Constructing Critical Consciousness

Narratives that Unmask Hegemony and Ideas for Creating Greater Equity in Education

by Virginia Lea (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook VIII, 232 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 414


Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness Reader aims to help us rethink "race," racism, and whiteness as narratives with deep roots in the past that contribute to the current social order, and function to reproduce the social hierarchy in which we live. The reader includes several brilliant iconic essays that address the social construction of whiteness and critical resistance, as well as excellent new critical perspectives. It is a compilation that offers new and intermediate readers in critical whiteness theory a valuable and diverse overview of the subject. It also serves as a refresher to those who have themselves contributed to this field.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Praise_Of_the_author
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Constructing Critical Consciousness: Narratives That Unmask Hegemony, including “Race,” and Ideas for Creating Greater Equity in Education
  • Beginning with the Race Narrative
  • The Hegemonic Race Project
  • My Own Whiteness
  • Hegemony
  • Hegemony and the Academy
  • Looking Forward to the Narratives Shared in Future Chapters
  • Section One: Constructing Critical Consciousness: Narratives That Unmask Hegemony
  • Chapter One: The Interrelated Hierarchy of Power
  • Mayana
  • Interrelated Hierarchy of Power
  • Normalizing and Dividing Narratives
  • Scientification
  • Subjectivisation
  • Mechanisms of Power
  • Symptoms of Hegemony
  • Counter-Hegemonic Narratives
  • A Brief Educational and Economic Context
  • Endnote
  • Hegemony Visual Diagrams
  • Chapter Two: Overview of Historical, Economic, Political, and Educational Hegemonic Narratives
  • Unmasking Historical Hegemonic Narratives
  • Unmasking Political Hegemonic Narratives: Reality and the Abuse of Reality
  • Unmasking Hegemonic School Narratives: More ‘One Best’ Norms in the Classroom
  • Public Educational Narratives That Serve the Corporation
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Three: Mechanisms of Power That Mask Hegemony and Construct Identities
  • Stories Related to England
  • Early Consciousness/Growing Awareness
  • Boarding School
  • “You Couldn’t Possibly Have Written This”
  • Columbus, Colonisation, and the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Conclusion: On the Construction of Consciousness
  • Chapter Four: Narratives from Research That Unveil Hegemony
  • Neo-colonial Narratives: Vocalizing Silenced Student Voices in Higher Education
  • The Hegemony Project
  • Seeds of Cultural Change
  • From Seeds of Change to the Hegemony Project
  • Powerful and Normalized Barriers to Social Equity
  • Theme 1: Identity
  • Theme 2: White Privilege as Surveillance
  • Theme 3: “Whitewashed” and “Exoticized”—The Two Sides of “Race”
  • Theme 4: Dualistic Thinking: Individualism vs. Collectivism
  • Theme 5: Struggling against Stereotyping
  • Theme 6: Flicking the Switch
  • Conclusion: Whither Counter-hegemony?
  • Section Two: Raging against Hegemony
  • Chapter Five: Raging against Hegemony: Invited Narratives That Unmask Hegemony
  • Narrative One: “Righteous Rage” by Virginia R. Harris
  • Narrative Two: “Hedge Hogs, Hedge Funds, and Hegemony” by Jean Ishibashi
  • Chapter Six: Dispelling the Voices of the Powerful That Inhabit Us
  • Narrative Three: “Mixing in Mixed Race“by Piri Ackerman-Barger
  • Narrative Four: “Back to the Basics: Dispelling the Myth of Meritocracy and Disrupting the Normalisation of Hierarchies” by Ann Berlak
  • Narrative Five: “Fighting Hegemony: Teacher Education Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) as a Mechanism of Power and Control” by Roberta Ahlquist
  • Challenging Corporate-Driven Assessments for Teachers
  • Who’s Running the Show?
  • What We Have learned Over the Last Ten Years
  • In the Long Haul
  • Chapter Seven: Unmasking Homophobia, Colonialism, and Racism
  • Narrative Six: “Expectations” by Koko Jones
  • Narrative Seven: “Chagossian Teenagers in England” by Patrick Allen
  • So Does Everyone Now Live Happily Ever After?
  • Books I Have Found Very Useful
  • About the Chagossians
  • About Racism in Education
  • Websites About the Young Chagossian Musicians Featured in the Article
  • Websites Supporting the Chagossians
  • Narrative Eight: “Social Justice Teaching and Learning in the 3rd Grade: ‘I Want to Speak Up and Let Other Kids Know the Truth about History and Social Justice’” by Sally Savas, Sydney Casey, Stephanie Amormino, & Virginia Lea
  • Chapter Eight: Alternative, Critical Multicultural, Abolitionist Pedagogies That Facilitate Critical Literacies
  • The Counter-Hegemonic Art of Antonio Del Prete
  • Babatunde Lea: Finding the “One”
  • Molly Ware: Dancing into Empowered Transformation and Revolution … from Within and Without
  • Understanding Students in the New Millennium by Mayana Lea & Janani S. Srikantahrajah
  • The Workshop
  • Redefining Education
  • Ideas for Interrupting Hegemony in the Teacher Education Classroom
  • “Funds of Knowledge”/Strength-Based (Resiliency and Resourcefulness) Education
  • Problem-Posing Education
  • Interrogating Colonialism and Negotiating Culture Shock
  • Conclusions
  • Endnote
  • Monocultural Education: American Dream Metaphor
  • Example Criteria:
  • Tolerance: Melting Pot Metaphor
  • Example Criteria:
  • Acceptance: Salad Bowl Metaphor
  • Example Criteria:
  • Respect: Pluralism Metaphor
  • Example Criteria:
  • Affirmation, Solidarity, & Critique: Tapestry Metaphor
  • Example Criteria:
  • Chapter Nine: Afterword
  • Revisiting Hegemony
  • New Jim Crow Narratives: The School to Prison Pipeline
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Zero Tolerance and the New Jim Crow
  • Individual Zero Tolerance Narratives
  • How Do School and Society Participate in This System of Exploitation?
  • It’s All in How We Frame the Narratives
  • Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • A Positive Note to End on …
  • Endnote: Organisations That Work to Challenge the School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • Challenging the Destruction of Ethnic Studies in AZ:
  • Postscript: A Resource for Understanding Standardisation
  • Reshaping National Assessment Policy: The Proposals of the Forum on Educational Accountability, Broader Bolder Approach to Education Forum for Education and Democracy
  • The Forum on Educational Accountability
  • Broader Bolder Approach to Education
  • Forum for Education and Democracy
  • The Proposals
  • The Forum on Educational Accountability Assessment (FEA)
  • The Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA)
  • The Forum for Education and Democracy (FED)
  • Commentary
  • Endnotes
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors

