MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION SERIES JAMES A. BANKS, Series Editor
Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, Second Edition
ÖZLEM SENSOY AND ROBIN DIANGELO Teaching for Equity in Complex Times: Negotiating Standards in a High- Performing Bilingual School
JAMY STILLMAN AND LAUREN ANDERSON Transforming Educational Pathways for Chicana/o Students: A Critical Race Feminista Praxis
DOLORES DELGADO BERNAL AND ENRIQUE ALEMÁN, JR. Un-Standardizing Curriculum: Multicultural Teaching in the Standards-Based Classroom, 2nd Edition
CHRISTINE E. SLEETER AND JUDITH FLORES CARMONA Global Migration, Diversity, and Civic Education: Improving Policy and Practice
JAMES A. BANKS, MARCELO SUÁREZ-OROZCO, AND MIRIAM BEN-PERETZ, EDS.
Reclaiming the Multicultural Roots of U.S. Curriculum: Communities of Color and Official Knowledge in Education
WAYNE AU, ANTHONY L. BROWN, AND DOLORES CALDERÓN Human Rights and Schooling: An Ethical Framework for Teaching for Social Justice
AUDREY OSLER We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools, Third Edition
GARY R. HOWARD Teaching and Learning on the Verge: Democratic Education in Action
SHANTI ELLIOTT Engaging the “Race Question”: Accountability and Equity in U.S. Higher Education
ALICIA C. DOWD AND ESTELA MARA BENSIMON Diversity and Education: A Critical Multicultural Approach
MICHAEL VAVRUS First Freire: Early Writings in Social Justice Education
CARLOS ALBERTO TORRES Mathematics for Equity: A Framework for Successful Practice
NA’ILAH SUAD NASIR, CARLOS CABANA, BARBARA SHREVE, ESTELLE WOODBURY, AND NICOLE LOUIE, EDS.
Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching: Creating Responsible and Ethical Anti-Racist Practice
SUHANTHIE MOTHA Black Male(d): Peril and Promise in the Education of African American Males
TYRONE C. HOWARD LGBTQ Youth and Education: Policies and Practices
CRIS MAYO Race Frameworks: A Multidimensional Theory of Racism and Education
ZEUS LEONARDO Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap
PAUL C. GORSKI Class Rules: Exposing Inequality in American High Schools
PETER W. COOKSON JR. Teachers Without Borders? The Hidden Consequences of International Teachers in U.S. Schools
ALYSSA HADLEY DUNN Streetsmart Schoolsmart: Urban Poverty and the Education of Adolescent Boys
GILBERTO Q. CONCHAS AND JAMES DIEGO VIGIL Americans by Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education
WILLIAM PÉREZ Achieving Equity for Latino Students: Expanding the Pathway to Higher Education Through Public Policy
FRANCES CONTRERAS Literacy Achievement and Diversity: Keys to Success for Students, Teachers, and Schools
KATHRYN H. AU Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools
ANNE H. CHARITY HUDLEY AND CHRISTINE MALLINSON Latino Children Learning English: Steps in the Journey
GUADALUPE VALDÉS, SARAH CAPITELLI, AND LAURA ALVAREZ Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education
ROBERT T. TERANISHI Our Worlds in Our Words: Exploring Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in Multicultural Classrooms
MARY DILG Culturally Responsive Teaching, Second Edition
Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools TYRONE C. HOWARD
Diversity and Equity in Science Education OKHEE LEE AND CORY A. BUXTON
Forbidden Language PATRICIA GÁNDARA AND MEGAN HOPKINS, EDS.
The Light in Their Eyes, 10th Anniversary Edition SONIA NIETO
The Flat World and Education LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND
Teaching What Really Happened JAMES W. LOEWEN
Diversity and the New Teacher CATHERINE CORNBLETH
Frogs into Princes: Writings on School Reform LARRY CUBAN
Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society, Second Edition JAMES A. BANKS
Culture, Literacy, and Learning CAROL D. LEE
Facing Accountability in Education CHRISTINE E. SLEETER, ED.
Talkin Black Talk H. SAMY ALIM AND JOHN BAUGH, EDS.
Improving Access to Mathematics NA’ILAH SUAD NASIR AND PAUL COBB, EDS.
“To Remain an Indian” K. TSIANINA LOMAWAIMA AND TERESA L. MCCARTY
Education Research in the Public Interest GLORIA LADSON-BILLINGS AND WILLIAM F. TATE, EDS.
