"What Makes Anti-Racist Pedagogy in Teacher Education Difficult? Three Popular Ideological Assumptions."
St. Denis, V. and C. Schick (2003). "What Makes Anti-Racist Pedagogy in Teacher Education Difficult? Three Popular Ideological Assumptions." Alberta journal of educational research 49(1): 55.
The students' remarks, or in other words the discourse we offer as examples, are commonly heard in the social, political, and professional communities of which students are a part. The students' remarks are samples of unexamined "commonsense" notions to which students have access and can take for granted in the repertoire of social commentary. As Goldberg (1990) states, "In a field of discourse like racism, what is generally circulated and exchanged is not simply truth but truth claims or representations. These representations draw their efficacy from traditions, conventions, institutions, and tacit modes of mutual comprehension" (p. 298) that assume commonsense status. To help them past these "commonsense" stopping points, students are invited to examine the ideological assumptions on which these statements are based and on which inequality is justified. We tell our students that race matters because without acknowledging that it does, we ignore how racialized identities are always operating to create difference: denial that one has a racial identity trivializes and makes invisible the effects of power (Roman, 1993). By claiming that "we're all part of the same human race" and that the "color of a person's skin" is invisible, students whitewash the daily advantage of white privilege (Henriques et al., 1984; MacIntosh, 1998; Sleeter, 1993). By denying that race matters, whiteness as in the dominant racial identification can be considered the invisible norm against which others are judged as "not white/not quite" (Bhabha, 1994, p. 92). As a consequence of this denial, Larocque (1991) discusses how racism is constructed as a problem of mutual dislike. The statements identified in this article are examples of common discourses that reflect ideological assumptions. For example, when students say "We just need to get along," they deny the power of racial identity to confer privilege. They do not acknowledge that people are differently positioned in hierarchical structures that depend on social and political difference. Unmarked dominance remains invisible, and inequality is explained as a product of cultural difference The idea that opportunity is equally open to all, and that students can do anything they want as long as they are "prepared to make sacrifices," ignores and trivializes the significance of unearned privileges conferred by their own dominant group identity. This "commonsense" notion implies that success follows from one's individual effort and, by employing blaming-the-victim logic, suggests that discrimination and disadvantage are one's own fault. Students are often unaware of, or choose to forget, how disadvantage has been constructed historically. That they continue to benefit from historical practices of discrimination allows claims of innocence. That is why they can say with impunity, "Why do they always bring up the past? I wasn't there."