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White Supremacy in Business Practices  

Helena Liu

Contrary to its popular use to refer to racially violent extremism, white supremacy in the tradition of critical race studies describes the normalized ideologies, structures, and conventions through which whiteness is constructed as biologically, intellectually, culturally, and morally superior. This socially constituted racial hierarchy was developed through European colonialism to justify the acts of genocide and slavery that extracted resources from “non-white” lands and bodies to enrich “white” elites. Despite prevailing myths that colonialism and racism are artifacts of the past, the cultural hegemony of white power and privilege remain enduring pillars of contemporary business and society. White supremacy inextricably shapes business practices. Indeed, our current practices of business administration and management are themselves modeled on slavery—the possession, extraction, and control of human “resources.” White supremacist ideologies and structures can also be found in the highly romanticized discourses of leadership that continue to rely on imperialist myths that white people are more fit to govern. They likewise surface in entrepreneurship and innovation where white people are overwhelmingly cast in the glorified roles of geniuses and pioneers. Even diversity management, which purports to nurture inclusive organizations, ironically reinforces white supremacy, treating workers of color as commodities to exploit. Within liberal logics of multicultural tolerance, workers of color are often tokenistically hired, expected to assimilate to white structures and cultures, and used as alibis against racism. White supremacy is an integral (and often invisible) dimension of work, organizations, society, and everyday life. Challenging white supremacy requires that we engage in frank, honest conversations about race and racism, and the brutal legacy of European colonialism that maintains these constructs and practices. The path ahead requires the relinquishment of beliefs that race is an immutable, primordial essence and recognize it instead as a socially constructed and politically contested identification that has been used for white gain. Two ways that white supremacy may be dismantled in our cultures include redoing whiteness and abolishing whiteness. Redoing whiteness requires collectively understanding the mundane cultural practices of whiteness and choosing to do otherwise. Abolishing whiteness calls for a more absolute rejection of whiteness and what it has come to represent in various cultures. Antiracist resistance demands people of all racial identifications to commit to thinking, doing, and being beyond the existing racial hierarchy.

Article

Critical Whiteness Studies  

Barbara Applebaum

In 1903, standing at the dawn of the 20th century, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that the color line is the defining characteristic of American society. Well into the 21st century, Du Bois’s prescience sadly still rings true. Even when a society is built on a commitment to equality, and even with the election of its first black president, the United States has been unsuccessful in bringing about an end to the rampant and violent effects of racism, as numerous acts of racial violence in the media have shown. For generations, scholars of color, among them Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Franz Fanon, have maintained that whiteness lies at the center of the problem of racism. It is only relatively recently that the critical study of whiteness has become an academic field, committed to disrupting racism by problematizing whiteness as a corrective to the traditional exclusive focus on the racialized “other.” Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) is a growing field of scholarship whose aim is to reveal the invisible structures that produce and reproduce white supremacy and privilege. CWS presumes a certain conception of racism that is connected to white supremacy. In advancing the importance of vigilance among white people, CWS examines the meaning of white privilege and white privilege pedagogy, as well as how white privilege is connected to complicity in racism. Unless white people learn to acknowledge, rather than deny, how whites are complicit in racism, and until white people develop an awareness that critically questions the frames of truth and conceptions of the “good” through which they understand their social world, Du Bois’s insight will continue to ring true.

Article

Model Minorities and Overcoming the Dominance of Whiteness  

Nicholas D. Hartlep

Stereotyping Asian Americans as successful or model minorities is not positive. Instead, it is a form of racist love that reinforces White supremacy. How can a positive stereotype reinforce White supremacy? Because the process of revering Asian Americans as model minorities leads to other groups of people, such as people of color and Indigenous people, being reviled. But if the model minority characterization of Asian Americans is inaccurate, what should curriculum studies scholars do? Disproving a “stereotype” is impossible. Curriculum studies scholars and theorists should not attempt to disconfirm something that is untrue, or something that is racist, but instead should narrate the reality of being Asian American. The model minority stereotype of Asian Americans has been studied and contested over 50 years within the context of the United States. Over these 50 plus years, the model minority stereotype has taken on a transcendent meaning. Overcoming the dominance of Whiteness requires Asian Americans to transcend “positive” stereotypes via critical storytelling. This will require curriculum studies as a field to continue to interrogate: What are the realities of living in racist Amerika for Asian Americans?