Multicultural Strategies for Education and Social Change ARNETHA F. BALL
Beyond the Big House GLORIA LADSON-BILLINGS
Teaching and Learning in Two Languages EUGENE E. GARCÍA
Improving Multicultural Education CHERRY A. MCGEE BANKS
Education Programs for Improving Inter group Relations
WALTER G. STEPHAN AND W. PAUL VOGT, EDS. City Schools and the American Dream
PEDRO A. NOGUERA Thriving in the Multicultural Classroom
MARY DILG Educating Teachers for Diversity
JACQUELINE JORDAN IRVINE Teaching Democracy
WALTER C. PARKER The Making—and Remaking—of a Multiculturalist
CARLOS E. CORTÉS Transforming the Multicultural Education of Teachers
MICHAEL VAVRUS Learning to Teach for Social Justice
LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND, JENNIFER FRENCH, AND SILVIA PALOMA GARCIA-LOPEZ, EDS.
Culture, Difference, and Power, Revised Edition CHRISTINE E. SLEETER
Learning and Not Learning English GUADALUPE VALDÉS
The Children Are Watching CARLOS E. CORTÉS
Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action JAMES A. BANKS, ED.
Is Everyone Really Equal?
An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education
Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo
Published by Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027
Copyright © 2017 by Teachers College, Columbia University
Cover design by Katherine Streeter.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher. For reprint permission and other subsidiary rights requests, please contact Teachers College Press, Rights Dept.: email@example.com
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available at loc.gov
ISBN: 978-0-8077-5861-8 (paper) ISBN: 978-0-8077-7617-9 (ebook)
To all those whose shoulders we stand on and lean on—may ours be as steady for the next generation.
Series Foreword James A. Banks
What Is Critical Social Justice? Chapter Summaries
A Parable: Hodja and the Foreigner Layers of the Parable
1. How to Engage Constructively in Courses That Take a Critical Social Justice Approach
An Open Letter to Students A Story: The Question of Planets Guideline 1: Strive for Intellectual Humility Guideline 2: Everyone Has an Opinion. Opinions are Not the Same as
Informed Knowledge Guideline 3: Let Go of Anecdotal Evidence and Examine Patterns Guideline 4: Use Your Reactions as Entry Points for Gaining Deeper
Self-Knowledge Guideline 5: Recognize How Your Social Position Informs Your
Reactions to Your Instructor and the Course Content Grading Conclusion
2. Critical Thinking and Critical Theory
Two Dimensions of Thinking Critically About Knowledge A Brief Overview of Critical Theory Why Theory Matters Knowledge Construction
Example of Knowledge as Socially Constructed Thinking Critically About Opinions
3. Culture and Socialization
What Is Culture? What Is Socialization? Cultural Norms and Conformity “You” in Relation to the “Groups” to Which You Belong
4. Prejudice and Discrimination
What is Prejudice? What is Discrimination? All Humans Have Prejudice and Discriminate
5. Oppression and Power
What is Oppression? Social Stratification Understanding the “isms” Internalized Dominance Internalized Oppression Hegemony, Ideology, and Power
6. Understanding Privilege Through Ableism
What Is Privilege? External and Structural Dimensions of Privilege Internal and Attitudinal Dimensions of Privilege Common Dominant Group Misconceptions About Privilege
7. Understanding the Invisibility of Oppression Through Sexism
What Is an Institution? An Example: Sexism Today What Makes Sexism Difficult to See? Discourses of Sexism in Advertising Discourses of Sexism in Movies Discourses of Sexism in Music Videos
8. Understanding the Structural Nature of Oppression Through Racism
What Is Race? A Brief History of the Social Construction of Race in the United States A Brief History of the Social Construction of Race in Canada What Is Racism? Two Key Challenges to Understanding Racism Racism Today Dynamics of White Racial Superiority Dynamics of Internalized Racial Oppression Racism and Intersectionality
9. Understanding the Global Organization of Racism Through White Supremacy
What Is Whiteness? White Supremacy in the Global Context Common White Misconceptions about Racism
10. Understanding Intersectionality Through Classism
Mr. Rich White and Mr. Poor White Strike a Bargain What Is Class? Common Class Venacular Class Socialization Common Misconceptions About Class Understanding Intersectionality Examples of Everyday Class Privilege Common Classist Beliefs
11. “Yeah, But …”: Common Rebuttals
Claiming That Schools Are Politically Neutral Dismissing Social Justice Scholarship as Merely the Radical and
Personal Opinions of Individual Left Wing Professors Citing Exceptions to the Rule Arguing That Oppression Is Just Human Nature Appealing to a Universalized Humanity
Insisting on Immunity from Socialization Ignoring Intersectionality Refusing to Recognize Structural and Institutional Power Rejecting the Politics of Language Invalidating Claims of Oppression as Oversensitivity Reasoning That If Choice Is Involved It Can’t Be Oppression Positioning Social Justice Education as Something “Extra” Being Paralyzed by Guilt
12. Putting It All Together
Recognize How Relations of Unequal Social Power Are Constantly Being Negotiated
Understand Our Own Positions Within Relations of Unequal Power Think Critically About Knowledge Act in Service of a More Just Society
