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kwilkinson's picture


**THIS NEEDS MAD WORK.  Last night I had to deal with an unexpected crisis--my apologies Anne I will have this cleaned up by the weekend.

I really enjoyed the use of narrative to act as a catalyst for larger dialogue by both authors.  I guess as I say this I am thinking that this would be every author’s intention, but given their active use of “autobiography” I believe that this allows the reader to relate to either Ann or Sekani on a deeper level.  Even if the reader falls somewhere in between these two juxtaposing perspectives, I believe that their honesty and illumination of their adaptive unconscious in conjunction with their conscious efforts to “undo” racist pedagogy is very genuine.

Ann Berlak’s narrative was very familiar to me as a reader, given that it was very similar to that of my peers in high school.  As a Jewish (white) cis-gendered female ally, I was not surprised by her socialization of color-blindness and inherent inability to understand racism on both a micro- and macro-level structure—although she experienced it every day.  Initially when reading her narrative about her socialization of color-blindness (B1 39)  I gave a  BIG ASS EYEROLL, however her honest—unencumbered—words indicated a realness about her experience and journey through the seemingly impossible act of “unlearning” our racist hegemony and pedagogy.  Her tone throughout the piece was never absolute—leading me to believe she was also open to introspect and actually listening, as an act of building ally-ship in the journey towards racial equality.  I also believe that her ability to hold herself accountable, without excuses of innocence due to ignorance, reinforces her self-awareness about her social status and power as a white woman in the fight to dismantle racial hegemony.  Her reformed pedagogy is intended to enable marginalized/once silenced voices emerge in the classroom environment, possibly even in the sphere of educational academia (47).  However, I question how this will work in a system of academia that people of color are inherently questioned on their experience and credibility as they are deemed unable to contribute rational and objective perspectives?    

These disenfranchised groups are presented as homogenous entities, which is even further perpetuated by the lack of conversation/shared learning of one another that would enable the professors and students to honestly share ideals and hold one another accountable while *INSERT QUOTE HERE MAYBE*   As a sociology major I often find myself frustrated at the way sociological method is interpreted/executed by the author/researcher because I believe that sometimes in order to control for validity, variance, and correctness (different word?) it can be racist within itself.  How can sociologist, specifically white sociologists, represent people of color—specifically Black children (especially boys)—analyzing their behavior if the sociological cannon continues to consist predominately of old white men?  And in many cases race is never even mentioned, specifically in the American context in which citizenship is supposed to define the individual before any other status…  

I believe that the most significant part of Berlak’s racial autobiography was the  goal of “unlearning oppression pedagogy” I believe is the most SIGNIFICANT part of her text because of its similarity to the “politics of difference”.  I say this because she defines this model as a tactic to build alliances across difference, enabling people of differing backgrounds to create coalitions to fight social injustice on both micro- and macro-level systems/structures.  I believe that this ideal if AMAZING, but I know that many teachers/professors do feel as if they practice this in their own classroom and teaching, when they in fact do not.  I say this because it is rare to experience a professor that honors, celebrates, or even acknowledges a racially oppressed perspective.  I do believe that this is also due to the power dynamic of professor and student, but also the mutual lack of realness and personhood acknowledged for one another.  If more teachers were to acknowledge the power differences in the classroom, that I believe would create more of an equal footing by somewhat dismantling the intended relationship of the teacher and the student to supporters in academic interest and overall passion in mobilizing change.  By acknowledging the different backgrounds and orientations of students, especially in relation to material I believe this would have a huge impact on students and teachers as it would be more fulfilling academically but also personally.

I say this because many times when reading about the social theory or ethnographic data regarding students of color and education, I remain frustrated at the author/researcher’s lack of humanity for their subjects.  Many times it feels as if subjects are being talked about, instead of talked to about their experience—sometimes it can seem that the same structure/academic trying to dismantle racist hegemony will always inherently be institutionally racist due to their structure.  *INSERT QUOTE FROM ANN BERLAK’S OTHER PIECE*unable to actually penetrate the racially adaptive consciousness of race that  derives from an oppressive perspective, which in case people of color cannot be analyzed due to the lack of nuances and understanding of various everyday disparities experienced by/placed on students of color in the academic sphere. In conclusion I believe that my experience as a student of color that within the academic sphere we continue to perpetuate racial hegemony by predominately using the lens/frameworks and tactics created by the white male patriarchy.  Accidently I read Ann’s narrative before Sekani’s, which I immediately connected and empathized with her because her journey was relatively similar to mine and emulated many of the thoughts/experiences/emotions that have become institutionalized in my life.

Although I completely support and DO NOT question Sekani’s narrative in which she defines many of her experiences and thoughts as “internalized oppression” or an inability to recognize white racial hegemony, I believe this is also due to her nature to give people the benefit of the doubt.  She is not naïve to assume that everyone is treated fairly, as she has experienced personally, *INSERT QUOTE*.  I believe that her ability to recognize unfairnessM because SHE WAS AMERICAN, while unable to recognize this macro-level structure of institutional racism is due to literal unknowingness of how racism is enacted/enabled in both spheres.  Therefore her provincial scope was of course due to age but also her mother’s ability to regulate her access to language and greater knowledge about racism that existed beyond her known bounds, so is that really internalized racism? 

In addition to Ann and Sekani’s respective narratives I also read Ann Berlak’s essay “Challenging the Hegemony of Whiteness by Addressing the Adaptive Unconscious”, in which she analyzes and reflects on her implementation of her model: “unlearning oppressive pedagogy”. 

The racial adaptive conscious is unable to negate racist tendencies to due its categorical nature that are almost inherent, regardless of how we undo them. Unbinding Bryn Mawr’s adaptive consciousness:  we inherently place students and ourselves within the space/limits of first wave feminism regardless of how much undoing has been/will be done.  If we do not acknowledge this past whole heartedly, illuminating the countless unheard narratives of faculty/students of color at Bryn Mawr college due to this legacy/massive intersectional oppressive institutionalized structure that seems to go even beyond the bounds of Bryn Mawr, as it is just a micro-level example of academia.  If allies in academia are able to acknowledge our learning, as Ann, as an initial act of undoing oppressive learning, prone to mistake and constantly holding herself accountable, I believe that this will result in actual social change.  This will dismantle the status quo that has been perpetuated, in which many professors/academics are already aware of racial injustice but remain complacent in their own pedagogy, modeled after a white ideal unable to adjust to their rhetoric of “allyship” and “awareness”.  This is dangerous.  This resistance to change inherently places students of color (and faculty of color) in a box, I believe this is where adaptive consciousness might come into play?  As many institutions similar to Bryn Mawr attempt to unlearn/undo injustice (in both micro- and macro-level senses), maybe our inherent structure of learning at an elite college/university will never be able to truly be inclusive to students of color.  I truly believe that the administration of Bryn Mawr, all of the actors/players here, are trying to dismantle these structures but it is almost as if these problems are so sesemic that we must additionally try to illuminate truth to our learning of oppressive learning, recognize the trauma that will be experienced *INSERT QUOTE* and create productive and critical pedagogies that enable particpants to hold themselves for the racist power structures that be and their role in them. 


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