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Western Buddhism and Race  

Joseph Cheah and Sharon A. Suh

The phenomenon of Western Buddhism has its roots in colonial encounters in Asia and began in earnest with the translation, study, and transmission of traditional Buddhist texts by Western linguists and classicists. Western Buddhism refers to both the study and practice of Buddhism outside of Asia, predominantly in Europe and North America. It therefore refers to a field of study and denotes non-Asian convert Buddhists in the West. The term itself can best understood, on the one hand, within the systematic study of Buddhism in Europe beginning in the 19th century and, on the other hand, in light of the impact of race, racialization, and Whiteness in defining Western Buddhism. Thus, any discussion of Western Buddhism would do well to proceed with a discussion and analysis of race as they are inherently intertwined. Buddhist studies emerged during the height of European colonization and imperialism in Asia, and the scholarly study of Buddhism became a focus and product of colonial discovery and political reshaping. Studies of Western Buddhism and their contemporary manifestations have their origins in the efforts of Western linguists and historians who relied upon and contributed to the process of Orientalist knowledge production, epistemologies, and methodologies to translate and interpret Buddhist texts. Directly linked to colonial policy and power, Orientalist scholarship directly shaped Western perceptions of Buddhism which, in turn, also shaped Asian realities, whereby Asian forms of Buddhism, and Asian Buddhists, were filtered through and measured against prevailing Western ideological and political agendas. Western Orientalist scholars translated Buddhist texts and presented Buddhist philosophy and religion through a distinctly modernist lens that prioritized individual meditation over ritual, Buddhist cosmology and devotional practices. By prioritizing the scientifically “rational” aspects of Buddhism and meditation as a primarily psychological practice, Western Buddhism also favored a narrative of “pure origins” that emphasized the search for a “true Buddhism” beyond its purported Asian cultural accretions. Thus, much Western scholarship produced during this time period emphasized the search for an “ancient” Buddhism wisdom that could hold its own against Western enlightenment ideals. Such modernist agendas thus shaped the formation of Buddhist studies as a scholarly discipline, whose merits were measured according to textual translation and the veracity of purportedly original texts. The development of Western Buddhism is not only shaped by forces of Orientalism, Protestantization, and modernism but also by the historical context of race and racialization. Therefore, to study Western Buddhism without paying attention to its entangled history of racialization and racism would be inaccurate and incomplete. Today, several Euro-American convert Buddhists continue to hold up meditation as the most authentic component of Buddhist practice at the expense of the devotional religiosity. In so doing, this valorization of meditation reproduces the very same devaluation of devotional practice that was rendered backward both in Orientalist scholarship and its modernist inflections in the United States. Western Buddhism continues to be largely defined in the American context primarily through an Orientalist lens and has become enmeshed and nearly synonymous with largely White convert Buddhists’ focus on meditation and the continued exertion of authority within convert communities. With the primacy of meditation as the most authentic form of Buddhism and the power to continue to define the contours of legitimate practice, White convert Buddhist lineages have retained the authority to determine what counts as real Buddhism. In turn, Asian American Buddhists have been promoted in the scholarly literature as overly immersed in popular religion and therefore less capable of determining what constitutes authentic Buddhism. Historically, Western scholarship avoided utilizing race as a category of analysis in the study of Buddhism in the United States and tended toward more generalized terms such as “American Buddhism” and “ethnic Buddhism” to signify the difference between White and non-White practitioners. While these terms have certainly transpired over time and have received an increasingly healthy dose of backlash from marginalized Buddhists and White Buddhist sympathizers, in the unfolding narrative of Western Buddhism and race, labels matter; and the residue of Buddhist Orientalism remains to the degree that “ethnic Buddhism” has become a term synonymous with nonmeditating, superstitious, and overly popular forms of religion practiced primarily by Asian Americans. Through the racialization of Asian and Asian American Buddhists, Western Buddhism continues to reproduce the White privilege and White supremacy operative in earlier scholarship; however, there are many notable challenges to the problem of Buddhism and Whiteness that this article will discuss.