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This book has taken a while to come to fruition, and would not have done so without the patience of my editor, Chris Myers. I sincerely thank him for granting me this latitude during a challenging period in my life.

I also want to express enormous gratitude to all of the contributors to the book, whose names I list here in alphabetical order: Piri Ackerman-Barger, Roberta Ahlquist, Patrick Allen, Stephanie Amormino, Ann Berlak, Harold Berlak, Jessica Burge, Sydney Casey, Thang Chang, Lawrence Charlier, John Corrigan, Antonio Del Prete, Matthew Erickson, Lucas Greelis-Vanlaningham, Virginia Harris, Brianna Ihrke, Jean Ishibashi, Koko Jones, Babatunde Lea, Mayana Lea, Sean Rueter, Sally Savas, Jean Sims, Molly Ware, Laura Watanabe, Dominic Wright, Janani Srikantahrajah, Ashley Timmers, and Dang Yang. Thank you all so much for your insightful and creative narratives, both written and graphic, and for your patience during the long journey this book has taken to publication.

I also want to thank Roberta Ahlquist, Babatunde Lea, Molly Ware, and Dang Yang for giving me particular feedback on some of the chapters. I appreciate the time and solidarity you have shared with me.

Finally, I want to thank my partner, Babatunde Lea, for always inspiring me on my journey to construct critical consciousness. We said, when we got back together after a 20-year gap in our relationship, that we would be each other’s mirrors on the world. Babatunde continues to be the mirror through which I see ← vii | viii → what I have achieved in this regard and how far I still need to go—pointing out how hegemony, especially whiteness, impacts the ways in which I walk through the world. It is hard to imagine how I could have got here without him, my three extraordinary daughters, Lichelli, Tanya, and Mayana, my two special grandchildren, Eli and Akai, and my amazing mother, Louise. I love you all so much.

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Constructing Critical Consciousness: Narratives That Unmask Hegemony, including “Race,” and Ideas for Creating Greater Equity in Education


Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.


Beginning with the Race Narrative

I hope to ilustrate in this book the power of “narrative” to construct and normalize consciousness. I also explore how narrative can be used in the struggle to unmask “hegemony,” and create greater equity in the field of eduction and beyond. “Race,” “narrative,” “hegemony” and other important concepts will be defined as the book progresses.

Mike Cole (2011) defines the terms, race, racism, and racialisation in his book. Racism and Education in the U.K. and the U.S.: Towards a Socialist Alternative. According to Cole, “race” is a social construct, and “racialisation refers to the categorisation of people (falsely) into distinct races.