About the Authors
Since publication of the first edition of this visionary, practical, and engaging book, a number of events around the world have stimulated the rise of xenophobia, institutionalized racism, and the quest for social cohesion and nationalism (Banks, 2017). These events include the migration of Syrian and other refugees to European nations and the xenophobic responses they evoked as well as the populist revolts that resulted in the 2016 passage of the Brexit referendum in England to leave the European Union (Erlanger, 2017). The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016 and the popularity of Marine Le Pen in France and other right-wing politicians in European nations are also manifestations of the resurgence of neoliberalism and the pushback on social justice in nations around the world. The election and rising popularity of conservative politicians have led to an increase in reported Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks in the United States and other nations. Reported attacks and threats on Jewish centers increased significantly after Trump won the presidential election in 2016 (Haberman & Chokshi, 2017). Reported harassment and attacks on Muslims in the United States increased after Trump issued an executive order on January 27, 2017 that banned immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations (Chokshi & Fandos 2017; Shear & Cooper, 2017).
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” (King, 1965). The chilling and pernicious events described above do not necessarily invalidate the belief that the quest for social justice is long and “bends toward justice.” However, they exemplify the major thesis of Arthur W. Schlesinger Jr.’s (1986) illuminating book, The Cycles of American History, in which he argues that during the past two centuries of American history periods of social justice and idealism have rotated with periods of pragmatism and conservative backlash. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States after Barack Obama engineered the passage of progressive legislation related to health care and the environment during his 8-year occupancy of the White House epitomizes Schlesinger’s thesis. The dismal and toxic “cycle” of American history that was initiated by the Trump administration and the White nationalism that it sanctioned (Painter, 2016) underscores how much we need the second edition of this informative and helpful book. Teachers, like other Americans and Canadians, will be influenced by the
disconcerting and dispiriting racial climate in the United States and in many other nations today. These developments require multicultural and progressive teacher educators to work more diligently to promote social justice and equality today than was perhaps the case when the first edition of this book was published.
This trenchant and timely book is written to help both preservice and practicing teachers attain the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to work effectively with students from diverse groups, including mainstream groups. A major assumption of this book is that teachers need to develop a critical social justice perspective in order to understand the complex issues related to race, gender, class, and exceptionality in the United States and Canada and to teach in ways that will promote social justice and equality.
One of the most challenging tasks that those of us who teach multicultural education courses to teacher education students experience is resistance to the knowledge and skills that we teach. This resistance has deep roots in the communities in which most teacher education students are socialized as well as in the mainstream knowledge that becomes institutionalized within the academic community and the popular culture that most students have not questioned until they enroll in a multicultural education or diversity course. Sensoy and DiAngelo—who have rich and successful experiences teaching difficult concepts to teacher education students—thoughtfully anticipate student resistance to many of the concepts discussed in this adept and skillfully conceptualized book. They respectfully and incisively convey to readers the important difference between opinion and informed knowledge. They also convincingly describe why informed and reflective knowledge is essential for effective teaching in diverse schools and classrooms. The authors also provide vivid and compelling examples, thought experiments, and anecdotes to help their readers master challenging and complex concepts related to diversity, social justice, and equity.
Sensoy and DiAngelo draw upon their years of experience working with predominantly White teachers and their deep knowledge of diversity issues to construct explicit definitions of complicated concepts such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and internalized oppression. Another important feature of this book is the wide range of issues and groups with which it deals, including race, gender, exceptionality, and social class. The authors also present an informative discussion of intersectionality and how the various concepts related to diversity interrelate in complex and dynamic ways that create institutionalized and intractable forms of marginalization.
