial inequality and institutional racism but extends to the patriarchal, heteronormative, cisgender, ableist, and Christian hegemony that represent overlapping oppressions for People of Color in the U.S. Additionally, Black Lives Matter reminds us that the people who experience the most oppression must be at the center of movements for equity and justice if there is any chance of dismantling institutional racism. Taylor (2016) argues,

Institutional racism remains the best way to understand how Black
deprivation continues in a country as rich and resource-filled as the
United States. This understanding is critical to countering the charges
that African Americans are largely responsible for their own
predicament. (p. 8)

Within this context, I explore the perspectives of Black parents experiencing homelessness, who internalized beliefs in the superiority of Whiteness in the narratives they told to explain struggles associated with their communities, neighborhoods, and schools. Despite linguistic and cultural backgrounds shared between some of the participants in the study, parents moved their families to the shelter for diverse reasons shaped by the larger social, cultural, institutional, and historical contexts of their lives. For some of the families, the shelter offered a chance to begin a new life in a new community without the immediate threat of gun violence or the chance of their sons "falling to the streets." For other families, the shelter was a struggle they did not anticipate on their quest to improve their lives but a result of living arrangements not working out with extended family, difficulty finding work, or lack of affordable housing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.