Briscoe, F. & Khalifa M. (2013). ‘That racism thing:’ A critical discourse analysis of a conflict over the proposed closure of a Black high school, Race, Ethnicity, & Education. pp. 1-25 l

Using critical race discourse analysis, this study examines descriptions of a heated controversy over the proposed closure of the only primarily black high school in a large urban city. Participants included community members and the district and

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  This article was downloaded by: [Felecia M. Briscoe]On: 21 June 2013, At: 10:12Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Race Ethnicity and Education Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: ‘That racism thing’: a critical racediscourse analysis of a conflict over theproposed closure of a black high school Felecia M. Briscoe a  & Muhammad A. Khalifa ba  University of TX at San Antonio , ELPS , San Antonio , USA b  Michigan State University, Department of EducationalAdmission , Michigan , USAPublished online: 21 Jun 2013. To cite this article:  Felecia M. Briscoe & Muhammad A. Khalifa (2013): ‘That racism thing’: acritical race discourse analysis of a conflict over the proposed closure of a black high school, RaceEthnicity and Education, DOI:10.1080/13613324.2013.792798 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.  ‘ That racism thing ’ : a critical race discourse analysis of a con 󿬂 ictover the proposed closure of a black high school Felecia M. Briscoe a  * and Muhammad A. Khalifa  b a University of TX at San Antonio, ELPS, San Antonio, USA;  b  Michigan StateUniversity, Department of Educational Admission, Michigan, USA Using critical race discourse analysis, this study examines descriptionsof a heated controversy over the proposed closure of the only primarily black high school in a large urban city. Participants included communitymembers and the district and school leaders who were key in the contro-versy. Based on Foucault  ’ s analysis of power we looked for con 󿬂 icts inthe narratives of the participants in their description of the controversy.Four strands of discursive con 󿬂 ict emerged: the purpose of school; therelationship of school and community; communication; and the issue of racism. Taking these four strands together, the themes found in the dis-course of the community members enacted an emancipatory knowledge paradigm, while the themes found in the discourse of the administratorsenacted a technical-rational, instrumental paradigm of knowledge. Keywords:  racism; power; epistemologies; discourse; critical racetheory; educational leadership In 2009 a heated controversy erupted over a school district  ’ s proposal toclose Dubois High School 1 (DHS). The community exploded with cries of racism. Due to the community ’ s resistance, the proposed closure was tableduntil some unspeci 󿬁 ed future time. In the US public educational system,overt racism by administrators and faculty is seldom documented and most administrators would vehemently object to racism as a policy or practice.The purpose of our study was to learn why the community members andschool administrators interpreted the closure differently. Using qualitativemethodology to gather data and content analysis, we critically analyzed thediscourse of pivotal school administrators and community members;in-depth interviews were conducted with school administrators involved withthe proposal to close the school and community members who led the resis-tance to the proposal. In our analysis we examined the dominant discursivethemes and strategies used to describe the controversies, paying attention tothe power relationships in 󿬂 uencing and embedded in the discourse *Corresponding author. Email:  Race Ethnicity and Education , 2013   2013 Taylor & Francis    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   F  e   l  e  c   i  a   M .   B  r   i  s  c  o  e   ]  a   t   1   0  :   1   2   2   1   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   3   produced. Our analysis was informed by Foucault  ’ s (1980a, 1980b) descrip-tion of the operation of power; critical race theory in particular the concept of institutional racism (e.g., Blair 2008); and the relationships betweendifferent paradigms of knowledge and human interests (Habermas 1968). Theoretical framework   Power relations and discourses Michel Foucault claimed that power acts around points of con 󿬂 ict or poten-tial con 󿬂 ict. Thus, examining the con 󿬂 ict described in this study should tellus something about the power relationships operating on and through theschool administrators and community members in the emergence and man-agement of this con 󿬂 ict. Foucault (1980a, 98) explained  ‘ Power is never localized here or there … [Rather it] is employed and exercised through a net-like organization … [Individuals] are always in the position of simultaneouslyundergoing and exercising this power. ’  Foucault  ’ s (1980a, 1980b) claimedthat power operates through social practices, which act upon an individualeven as the individual enacts those social practices. Further, Briscoe (2006,2) explains,  ‘ Social actions and the power relations enacted through them arelargely (re)produced and organized through discourse. ’ Discourses draw upon and (re)produce particular knowledge paradigmsand in doing so in 󿬂 uence what counts as knowledge (e.g., Hill Collins2000). Thus, different discourses sustain and challenge different knowledge paradigms. As Foucault (1977, 199) explains, discourses de 󿬁 ne  ‘ a legitimate perspective for the agent of knowledge and the  󿬁 xing of norms ’  with domi-nant discourses supporting and subordinated discourses resisting existing power relations. Likewise, discourse  ‘  both reproduces structures and has the potential to transform them ’  (Fairclough 1992, 122). As van Dijk (2001)notes  ‘ members of more powerful social groups and institutions, and espe-cially their leaders (the elites), have more or less exclusive access to, andcontrol over, one or more types of public discourse ’  (356). Thus, leaders,such as school administrators, tend to be the producers of the dominant dis-course, supporting particular power relations and their related knowledge paradigms, while delegitimizing others.  Hermeneutic, technical-rational, and emancipatory knowledge paradigms Weber described two different paradigms of knowledge: (1) sociologicalknowledge, which is interpretive (hermeneutic) and therefore inherently sub- jective; and (2) knowledge of the universe, which is objective and standsoutside of value judgments (Author 1 1999). Weber (1992) claimed that a particular form of objective knowledge would come to dominate, creatingan iron cage of bureaucratic technical-rationality based upon accounting. 