Article

Alternative Religious Movements and Race in America  

Emily Suzanne Clark

Alternative religious movements have played a significant role in American history. There is no easy definition for these types of groups; their ideas and practices vary. One clear commonality, though, is their development on the sociocultural margins. Thus, inherent in alternative religious movements is a critique of dominant culture, and this offers a powerful means of engaging issues of race in America. Other groups, however, choose to echo prevailing racial ideas as a means of making themselves mainstream. The typical narrative of American religious history is white and Protestant, and alternative religious movements have provided both criticism and approval of that story. While a close look at every alternative religious movement would be impossible, even an abbreviated exploration is revealing. During the antebellum period the question of slavery and the white supremacy that supported it prompted alternative religious movements to ask questions about equality. While many Shakers and Spiritualists recognized value in all, other groups, like the Mormons, encoded contemporary racial assumptions in their early theology. Throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, African Americans and Native Americans criticized white supremacy by offering alternative explanations of humanity’s history and destiny. The 1890s Ghost Dance movement envisioned an Indian paradise devoid of whites, and in the early 20th century black alternative movements in northern cities emphasized the religious significance of their blackness. Though these groups criticized the white supremacy surrounding them, others continued to emphasize the superiority of whiteness. In the latter part of the 20th century, many Americans associated racialized alternative religious movements, such as the Nation of Islam, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and the Peoples Temple, with fear or brainwashing. In examining how alternative religious movements engage racial assumptions, articulate racial discourse, or create religio-racial identities, a study of these movements illuminates the interplay between religion and culture in American history.

Article

Racial Violence in the United States  

Darius D. Prier

Since the “discovery” of the so-called New World, The U.S. has carried a history of a violent past. It is a past in which genocide toward Native Americans and enslavement of Black Americans are uncomfortable truths in the annals of history. The racial legacy of such a violent past has its roots in the ideology of White supremacy. This is an ideology in which racialized “others” are cast as subordinate and inferior to persons socially constructed as “White.” It is not just a designation of ideology but can inform discriminatory practices toward communities of color, with even fatal outcomes for this population. Subsequently, racial violence has become an empirical fact of the U.S. social reality. The U.S. legacy of racial violence continues to proliferate in the 21st century, albeit in different forms than genocide and slavery. African American, Latino(a)(x), Jewish, Asian/Pacific Islander, and the LGBTQIA+ communities have been subject to targeted acts of racial violence. In addition, women have been the victims of gender violence. The event that signified White America’s animus toward communities of color came to a crescendo happened when White nationalists went to war against democracy through a violent insurrection on Capitol Hill, January 6, 2021. The documented mass murders toward many of the aforementioned groups and the insurrection on Capitol Hill belie and challenge the notion and ideal of progress toward a “color-blind” society. The resurgence of racial violence since the 2010s has been coupled with many legislators of the nation-state rejecting all forms of anti-racist pedagogy, particularly in K–12 schools. This political movement to cancel discussions of race and racism in schools began with the Trump administration’s executive order to eliminate critical race theory in all areas of the workplace before he left office. While the executive order was rescinded by the Biden administration, several states have passed laws, rejecting any form of anti-racist pedagogy in K–12 schools. Proponents of the rejection of critical race theory argue that groups cannot be marked or stigmatized as morally incompetent or superior to other groups. In addition, they assert that no group should feel discomfort because of their history and that groups should not be discriminated against because of their race. Furthermore, proponents insist education should not be taught in an ideological or political manner. Critics offer that political efforts by far-right ideologues to reject anti-racist pedagogy can hinder students’ understanding of race, violence, and inequality. They also argue that these efforts are unethical, as they silence a critical education, in which students can read of the world of violence as a means to critique issues of racism, discrimination, and inequitable treatment toward communities of color. Debating, critiquing, and responding to racial violence in U.S. society are critical to the maintenance and preservation of democracy. Advocates for social justice education argue that the political is pedagogical, that racial violence toward communities of color requires an ethical and moral interrogation of our values as educators. Therefore, critics of those who decenter anti-racist pedagogy in a culture of racial violence suggest that their claims to a neutral education rest on unethical terms for social justice.

