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Race-Evasive White Teacher Identity Studies 1990–2015: What Can We Learn from 25 Years of Research?

by James C. Jupp, Alisa Leckie, Nolan Cabrera & Jamie Utt - 2019

Background/Context: With a rationale informed by the demographic imperative, the resegregation of public schools, and our positionalities as researchers, we understand both the high stakes and the complexity of capacitating White preservice and in-service teachers capable of anti-racist praxis and race-visible teaching and learning in public school classrooms. 

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Deploying the framework of colorblind racism, we systematically reviewed race-evasive White teacher identity studies and answered the question: What can we learn from 25 years of research?

Research Design: In using the method called the synoptic text, we engaged electronic databases, with special emphasis on ERIC EBSCOhost. The simple and general search term “White teachers” conducted using year-by-year parameters provided the most systematic net for capturing relevant studies. In narrowing our focus, we developed the following criteria: (a) White teachers as central topic, (b) analytical emphases on colorblind racism, (c) publication in peer-reviewed journals, (d) use of qualitative and/or narrative research methodologies, and (e) publication date between 1990 and 2015.

Data Collection and Analysis: Our general search yielded 136 (N = 136) peer-reviewed empirical qualitative and/or narrative studies between 1990 and 2015, and after narrowing our criteria, we found 47 race-evasive White teacher identity studies (n = 47, 47/136) that we reviewed here. Each study in the document universe was abstracted by authors, added to a spreadsheet, and categorized by emergent themes.

Findings/Results: The following five themes emerged and developed over the last 25 years: (a) racialized silence and invisibility (9/47), (b) resistance and active reconstruction of White privilege (12/47), (c) whiteness in institutional and social contexts (8/47), (d) fertile paradoxes in new research (9/47), and (e) reflexive whiteness pedagogies (9/47).

Conclusions/Recommendations: We believe our literature review identifies the complex contours of White preservice and in-service teachers’ silence, resistance to, engagement in, and pedagogical grappling with racism, whiteness, and White privilege. The importance of preservice and in-service teachers being able to engage, understand, and challenge these issues becomes critically important at our crossroads in the present, especially given the recent election that bolstered open and tacit White supremacists into power. If White teachers are to engage racism, whiteness, and White privilege, they must do so with as opposed to for their students, in a Freirean sense. If teaching for social justice is important, renewed interest and investment in White teacher identity studies and related whiteness pedagogies is key for the next 25 years.

Keywords: White teachers, White teacher identity studies, teacher education, colorblind racism

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 1, 2019, p. 1-58
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22509, Date Accessed: 7/26/2021 7:42:47 PM

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About the Author
  • James Jupp
    University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    E-mail Author
    JAMES C. JUPP is Professor and Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Building on his background as a White teacher of predominantly students of color, his research focuses on White teachers’ cultural and racial learning in majority–minority settings. He served as lead author on “Second-wave White Teacher Identity Studies: A Review of White Teacher Identity Studies from 2004 through 2014” in Review of Educational Research. Additionally, he recently published “What Learning is Needed for White Teachers’ Race-Visible Teaching? Racialized Curriculum Recoding of Cherished Knowledges” in Whiteness and Education.
  • Alisa Leckie
    Georgia Southern University
    E-mail Author
    ALISA LECKIE is an Assistant Professor of English Learner Education at Georgia Southern University. Her research focuses on the roles of language and culture in teaching, learning, and teacher education. Currently, she is studying meaningful discipline-specific academic language development and the impact of ESOL endorsements among K–12 teachers. She is also working with local school districts to help them address the growing numbers of English learners in their classrooms.
  • Nolan Cabrera
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    NOLAN CABRERA is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, where he researches Whiteness on college campuses and the efficacy of Tucson Unified’s Mexican American Studies Program. He has recently served as lead author of “An Unexamined Life: White Male Racial Ignorance and the Agony of Education for Students of Color” in Equity & Excellence in Education. Additionally, he published “White Immunity: Working through the Pedagogical Pitfalls of Privilege” in Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity.
  • Jamie Utt
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    JAMIE UTT is a doctoral student in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. His research focuses on the intersections of race and schooling, particularly on White teacher identity development and the racialized role of police in schools. He also researches the role of men in addressing gender-based violence. On the topic of White teacher identity development, he recently served as lead author on “White Teacher Know Thyself: Improving Anti-Racist Praxis through Racial Identity Development” in Urban Education.
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