This well-written and practical book will help practicing educators deal
effectively with the growing ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity within U.S. society and schools. Although students in the United States are becoming increasingly diverse, most of the nation’s teachers are White, female, and monolingual. Race and institutionalized racism are significant factors that influence and mediate the interactions of students and teachers from different ethnic, language, and social-class groups (G. R. Howard, 2016; T. C. Howard, 2010; Leonardo, 2013). The growing income gap between adults (Stiglitz, 2012)—as well as between youth that are described by Putnam (2015) in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis —is another significant reason why it is important to help teachers understand how race, ethnicity, gender, and class influence classroom interactions and student learning and to comprehend the ways in which these variables affect student aspirations and academic engagement (Suárez-Orozco, Pimentel, & Martin, 2009).
American classrooms are experiencing the largest influx of immigrant students since the beginning of the 20th century. Approximately 21.5 million new immigrants—documented and undocumented—settled in the United States in the years from 2000 to 2015. Less than 10% came from nations in Europe. Most came from Mexico, nations in South Asia, East Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central America (Camarota, 2011, 2016). The influence of an increasingly diverse population on U.S. schools, colleges, and universities is and will continue to be enormous.
Schools in the United States are more diverse today than they have been since the early 1900s, when a multitude of immigrants entered the United States from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe. In 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that the percentage of students from ethnic minority groups made up more than 50% of the students in prekindergarten through 12th grade in public schools, an increase from 40% in 2001 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). Language and religious diversity is also increasing in the U.S. student population. The 2012 American Community Survey estimated that 21% of Americans aged 5 and above (61.9 million) spoke a language other than English at home (U. S. Census Bureau, 2012). Harvard professor Diana L. Eck (2001) calls the United States the “most religiously diverse nation on earth” (p. 4). Islam is now the fastest-growing religion in the United States, as well as in several European nations such as France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands (Banks, 2009; O’Brien, 2016).
The major purpose of the Multicultural Education Series is to provide preservice educators, practicing educators, graduate students, scholars, and policy-makers with an interrelated and comprehensive set of books that summarizes and analyzes important research, theory, and practice related
to the education of ethnic, racial, cultural, and linguistic groups in the United States and the education of mainstream students about diversity. The dimensions of multicultural education, developed by Banks (2004) and described in the Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education and in the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education (Banks, 2012), provide the conceptual framework for the development of the publications in the Series. The dimensions are content integration, the knowledge construction process, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and an empowering institutional culture and social structure. The books in the Multicultural Education Series provide research, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the behaviors and learning characteristics of students of color (Conchas & Vigil, 2012; Lee, 2007), language minority students (Gándara & Hopkins 2010; Valdés, 2001; Valdés, Capitelli, & Alvarez, 2011), low- income students (Cookson, 2013; Gorski, 2013), and other minoritized population groups, such as students who speak different varieties of English (Charity Hudley & Mallinson, 2011), and LGBTQ youth (Mayo, 2014). Several books in the Multicultural Education Series complement this book because they describe ways to reform teacher education to make it more responsive to social justice issues and concerns. They include We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools by Gary R. Howard; Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms by Tyrone C. Howard; Learning to Teach for Social Justice, edited by Linda Darling-Hammond, Jennifer French, and Silvia Paloma García-Lopez; and Walking the Road: Race, Diversity, and Social Justice in Teacher Education by Marilyn Cochran-Smith.
The first edition of this influential and bestselling book helped teacher education students and practicing teachers to acquire the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that enabled them to work more effectively with the rich and growing student diversity in U. S. and Canadian schools. This second edition has been enriched by the addition of a new chapter on class, enhanced pedagogical supports, and with additional examples from contexts outside the United States. Students will find the second edition of this excellent and visionary textbook challenging, enlightening, and empowering.
—James A. Banks
Banks, J. A. (2004). Multicultural education: Historical development, dimensions, and practice. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks (Eds.). Handbook of research
on multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 3–29). San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.
Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (2009). The Routledge international companion to multicultural education. New York, NY, and London, UK: Routledge.