Article

Queer Students in the Carceral State  

Erica Meiners and Jessica Fuentes

Despite the gains some components of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community achieved during the 2010s in the United States and across the globe, young queer students in K–12 educational environments are still vulnerable to criminalization. Dismantling the movement of young queer youth into the U.S. carceral state also requires challenging systems that may be perceived to be unconnected. School privatization and the deprofessionalization and removal of employment protections for school personnel shapes cultures in schools for LGBTQ young people. Punitive school discipline policies—which often purport to protect queer students—deepen criminalization and do not produce safer schools. While policy shifts may be necessary, they are never sufficient, and building support for all young people, including LGBTQ communities, requires ideological and paradigm shifts, not simply quick fixes. The tools of the carceral state—including increased punishment—will not produce the kind of safety that schools and communities need.

Article

Teacher Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the United States  

Ann Mogush Mason and Bic Ngo

Teacher educators in the United States generally agree that teachers must be prepared to teach for cultural and linguistic diversity. In the first two decades of the 21st century, efforts to do so have occupied much of the literature in critical teacher education and have pervaded the institutional practices at many colleges and universities. However, not all approaches to teacher education for cultural and linguistic diversity demonstrate understanding of the role that white supremacy plays in maintaining structures and institutions that limit possibility in the lives of people of color. Even when teacher educators themselves are critically conscious of this role, institutions are often more powerful than individual consciousness. Specifically, because teacher education is located in institutions that are rooted in white supremacist practices, efforts to shift practices toward teacher education for cultural and linguistic diversity are typically swallowed up by the recuperative power of white supremacy. If teacher education is going to be part of building a more just society, it must orient itself explicitly to understanding the role it plays in maintaining white supremacy and then to mounting new efforts that can stand up to its recuperative power.

Article

Race and Ethnicity  

Amritjit Singh and Aaron Babcock

Racial patterns at any given time have been intertwined with local contexts, economic and political conditions, technological change, and a growing awareness of the socially constructed nature of race and gender. Race in the modern sense of the term emerged first in the 18th century amid the transformative changes of the industrial revolution, a growing slave trade, and the spread of European settler colonialism and imperialism in Asia, Africa, and the Western hemisphere. As a means of categorizing populations, race was a useful tool in justifying both slavery and imperialism. A further solidification of racial taxonomy developed over the course of the 19th century in which peoples and nations were grouped as genetically distinct. Race was thus essentialized and difference became widely accepted as biological and measurable. In the early decades of the 20th century, the view of race as biologically determined and immutable gradually gave way to sociological and anthropological reconsiderations of previously held assumptions. Contemporaneous to this reorientation of thinking on race was the growth of ethnicity as a related but distinct form of grouping populations that reframed identity as rooted in a shared national and sociopolitical history. In the 20th century, race across scholarly disciplines began to be divested gradually of its biological and genetic aspects and a recognition of race as a legal and social construction had emerged, especially in Postcolonial Theory and Critical Race Theory (CRT). In fact, what was viewed as “race” around 1900 (e.g., the Irish race, the Jewish race) came to be defined as “ethnicity” in the 20th century. For centuries, however, race has been used as a means for exercising power and control and as a defense of a racial caste system that privileges select groups. Through their many creative uses of memory and history, writers and artists in the United States and elsewhere have long responded in multiple genres by offering their own versions and visions of individual and community, complicating in the process our understandings of race, ethnicity, gender, nation, majoritarianism, and citizenship—the tangled issues that continue to haunt Americans and many others around the globe. Historians, literary scholars, and theorists have also played an active role in challenging old orthodoxies on race and ethnicity through multiple overlapping approaches, including African American Studies, Ethnic American Studies, Black Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, and Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Article

