"It's pretty much white": Challenges and opportunities of an antiracist approach to literature instruction in a multilayered white context

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Abstract

Because many commonly taught novels, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and others, evoke the topic of racism during literature study, many secondary English teachers must negotiate challenges of whether, how, and to what extent to address racism with their students, often with little training and scant research to guide their practice. Moreover, existing research at the intersection of English education, antiracist pedagogy, and Critical Whiteness Studies indicates that antiracist pedagogy is notoriously difficult, especially with White students. Recent scholarship has called for nuanced explorations of Whiteness that might contribute to more effective antiracist pedagogies. Thus, this qualitative case study explored challenges and opportunities one White English teacher encountered as she applied an antiracist approach to teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in a predominantly White context. Findings revealed that Whiteness was both reinforced and interrupted-sometimes simultaneously-on individual, institutional, societal, and epistemological levels. This study not only illustrates ways Whiteness operates on multiple levels, presenting myriad challenges for English teachers to negotiate as they merge antiracist pedagogy with literature instruction in White contexts, it also points to pedagogical opportunities for interrupting Whiteness at each of those levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-429
Number of pages23
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Volume49
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2015

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