Banks, J. A. (2012). Multicultural education: Dimensions of. In J. A. Banks (Ed). Encyclopedia of diversity in education (vol. 3, pp. 1538–1547). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (2017). Citizenship education and global migration: Implications for theory, research, and teaching. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
Camarota, S. A. (2011, October). A record-setting decade of immigration: 2000 to 2010. Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies. Retrieved from cis.org/2000-2010-record-setting-decade-of-immigration
Camarota, S. A. (2016, June). New data: Immigration surged in 2014 and 2015. Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies. Retrieved from cis.org/New-DataImmigration-Surged-in-2014-and-2015
Charity Hudley, A. H., & Mallinson, C. (2011). Understanding language variation in U. S. schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Chokshi, N. & Fandos, N. (2017, January 29). Demonstrators in streets, and at airports, protest immigration order. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/protests-airports-donald-trump-immigration- executive-order-muslims.html
Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Walking the road: Race, diversity, and social justice in teacher education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Conchas, G. Q., & Vigil, J. D. (2012). Streetsmart schoolsmart: Urban poverty and the education of adolescent boys. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Cookson, P. W. Jr. (2013). Class rules: Exposing inequality in American high schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Darling-Hammond, L., French, J., & García-Lopez, S. P. (Eds.). (2002). Learning to teach for social justice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Eck, D. L. (2001). A new religious America: How a “Christian country” has become the world’s most religiously diverse nation. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.
Erlanger, S. (2017, March 29). Pillars of the West shaken by ‘Brexit,’ but they’re not crumbling yet. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/world/europe/uk-brexit-article-50-analysis.html
Gándara, P., & Hopkins, M. (Eds.). (2010). Forbidden language: English language learners and restrictive language policies. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gorski, P. C. (2013). Reaching and teaching students in poverty: Strategies for erasing the opportunity gap. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Haberman, M., & Chokshi, N. (2017, February 20). Ivanka Trump calls for tolerance after threats on Jewish centers. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/us/politics/ivanka-trump-jewish-community- centers.html?_r=0
Howard, G. R. (2016). We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multiracial schools (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Howard, T. C. (2010). Why race and culture matter in schools: Closing the achievement gap in America’s classrooms. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
King, M. L., Jr. (1965, February 26). Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood. Retrieved from www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlktempleisraelhollywood.htm
Lee, C. D. (2007). Culture, literacy, and learning: Taking bloom in the midst of the whirlwind. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Leonardo, Z. (2013). Race frameworks: A multidimensional theory of racism and education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Mayo, C. (2014). LGBTQ youth and education: Policies and practices. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). The condition of education 2014. Retrieved from nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014083.pdf
O’Brien, P. (2016). The Muslim question in Europe: Political controversies and public philosophies. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Painter, N. I. (2016, November 16). What Whiteness means in the Trump era. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/opinion/what- whiteness-means-in-the-trump-era.html?_r=0
Putnam, R. D (2015). Our kids: The American dream in crisis. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Schlesinger, A. M. Jr. (1986). The cycles of American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Shear, M. D., & Cooper, H. (2017, January 27). Trump bars refugees and citizens of 7 Muslim countries. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/trump-syrian-refugees.html
Stiglitz, J. E. (2012). The price of inequality: How today’s divided society endangers our future. New York, NY: Norton.
Suárez-Orozco, C., Pimentel, A., & Martin, M. (2009). The significance of relationships: Academic engagement and achievement among newcomer immigrant youth. Teachers College Record, 111(3), 712–749.
U. S. Census Bureau (2012). Selected social characteristics in the United States: 2012 American Community Survey 1-year estimates. Retrieved from factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml? pid=ACS_12_1YR_DP02&prod-Type=table
Valdés, G. (2001). Learning and not learning English: Latino students in American schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Valdés, G., Capitelli, S., & Alvarez, L. (2011). Latino children learning English: Steps in the journey. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
We begin this text by acknowledging that we conduct our scholarship and teaching on the unceded ancestral territories of various Indigenous peoples, on what is today identified as Canada and the United States. It can be easy for us to dismiss how events from the past could matter to us here in the present. But studying the history of colonialism—the cultural, emotional, and physical genocide of peoples around the world—reminds us that to understand the injustices of today we must recognize their connection to injustices of the past. We offer our deepest respect to Elders both past and present.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the friends and colleagues who have supported us with this project, especially those who so generously gave their time and expertise to read and offer feedback on various aspects of the book. Your collegial support, and willingness to push our thinking on issues taken up in the first and in this second edition have been invaluable. Specifically, we would like to thank Carolyne Ali-Khan, Kumari Beck, Rochelle Brock, Ann Chinnery, Sumi Colligan, Cheryl Cooke, Darlene Flynn, Paul Gorski, Aisha Hauser, Michael Hoechsmann, Rodney Hunt, Mark Jacobs, Byron Joyner, Yoo-Mi Lee, Darren Lund, Elizabeth Marshall, Anika Nailah, Deborah Terry-Hayes, Jason Toews, and Gerald Walton.
