Speaking with Trunks, Dancing with the “Pink Elephants”: Troubling E-Racism, E-Classism, and E-Sexismin Teaching Multicultural Teacher Education

Speaking with Trunks, Dancing with the “Pink Elephants”: Troubling E-Racism, E-Classism, and E-Sexismin Teaching Multicultural Teacher Education

Christine Clark (University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA) and Gwen Stowers (National University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9970-0.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter takes a contrary view of the “meta” aspect of meta-communication (where meta is defined as “behind” or “beneath”) in the online multicultural teacher education classroom, arguing that such communication inhibits learning about (content) and through (pedagogy) sociopolitically-located multicultural teacher education by enabling e-racism, e-classism, and e-sexism to operate in largely covert manners in the distance education context. Accordingly, this chapter contends that digital meta-communication on issues of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and sex/gender needs to be “de-meta-ed” or made explicit in order for the kind of liberatory reflective conversation on these topics to occur that is foundational to the adequate preparation of PK-12 teachers to effectively educate all students.
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Introduction

In this chapter, we will discuss how race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and sex/gender come up or come “through” in online communication. We examine the “appearances” of these dimensions of identity from the lens of how we, as online faculty, “see” them, and how they manifest in online course discussions in student-to-student communication. More specifically, we define the problem of e- or electronic racism, e-classism, and e-sexism as a meta-communicative (less than fully conscious), yet “dancing pink elephant” (figure 1) (blatant) in the online multicultural education classroom from the perspectives of how faculty perceive students’ race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and sex/gender identities, as well how these identities become “transparent” in student e-conversation.

Figure 1.

Dancing pink elephants

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Background

This chapter draws from/builds on three meta-communicative concepts. First, it engages Charles Lawrence’s view that race and class are meta-communicative or covert conversational topics because they are “forbidden” (2005). Second, it connects to Mark Lawrence McPhail’s notion that direct or non-meta-communicative dialogue about race is “(im)possible” or exceedingly difficult to meaningfully realize (2003). Third, it intertwines Paulo Freire’s idea of “false generosity” in exploring the extent to which the meta-communicative aspects of e-racism, e-classism, and e-sexism can be surfaced in order to effectively and consistently develop PK-12 teacher disposition to teach from an ever-deepening critically conscious, sociopolitically-located multicultural educational point of entry across the curriculum (1970).

In “Forbidden Conversations: On Race, Privacy, and Community” (2005), Lawrence, an African American, describes a conversation he had with a white colleague about public schools. The conversation took place shortly after Lawrence’s colleague moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where Lawrence already lived. The colleague asked Lawrence to recommend a “good” school for his children. Lawrence uses this conversation to illustrate the meta- or forbidden nature of conversation about race and class even between Blacks and Whites from the same socioeconomic class background, in this case the upper middle class. Lawrence argues that in asking for such a recommendation, his colleague was really asking him to tell him where the predominantly white, upper middle class schools in Washington, D.C. were, but without expressly stating so. Accordingly, Lawrence answers his colleague’s question by referring him to areas of the District where all the public schools were predominantly white and upper middle class, instead of directly engaging him in a conversation about how he defines what a “good” school is and why. Lawrence analyzes this conversational exchange as a pre-choreographed conversational dance that he and his colleague had been conditioned to do with one another when issues of race and class emerged. Lawrence goes on to articulate that dancing this dance is the normative manner of communication between people from different racial groups in the United States when issues of race, and class as it pertains to race, emerge.

Key Terms in this Chapter

e-Discrimination: The manifestations of unfair or unjust treatment, especially that which violates policy and law, on the basis of any dimension of social group identity (e.g., race, class, sex, etc.), especially toward members of “protected class,” marginalized, and historically underrepresented groups in the electronic (or “e-”), online, and/or virtual realm.

Meta-Communication: Hidden and/or covertly underlying meaning; the deeper, alternative, and/or opposite meaning behind or beneath what is actually expressed.

Critical Consciousness: Awareness developed through critical thought that enables one to see beyond the superficial to what is typically controversial because it threatens the hegemony or status quo.

e-Oppression: The manifestations of systemic discrimination—via overtly and covertly coercive mechanisms that operate in the political, economic, psychological, and physical spheres of society—from members of one or more dominant social identity groups (e.g., upper class, white, men, etc.), toward members of one or more non-dominant social identity groups (e.g., poor, of color, women, etc.) in the electronic (or “e-”), online, and/or virtual realm.

Voice: Oral agency; the skill, ability, and will to express critically conscious—counterhegemonic or anti-status quo—feelings, opinion, beliefs, and factual knowledge about issues of oppression manifest in society at large and/or expressed by specific members of society.

Panopticon: A higher or strategic vantage point from which covert and/or overt surveillance can be conducted; the rifle tower in a prison; a prison or prison-like environment in which occupants are under constant scrutiny and, therefore, have no personal refuge and/or privacy.

e-Racism: The manifestations of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of race (and/or ethnicity, tribe, religion, creed, color, and caste) in the electronic (or “e-”), online, and/or virtual realm.

Transparency: Openness, straightforwardness, directness; the absence of deception, coercion, duplicity; the skill, ability, and will to be honest even when honesty may compromise one’simage, reputation, standing, etc., because it is the right thing to be.

e-Sexism: The manifestations of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sex (and/or gender, gender identity, and gender expression) in the electronic (or “e-”), online, and/or virtual realm.

Meta: Behind or beneath.

De-Meta-Ed: The process by which a covert phenomenon was made overt.

False Generosity: The inherently conflicted, and ultimately compromised, nature of commitment to equity expressed by members of dominant social identity groups who, on one hand seek social justice for all peoples, but on the other hand seek to maintain their unjust advantage over members of non-dominant social identity groups.

e-Classism: The manifestations of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic class background (and/or employment status) in the electronic (or “e-”), online, and/or virtual realm.

Internalized Oppression: The un- or sub-consciously absorbed: 1) negative and/or inferior feelings, opinions, or beliefs about one’s own non-dominant social identity group(s), and/or, 2) positive and/or superior feelings, opinions, or beliefs about dominant social identity groups of which one is not a member; both sets of ideas emerge in reaction to prolonged exposure to manifestations of systemic discrimination—via overtly and covertly coercive mechanisms that operate in the political, economic, psychological, and physical spheres of society—and that are actively promoted by members of dominant social identity groups.

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