After Whiteness, Part Two

Gerald, Ramjattan, & Stillar’s long awaited article After Whiteness, Part Two has finally been posted on the Language magazine website. Its aim is to “stress the importance of decentering Whiteness in English language teacher training and recruitment”. It consists of five short sections.

Section 1 offers a summary of what was said in Part 1 and what will be said in Part 2.

Section 2 makes a single point, namely, that since “the education profession is White-dominant (approximately 80% White according to National Council on Education Statistics, 2020)”, and since “teacher training is supportive of centered Whiteness (Matias, 2013)”, progress in decentering Whiteness in ELT depends on winning over White teachers. “In line with the concept of interest convergence (Bell, 1980; Milner, 2008)”, White readers must be persuaded that the authors’ vision of ELT is “not exclusionary, but rather a vision of inclusion”.

Section 5 is a post script, a “warning” that the article should not be interpreted as advocating diversity as a way of helping White-dominant institutions or individuals “gain further economic and socially upward mobility from marginalized groups (Leong, 2013)”.

This leaves sections 3 and 4. Having repeated the call made in Part 1 for students and teachers to “challenge biases embedded within the status quo”, the authors unveil the first substantive point in their article: the English language is “associated with those who inhabit White bodies via a process known as raciolinguistic enregisterment (Rosa, 2019; Rosa and Flores, 2017)”. No explanation of “raciolinguistic enregisterment” is offered, but in order to subvert this process – whatever it is – “the assumptive tethering of the English language to Whiteness must be confronted at the aesthetic and communicative point of arrival (i.e., what the students see and hear), and also at the aesthetic and communicative point of departure (i.e., from the instructors and/or administrators themselves)”.

The authors go on to repeat their central argument, made already in Part 1 and elsewhere: ELT must abolish White dominance. The goal is to give equal representation to “marginalized ethnoracial groups” so that ELT “becomes a space where a diverse representation of bodies and voices are rightfully valued alongside the quality of their pedagogical practices, dedication to students, and passion for the language learning process”. Furthermore, there is a need to encourage and “materially compensate” individuals from marginalized backgrounds and “recognize the immense value they bring to the ELT profession”.

Section 4 returns to another much-visited theme: native speakerism. The “bolstering of White supremacy”, and “the White, English “native speaker” as the standard bearer of the English language” must be irradicated from ELT, along with anti-Blackness, which “frames instructors coded as non-white as bearing an embodied pedagogical deficiency (Ramjattan, 2015)”. The concept of a “native speaker” must be rejected because it is “inextricable from Whiteness”. Even if employers don’t explicitly insist on native speakers, “expectations of nativeness” will leave “a workplace mired in the same racial hierarchies where, as Ray (2019) explained, Whiteness itself is a credential”. Only when native speakerism is finally and completely irradicated will a space be made “for adjacent discourses that confront biases”. Alongside the active rejection of “assumptions that frame Whiteness as an embodied ELT qualification”, the authors “emphasize the value of equitable ethnoracial representation by encouraging and materially compensating individuals from marginalized backgrounds to recognize the immense value they bring to the ELT profession.”

And that’s it – I challenge the authors, or any of their supporters, to show that I’ve left out any substantive content that appears in the text.

A set of statistics about US public schools is the only support offered for claims about the Whiteness of the global ELT profession, while the claim that “teacher training is supportive of centered Whiteness” is supported by reference to a paper from a teacher who tells the personal story of her resistance to colorblind racism in an urban classroom.

There is no attempt to describe, review or critically discuss any accounts of actual English language teacher training, or recruitment practice. Nothing substantial is said about the content or implementation of any actual teacher training course or ongoing CPD to indicate the nature and extent of the problem of Whiteness. There’s nothing about the recruitment policies of the British Council, or International House, or Berlitz, or Wall Street, or New Oriental to suggest how the problem of Whiteness reveals itself; nothing about radical alternative approaches to teacher education, where efforts are made to deal with racial prejudice and discrimination against NNS teachers; nothing about teacher cooperatives and other radical alternatives to the design and implementation of ELT courses where similar efforts are made.

The article offers absolutely nothing substantial to improve our understanding of the issues it pretends to deal with. It’s a collection of long-winded motherhood statements; a demonstration of preposterous, faux academic hand waving. To borrow from Searle’s comments on Deconstruction, the text is noteable for the low level of argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity.

6 thoughts on “After Whiteness, Part Two

  1. Hi Geoff

    I can see why you conclude “The article offers absolutely nothing substantial..”
    but I think when you write “It’s a collection of …” the “collection” part is right in the sense that I think it is a summary & references to what authors think is important. However this Part Two said it was about ++training and labor++ and one of the most interesting references made was to A Theory of Racialized Organizations by Victor Ray ( https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0003122418822335) which was summarised as ” Whiteness itself is a credential” – this would have been a nice topic to explore more.

    another point to consider is the relation of their social theory to communication theory – I comment about that here – Nelson Flores and language architecture (https://nextcloud.englishup.me/sites/rethunk/circularity)
    ta
    mura

  2. Hi Mura,

    Thanks for this and for the 2 links. They show that, Gerald, Ramjattan & Stillar notwithstanding, it is possible to write a more or less coherent social constructivist text.

  3. As Captain Corcoran (‘HMS Pinafore’) says, ‘Though I’m anything but clever/ I could talk like that forever’. I was especially struck, though, by this: “the value of equitable ethnoracial representation by encouraging and materially compensating individuals from marginalized backgrounds to recognize the immense value they bring to the ELT profession.” As far as I can tell, that means paying non-white teachers more.

  4. Hi Kevin,

    Very nice quote – a good one for the lads who worked so hard to produce their little piece. You make an interesting stab at interpreting “the value of equitable ethnoracial representation…” quote. I thought it was talking about the effects of proportional representation on the price of butter in Denmark.

  5. All other things being equal giving more pay to say non-native teachers could be progressive – quoting Nancy Fraser in Redistribution or Recognition (Fraser & Honneth 2003: 83-84) – “Theorists of rational choice theory contend that increased earnings enhance women’s exit options from marriage and improve their bargaining position in households; thus higher wages strengthen women’s capacity to avoid status harms associated with marriage such as domestic violence and martial rape…in some cases redistribution can reduce status subordination.”

    similarly the status harms of non-white teachers in ELT such as native speakerism could be avoided by giving more pay to such teachers?

    Of course rarely are all other things equal so whether this benefit may come other costs is debateable.

    There was an interesting situation in France where breakdowns between spaces such as public schools and private language schools has fostered symbolic violence between non-native and native speaking teachers e.g. see https://eflnotes.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/beyond-the-symbolic-violence-dome-of-the-native-speaker-teacher/

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