Problematizing racialism: Exploring the complexities of racialization and the structuring forces of whiteness in the lived experiences of high school social studies
Social studies education plays a fundamental role in the development of students’ understandings of the nation and themselves as citizens of the nation, particularly their ability to be civically responsible and engaged in democratic society (Howard, 2003). However, through uncritical acceptance and perpetuation of dominant discourses, including nationalist narratives, along with the superficial creation and implementation of such educational policies as multiculturalism, social studies education serves as a colonial instrument (Orlowski, 2008; St. Denis, 2011). In so doing, social studies curriculum and the teachers who deliver it support the maintenance of systems of power and privilege which differential position Canadians. In light of these concerns, the intent of this inquiry was threefold. First, the ways in which students who are racialized white in a senior high school social studies classroom perceive their racialization and its connections to privilege was explored. Closely related to and embedded within this exploration was a self-reflexive, auto-ethnographic study through which I examined my own assumptions, understandings, and biases as they have developed over time due to my racialization and other aspects of my subject positionings. Third, I examine how I, as a racialized white teacher, contributed to and was implicated in the students’ perceptions, critical or otherwise. Critical Race theory (CRT) and related approaches to critical race studies informed the inquiry, conceptualized as a qualitative study framed with elements of ethnography and auto-ethnography. The analysis of the student- and teacher-generated data involved critical discourse analysis.