“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”
– Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, given during a speech during Black History Month, 2009
This web-dissertation is born out of a youth participatory action research project that was undertaken with a group of Latino/a high school students, their White teacher, and the author of this website, a White university-based researcher, in a rural dairy town in Idaho.
Racism in Idaho, one might ask?
Well, in the past few years this town has gone from about 100% White to approximately 50% White, 50% Latino/a, mainly due to Latino/a immigrants looking for work at the booming dairies in the area. This rather sudden demographic shift has led to some interesting and difficult questions about race, racism, and how to talk about these topics in a high school setting.
As a university-based researcher interested in how we can address and confront social issues in democratic, participatory ways, Meagan approached this high school class in 2012 with a vague idea about what we might study, and how. But the students, together with their teacher, Mrs. Christine James, were the ones who came up with the actual question we would eventually call our Research Question. They asked: Why Are Our Teachers Racist?
An 18-month research project was born.
Our research collective worked on several projects together, interviewed teachers, had open discussions, all with the intention of understanding why racism seemed so tangible yet so difficult to talk about or even identify in this high school. As a group we wanted to tear down racism and build up unity in the school, the community, and the world.
It proved more difficult than we thought it might be. The conversations were difficult, sometimes strained, sometimes superficial, and sometimes extremely powerful and insightful. Sometimes we wished we could do more, achieve more, change more.
But the project changed us all, in various ways, and we hope that by making not only our findings but also our process public, we might encourage more open discussion of and more confident standing up against racism.
Tear Down Racism, Build Up Unity