Whiteness, academic achievement, and misrecognition in English HE

MADRIAGA, Manuel (2017). Whiteness, academic achievement, and misrecognition in English HE. In: 11th Critical Race Studies in Education Association Annual Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 31 May - 2 June 2017. (Unpublished)

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The paper foregrounds whiteness in challenging the dominant discourse on 'race' and underachievement in higher education, particularly in the UK. Much attention has been drawn to the 'black and minority ethnic' (BAME) student experience and the English sector-wide issue of a 'good honours' (~3.20 GPA and above) degree gap attainment between 'BAME' and white graduates (Equality Challenge Unit 2016). The dominant, majoritarian view on this issue is dismissive of 'race' and racism as the cause for this persistent inequity (Love 2004). Most often, the blame for one's underachievement falls on the shoulders of 'BAME' students (Stevenson 2012). It is never been about the university or its occupational culture. This misrecognition of 'race' often maintains the pervasiveness and veracity of whiteness, which unfortunately is observed on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in the USA (see Hughes and Giles 2010) and the UK (see Gillborn 2010). In the spirit of Derrick Bell's Space Traders and other critical race scholars (Bell 1992; Gilborn 2010; Hughes and Giles 2010; Love 2004; Milner and Howard 2013; Solorzano and Yosso 2001; 2002), a counter-story was employed to examine and present findings from an ethnographic study with both students and staff conducted at one English university. In the set-up of this counter-story, there are two fictional characters, Serg and Jonah. The primary data sources which inform Serg's perspective are staff responses to a questionnaire (n=30), my own journal entries during the study as well as my own reflections on having been an international PhD student who is now employed at a UK university. The perspective of Jonah is informed by the themes picked up from a focus group discussion with six 'BAME' students in addressing 'educational debt' (Ladson-Billings 2006). This counter-story reveals how whiteness unifies and divides students of colour in English higher education. It unifies in creating a shared experience amongst those who are objectified by their skin colour and experience the heat of the 'white gaze' in academia. It divides, categorising and classifying 'us' to the extent that 'we', as scholars of colour, both students and academic staff, may unwittingly perpetuate whiteness in our academic practice. This, of course, has ethical implications for 'us' in sustaining hope and optimism in anti-racist work. The paper concludes on how the use of the counter-story, a method that Derrick Bell employed in much of his work, not only identifies and marks the whiteness hindering 'us', as scholars of colour, but also liberating in its of rejection of 'neutral/objective' research that so often misrecognises 'us' (Solorzano and Yosso 2002).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Institute of Education
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities > Department of Education, Childhood and Inclusion
Depositing User: Manuel Madriaga
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2018 14:52
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 11:00
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19107

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