We thank the reviewers who have been involved in the first and second edition for their guidance and insightful suggestions.
Thank you to Katherine Streeter for her artwork. Thank you to Brian Ellerbeck, Karl Nyberg, Lori Tate, and the entire
publication team at Teachers College Press. And finally, we extend our deepest appreciation to James Banks for his
trust in us to produce a text worthy of joining the Multicultural Education Series, and for his lifelong courage and commitment to building a more just world.
Map of Indigenous Communities Throughout North America
We are educators who collectively bring over 2 decades of experience conducting research, teaching, writing, leading workshops, and facilitating discussions in the study and practice of social justice. We have led this work with elementary and high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, preservice and in-service teachers, and in the workplace for employees of government, university, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. We have presented our research at national and international conferences, and within the disciplines of education, social work, cultural studies, women’s studies, ethnic studies, and Middle East studies.
Through our experiences with wide-ranging audiences, we consistently see predictable gaps in peoples’ understanding of what social justice is and what might be required to achieve it. We think of these gaps as a form of society-wide social justice illiteracy and argue that this illiteracy is not due to a lack of information alone. Rather, social in justice depends on this illiteracy; it is not benign or neutral, but actively nurtured through many forces and serves specific interests.
Social justice illiteracy prevents us from moving forward to create a more equitable society. Thus the primary objective of this book is to provide a foundation for developing social justice literacy. Using accessible language, addressing the most common misinformation, providing vignettes, definitions, exercises and reflection questions, our goal is to provide this foundation to a wide range of readers.
What Is Critical Social Justice?
Most people have a working definition of social justice; it is commonly understood as the principles of “fairness” and “equality” for all people and respect for their basic human rights. Most people would say that they value these principles. Yet seldom are the following questions discussed, and even less seldom are they agreed upon: What are those basic human rights? Have we already achieved them? If not, why not? How do we go about achieving them if we agree on what they are and why they haven’t yet been achieved? From whose perspective is something fair and equitable? Might something be fair for one person while actually having an unfair outcome for another? What does respect actually mean in practice? While some say it is to treat others as we would like to be treated,
some say that it is to treat others as they would like to be treated. Thus the definition itself is our first challenge.
The second challenge surfaces when we consider what it means to practice social justice. Generally, because most people see themselves as valuing social justice, most people also see themselves as acting justly in their lives. In response to questions about how they practice social justice, many would say that they treat everyone the same without regard to differences; because they do this, their actions are aligned with their values.
While these ways of conceptualizing social justice are very common, we see them as woefully inadequate. Indeed, a great deal of scholarship in social justice studies is focused on the gap between the ideals of social justice and the practices of social justice.
To clarify our definition, let’s start with the concept social justice. While some scholars and activists prefer to use the term social justice in order to reclaim its true commitments, in this book we prefer the term critical social justice. We do so in order to distinguish our standpoint on social justice from mainstream standpoints. A critical approach to social justice refers to specific theoretical perspectives that recognize that society is stratified (i.e., divided and unequal) in significant and far-reaching ways along social group lines that include race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Critical social justice recognizes inequality as deeply embedded in the fabric of society (i.e., as structural), and actively seeks to change this.
The definition we apply is rooted in a critical theoretical approach. While this approach refers to a broad range of fields, there are some important shared principles:
All people are individuals, but they are also members of social groups. These social groups are valued unequally in society. Social groups that are valued more highly have greater access to the resources of a society. Social injustice is real, exists today, and results in unequal access to resources between groups of people. Those who claim to be for social justice must be engaged in self- reflection about their own socialization into these groups (their “positionality”) and must strategically act from that awareness in ways that challenge social injustice. This action requires a commitment to an ongoing and lifelong process.
Based on these principles, a person engaged in critical social justice practice must be able to:
Recognize that relations of unequal social power are constantly being enacted at both the micro (individual) and macro (structural) levels. Understand our own positions within these relations of unequal power. Think critically about knowledge; what we know and how we know it. Act on all of the above in service of a more socially just society
Our goal in writing this book is to deepen our readers’ understanding of the complexity of social justice and inspire readers to actively engage in critical social justice practice. We call this blend of understanding and action critical social justice literacy.