2  F.M. Briscoe and M.A. Khalifa    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   F  e   l  e  c   i  a   M .   B  r   i  s  c  o  e   ]  a   t   1   0  :   1   2   2   1   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   3  Later Habermas (1968) af  󿬁 rmed Weber  ’ s two paradigms of knowledge, but added a third knowledge paradigm and claimed that human interests andvalues are also embedded in  ‘ objective knowledge ’  (hereafter referred to asinstrumental knowledge). Habermas (1968) describes instrumental knowl-edge as that which valued ef  󿬁 cient control of the world. The third paradigmof knowledge, according to Habermas, is emancipatory knowledge. Emanci- patory knowledge incorporates both instrumental and hermeneutic knowl-edge but such knowledge is aimed toward a particular value or end.Emancipatory knowledge seeks to bring to light and thereby end oppression,which causes pain, unhappiness, and despair (Pennycook 2001). Critical race theory: institutional racism and counter-discourses Today for racialized groups a number of imbalances or disparities exist: inachievement (Farkas 2003); suspension rates (Gregory, Skiba and Noguera2010) and income (Wilson 2011); and crime and punishment (Alexander 2010). How do we account for these disparities? Critical race theory (CRT) provides an explanation: institutionalized racism. For over 500years racial-ized groups have been enslaved and/or oppressed in the United States. Over these years, complexes of ideologies, discourses, practices, and policies weredeveloped, to justify and maintain their oppression. When viewed alone,individual components seem innocuous, but together in complexes of poli-cies, practices, and discourses, they act to detrimentally affect racializedgroups. Patricia Hill Collins (2000) describes how these complexes act tooppress racial groups: Domination operates by seducing, pressuring, or forcing African Americanwomen, members of subordinated groups, and all individuals to replace indi-vidual and cultural ways of knowing with the dominant group ’ s specializedthought   –   hegemonic ideologies that in turn justify practices of other domainsof power. (287) Blair (2008) describes how these domains of power have become both sub-tle and complex: We are not talking about individual racism as the overwhelming reason for the negative effect of the education system on so many black children andyoung people. This is about systems  –   government institutions, school institu-tions, cultural institutions within which we work and with which we collude.What we are in fact talking about is  ‘ Institutional Racism. ’  (251) Hill Collins (2000) explains further that different ideologies and epistemo-logical paradigms emerge, depending upon one ’ s positioning within power relations; those who do not experience oppression,  ‘ typically fail to see howtheir thoughts and actions uphold someone else ’ s subordination ’  (287).Foucault  ’ s analytics of power and the concept of institutionalized racism  Race Ethnicity and Education  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   F  e   l  e  c   i  a   M .   B  r   i  s  c  o  e   ]  a   t   1   0  :   1   2   2   1   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   3   provide a useful lens for discerning power acting through these complexesas well as resistance to these complexes. Examining the con 󿬂 icts and con-tradictions within and between community and administrative discourseshelps us to see the operation of power shaping the different discourses andthereby supporting or delegitimizing different knowledge paradigms. Methodology - Critical Race Discourse Analysis (CRDA) In this section we describe our research methodology, the participants, thecontext, and our process of analysis. Our study combines critical race meth-odology with critical discourse analysis creating what we call Critical RaceDiscourse Analysis (CRDA). Our analysis incorporates essential aspects of  Critical Race Methodology  in that we focused discourses used in  ‘ the racial-ized, gendered, and class experiences of people of color  ’  (Solorzano andYosso 2002, 24). We, then, chose not only to hear the words, but also togive weight to the words of community members. CRDA recognizes theexperiences and discourses or narratives of people of color as legitimate.Thus, we establish and legitimize the voices, discourses and paradigms of knowledge of community-based participants that resist the status quo(Solorzano and Yosso 2002; Hill Collins (2000); Ladson-Billings 1988;Delgado 1995). Using CRDA, we investigated the discourses used inrelation to the recent reversal of a school district  ’ s decision to close down ahigh school due to community push back.The data was collected during the 2009  –  2010 academic school year. Inorder to get a better understanding of the research context, one of theauthors visited the school on several occasions, once attending a  ‘ Friends of Dubois High School ’  support breakfast. While in these contexts, he infor-mally spoke with a number of students, parents, teachers, administrators,and local faculty members about the event. He also attended a number of community forums, which ostensibly were to allow community participantsa chance to express their perspectives to administrators. All newspaper arti-cles covering the community forums were reviewed for this study. We readall the transcripts of forums, regular school board meetings, and newspaper articles surrounding the school closure. In addition, data was collected fromstate reports regarding the school and the district. The newspaper articles, 󿬁 eld notes, and state reports to provide an understanding of the context andvalidate the assertions of the participants, but for the most part our studyfocused on the discourse used in the in-depth interviews of the selected participants. All of the interviews were conducted by one of the authors. Ashe is African American, community members were likely to trust and openup to him. Further, as a professor of educational administration and former district administrator, he was likely to be accepted and trusted by the schooladministrators as well. Before interviewing the principal of DHS or thesuperintendent of the district, he met with them on a number of occasions 4  F.M. Briscoe and M.A. Khalifa    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   F  e   l  e  c   i  a   M .   B  r   i  s  c  o  e   ]  a   t   1   0  :   1   2   2   1   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   3
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