The Failure of Labor Unionism in the US South  

Cody R. Melcher and Michael Goldfield

The failure of labor unions to succeed in the American South, largely because national unions proved unable or unwilling to confront white supremacy head on, offers an important key to understanding post–World War II American politics, especially the rise of the civil rights movement. Looking at the 1930s and 1940s, it is clear that the failure was not the result of a cultural aversion to collective action on the part of white workers in the South, as several histories have suggested, but rather stemmed from the refusal of the conservative leadership in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to organize an otherwise militant southern workforce composed of both whites and Blacks. These lost opportunities, especially among southern woodworkers and textile workers, contrasts sharply with successful interracial union drives among southern coal miners and steelworkers, especially in Alabama. Counterfactual examples of potentially durable civil rights unionism illustrate how the labor movement could have affected the civil rights movement and transformed politics had the South been unionized.

Article

Language and White Supremacy  

Jennifer Roth-Gordon

White supremacy is a racial order that relies on a presumed “natural” superiority of whiteness and assigns to all groups racialized as non-white biological or cultural characteristics of inferiority. Despite decades of scientific studies refuting these claims, beliefs in racial difference continue to rely on ideas of innate or genetic differences between groups. Scholars now widely agree that race is a social, cultural, and political distinction that was and continues to be forged through relations of transatlantic slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. A focus on white supremacy does not limit scholars to the study of white supremacists, that is, those individuals and groups that outwardly espouse a racial order that privileges whiteness and white people and frequently endorse physical violence to maintain this order. Under white supremacy, societies privilege whiteness even in the absence of explicit laws and sometimes while promoting ideologies of racial inclusion and equality. Contexts of white supremacy feature the consolidation of white power and wealth at the expense of people of color—an arrangement that is maintained through racial capitalism, settler colonialism, anti-blackness, imperial conquest, Islamophobia or anti-Muslim racism, and xenophobic or anti-immigrant sentiment. Widespread awareness of linguistic difference can be mobilized to support these pillars of white supremacy through a range of official language policies and overt acts of linguistic suppression, as well as more covert or subtle language practices and ideologies. While the term “white supremacy” has gained broader circulation in the 21st century, these topics have been studied by linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists for decades under the more familiar headings of “race and language,” “racism and language,” and “raciolinguistics.” This scholarship examines how racial domination is consolidated, maintained, and justified through attention paid to language, but also the ways that marginalized speakers take up a broad range of linguistic practices to challenge assumptions about the superiority of whiteness and emphasize non-white racial pride, community ties, and cultural and linguistic heritage and traditions. Racial and linguistic hierarchies work together to falsely connect whiteness and the use of “standard” (officially sanctioned) language with rationality, intelligence, education, wealth, and higher status. Under these racial logics, speakers of languages associated with non-whiteness are readily linked to danger, criminality, a lack of intelligence or ability, primitivism, and foreignness. Together these ideologies naturalize connections between languages or specific linguistic practices and types of people, producing the conditions under which racialized speakers experience discrimination, marginalization, exclusion, oppression, and violence. At the same time, speakers challenge these power dynamics through linguistic practices that range from codeswitching, bilingualism and multilingualism, and language revitalization efforts, to verbal traditions both old and new, including social media genres. Though racial hierarchy continues to be bolstered by a linguistic hierarchy that assigns higher value to English as well as other European or colonial languages, linguistic variation persists, as speakers proudly embrace linguistic practices that defy the push to assimilate or submit to language loss. Beliefs in the superiority of whiteness have global resonance, but local specificities are important, and a majority of research has thus far been conducted within the context of the United States. Scholars who study language, racial inequality, and oppression continue to weigh in on public policies and debates in an attempt to raise awareness on these issues and advocate for racial and social justice.

