Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School

Princeton University Press
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This book considers in unprecedented detail one of the most confounding questions in American racial practice: when to speak about people in racial terms. Viewing "race talk" through the lens of a California high school and district, Colormute draws on three years of ethnographic research on everyday race labeling in education. Based on the author's experiences as a teacher as well as an anthropologist, it discusses the role race plays in everyday and policy talk about such familiar topics as discipline, achievement, curriculum reform, and educational inequality.

Pollock illustrates the wide variations in the way speakers use race labels. Sometimes people use them without thinking twice; at other moments they avoid them at all costs or use them only in the description of particular situations. While a major concern of everyday race talk in schools is that racial descriptions will be inaccurate or inappropriate, Pollock demonstrates that anxiously suppressing race words (being what she terms "colormute") can also cause educators to reproduce the very racial inequities they abhor.

The book assists readers in cultivating a greater understanding of the pitfalls and possibilities of everyday race talk and clarifies previously murky discussions of "colorblindness." By bridging the gap between theory and practice, Colormute will be enormously helpful in fostering ongoing conversations about dismantling racial inequality in America.

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About the author

Mica Pollock is Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She previously also worked in the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 11, 2009
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781400826124
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Social Science / Minority Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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An essential guide to transforming the quotidian communications that feed inequality in our schools—from the award-winning editor of Everyday Antiracism

Words matter. Every day in schools, language is used—whether in the classroom, in a student-teacher meeting, or by principals, guidance counselors, or other school professionals—implying, intentionally or not, that some subset of students have little potential. As a result, countless students “underachieve,” others become disengaged, and, ultimately, we all lose.

Mica Pollock, editor of Everyday Antiracism—the progressive teacher’s must-have resource—now turns to what it takes for those working in schools to match their speech to their values, giving all students an equal opportunity to thrive. By juxtaposing common scenarios with useful exercises, concrete actions, and resources, Schooltalk describes how the devil is in the oft-dismissed details: the tossed-off remark to a student or parent about the community in which she lives; the way groups—based on race, ability, and income—are discussed in faculty meetings about test scores and data; the assumptions and communication breakdowns between counselors, teachers, and other staff that cause kids to fall needlessly through the cracks; or the deflating comment to a young person about her college or career prospects.

Schooltalk will empower educators of every ilk, revealing to them an incredibly effective tool at their disposal to support the success of all students every day: their words.
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