I am using the term narrative synonymously with the term discourse. According to Fairclough (1992), a discourse is a social “practice not just of representing the ← 1 | 2 → world, but of signifying the world, constituting and constructing the world in meaning” (p. 64). A narrative or discourse has three sorts of “constructive effects”:

Discourse contributes first of all to the construction of what are variously referred to as ‘social identities’ and ‘subject’ positions’ for social ‘subjects’ and types of ‘self’ (see Henriques et al. 1984; Weedon, 1987) … Secondly, discourse helps construct social relationships between people. And thirdly, discourse contributes to the construction of systems of knowledge and belief … it … also contributes to transforming society (Fairclough, 1992, pp. 64–65)

A narrative or discourse is, then, a way of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting in the world consented to or rejected by different cultural groups (Gee, 1995). Some narratives have had and retain more cultural capital within the current social hierarchy than others. For example, the pseudo-scientific narrative of race at its outset in the seventeenth century proposed that there were biologically and culturally distinct species of human beings, based on certain physical and mental characteristics. Most people still accept these divisions on some level, identifying in terms of racial groups, like “white” or Caucasian, in spite of the fact that the human genome project has told us that race is nether a biological nor a cultural reality (Bonilla-Silva, 2006). Race has been normalized as a social identity.

My attempt to illustrate the power of narratives or discourses (Gee, 1995) like race arises out of my personal life experiences during which I have spent a great deal of time reacting to what I perceived as the injustices of narratives of power. Even though race was not commonly used as a social identifier when I was a child in England, whenever white people found themselves in the company of people of color, they expressed, consciously and unconsciously, verbally and non-verbally, a clear idea as to how the relations between racialized groups should be structured—with whites in positions of authority. The narrative of race, like social class and gender, spoken and unspoken, had tremendous power over people’s socio-economic, political, and cultural prospects.

Race is part of a larger hegemonic project. It is a complex, socially constructed narrative that seeks to further the interests of those people seeking to gain and maintain power and economic wealth. The race narrative is bifurcated; it is a double-sided coin (Wise, 2009). On one side of the race coin there is the category of whiteness, into which I have been ascribed by dominant social narratives throughout my lifetime. In fact, as a woman, of French, Irish, Syrian, Scandinavian, and Welsh descent, and from an upper-middle-class background, I have always experienced the unearned privileges of whiteness.

On the other side of the coin from whiteness, there is the narrative of racism. White people in positions of authority have been instrumental in constructing a number of racial categories that delineate where the white racial category ends ← 2 | 3 → and the category into which people of color are placed begins. People of color in the United States, a broad category broken up into smaller categories and often given different unauspicious names by white people, have always been subjected to the unearned oppression of racism. The dominant social narratives currently include a changing number of categories, as is evidenced by the Census. Agencies, governmental and private, wishing to gather data for a wide range of purposes, which are useful in identifying inequitable socio-economic and education practices, may define the broad category people of color in terms of such categories as black/African American (people with any measure of African descent); Asian (people as disparate as South Asians, including Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Hmong); Latina/o (Hispanic/Spanish speaking, Chicana/o); Native (Indigenous, Indian); and many other changing categories, accepted and/or rejected by people of color themselves.

Like Cole, I define racism in broad terms. Racism can be both intentional and unintentional, conscious and unconscious; it can be violent and apparently benign but always toxic; it can be individual, cultural, and institutional. It is always the expression of power, combined with prejudice towards people of color, relegating people of color to a lower status in society.

The Hegemonic Race Project


VIII, 232
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2011 (June)
global economy hegemonic process multicultural research
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 232 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Virginia Lea (Volume editor)

Virginia Lea received her PhD in social and cultural studies in education from the University of California, Berkeley. Virginia tries to live a commitment to greater socioeconomic, political, cultural, and educational equity, recognizing the educultural power of music, the visual and performing arts, narrative, and dialogue to bring this about. She sees her teaching, research, and scholarship as a contribution to the construction of networks of consciousness that recognize how hegemony contributes to global inequalities and develop practical ideas for transforming the institutional structures and cultural norms and values that reproduce injustice, cruelty, and inequality. Paul R. Carr is a Sociologist and a Full Professor in the Department of Education Chair-holder of the UNESCO Chair in Democracy, Global Citizenship and Transformative Education (http://uqo.ca/dcmet/) at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), Canada. His research is broadly concerned with political sociology, with specific threads related to democracy, media literacy, peace studies, intercultural relations, and transformative change in education. He has sixteen co-edited books and an award-winning, single-author book (Does your vote count? Democracy and critical pedagogy). He is the Principal Investigator of a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) research project entitled Democracy, political literacy and quest for transformative education, and is co-founder of the Global Doing Democracy Research Project. Darren E. Lund is a Professor in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, where his research examines social justice activism in schools, communities, and professional education programs. Darren was a high school teacher for 16 years, and formed the award-winning Students and Teachers Opposing Prejudice (STOP) program. Darren co-founded the Service-Learning Program for Pre-Service Teachers, winner of the national 2012 Award of Excellence in Education from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Darren has been recognized with a number of awards and honors, including the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s 2015 Educational Research Award, the inaugural 2013 Alberta Hate Crimes Awareness Award, the 2012 Scholar-Activist Award from the American Educational Research Association (Critical Educators for Social Justice), and was named a Reader’s Digest National Leader in Education.


Title: Constructing Critical Consciousness