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Frameworks of Critical Race Theory  

Lee E. Ross

Critical race theory (CRT) concerns the study and transformation of relationships among race, (ethnicity), racism, and power. For many scholars, CRT is a theoretical and interpretative lens that analyzes the appearance of race and racism within institutions and across literature, film, art, and other forms of social media. Unlike traditional civil rights approaches that embraced incrementalism and systematic progress, CRT questioned the very foundations of the legal order. Since the 1980s, various disciplines have relied on this theory—most notably the fields of education, history, legal studies, feminist studies, political science, psychology, sociology, and criminal justice—to address the dynamics and challenges of racism in American society. While earlier narratives may have exclusively characterized the plight of African Americans against institutional power structures, later research has advocated the importance of understanding and highlighting the narratives of all people of color. Moreover, the theoretical lenses of CRT have broadened its spectrum to include frameworks that capture the struggles and experiences of Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans as well. Taken collectively, these can be regarded as critical race studies. Each framework relies heavily on certain principles of CRT, exposing the easily obscured and often racialized power structures of American society. Included among these principles (and related tenets) is white supremacy, white privilege, interest convergence, legal indeterminacy, intersectionality, and storytelling, among others. An examination of each framework reveals its remarkable potential to inform and facilitate an understanding of racialized practices within and across American power structures and institutions, including education, employment, the legal system, housing, and health care.

Article

Black Americans: Practice Interventions  

Sharon E. Moore

Black people number about 46.8 million or 14% of the U.S. population. Throughout U.S. history, regardless of social class, Black people have had to remain cognizant of their race. The COVID-19 pandemic and police shootings of unarmed Black people have revealed that American racism toward Blacks is as virulent today as it has always been. Because of purposeful structural inequality, Black people in America suffer disproportionately in every sector of human activity. They are still facing social issues such as racism, substance abuse, mass incarceration, poverty, police brutality and police murder, infant mortality that is twice as high as among whites, residential segregation, racial profiling, and discrimination. And yet the strengths of the Black community have allowed it to thrive amid these arduous circumstances.

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Critical Race Studies  

Larry Ortiz and Susan Nakaoka

Critical race theory originated in law as a framework for legal studies analyzing the United States’ persistent racial divide. As an upstream theory, it focuses on the underlying social structures and cultural assumptions upholding White supremacy. Since the early 2000s, social work scholars have begun to apply critical race theory tenets to all aspects of the profession, from education to practice. Considering social work’s historic commitment to social justice, and the most recent declarations of the Council on Social Work Education as committed to antiracist education, this article advances the idea that critical race studies in social work is necessary, but the relationship requires serious and ongoing interrogation to unearth the profession’s White supremist roots.

Article

Privilege  

Ovita F. Williams and Cheryl L. Franks

Sitting in a place of having an unearned benefit because of a particular social identity or social group membership is defined by the term privilege. Privilege is described as advantages across multiple dimensions of identity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, ability status and more. For example, white privilege is the types of access white people have in society because of the color of their skin. This includes access to better schools, higher pay, good housing, and more. Privilege offers protection, advantage, access to resources, and limited surveillance. Privilege implies the freedom to be allowed to navigate easily through daily activities and life milestones, and to benefit from long-term advantages and gains. Social groups that have privilege reap specific benefits, which ultimately means another social group doesn’t have the same advantages and are thus disadvantaged, often severely. The social work profession demands social justice is sought, and in this effort, it is important to recognize that, where privileges are granted to people because of an observed social identity, this is harmful and creates systems and structures of oppression. Understanding how privilege operates to oppress and subjugate people increases the ability to see these injustices and inspires people to seek equity and liberation.

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Schooling in Racist America  

Zeus Leonardo

Education is both a racial and class project. This means that a multidimensional theory of educational stratification is necessary if an accurate appraisal of schooling’s modern appearance in capitalist, racialized states is central to the research endeavor. Critiques of capitalism are found in critical pedagogy and Marxist studies of education since the 1970s, which argue that schooling’s intellectual division of labor mirrors the material structures of a capitalist division of labor. In addition, the advent of critical race theory in education since 1995 provides compelling evidence that schooling is not only an ideological apparatus of the capitalist state but also equally of the racist state. Together, developing a critical class theory and critical race theory of education offers a more complete explanation of educational stratification in order to understand its processes and perhaps ways to intervene in them.