Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Teresa Fisher-Ari

Second Advisor

Stacey French-Lee

Third Advisor

Teri Holbrook

Fourth Advisor

Laura Meyers

Abstract

Through this critical collaborative inquiry, we (Margaret and Julie) - an adult mother and daughter - worked to understand our white identities, strengthen our racial consciousness, and interrupt our white fragility (D’Angelo, 2011, 2018). Framed in critical whiteness studies (Bahattacharya, 2013; Cann & DeMeulenaere, 2012), critical family histories (Sleeter, 2013), and racial socialization (Coard & Sellers, 2005; Hughes et al., 2006), we worked to understand how whiteness and systems perpetuating it shape our personal lives and vocations (teacher and counselor). Data sources included a) family-photograph elicited memory-based discussions about race, b) personal memos/individually written reflections related to our collective readings on whiteness, white fragility, and structural racism, and c) drafted racial autoethnographies. We analyzed data using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and In Vivo coding (Saldana, 2016). Through analysis, we discovered that systems and decisions centering and privileging whiteness shaped our racialized identities and unexamined racial biases that influenced our personal and professional lives. We were racially socialized and conditioned during our childhoods through: a) experiences, traditions, and relationships that fostered and maintained racial isolation and white exceptionalism, b) misrepresentations of racism as individual acts of overt bigotry rather than systems of hegemony and privilege that we benefitted from, and c) the revision of history to create heroic family narratives of white beneficence. We uncovered manifestations of centering norms of white supremacy and white fragility which were and are perpetuated in our personal and professional lives and larger school and social contexts. Through this process, we encountered cognitive dissonances while uncovering the influence white supremacy on our personal relationships and professional practice such as our lack of understanding of how our white centering behaviors and biases influence how we engage alongside our students and clients of color. This inquiry adds to a growing body of research that supports white teacher identity development and how whiteness influences a teacher’s practice. Implications for teachers, school systems, teacher preparation programs, and university faculty are offered. Additionally, we provide recommendations for white individuals committed to becoming co-conspirators (Love, 2019) and dismantling their own fragility and the structures that uphold and perpetuate white supremacy.

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