Justice in Search of Leaders

A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership

by Gloria Graves Holmes (Author)
©2018 Textbook XX, 324 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 516


Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership is a guide for educators who are committed to equity-driven teaching, leading, and policy-making, and would like to operationalize socially just school practices for all children. Moving beyond a heroes and holidays approach to addressing racism, bias, injustice, and a cluster of isms, it provides a deeper understanding of the causes of structural inequities in schools, and suggests approaches for deconstructing them. The book includes a frank discussion of race, racism, social dominance, and implicit bias, and encourages both objective and subjective analyses of how they infect school practice.
America’s ambivalent response to race, racial identity development, the nature of prejudice, and how humans form values and develop belief systems is explored in some depth. There is also a critique of Whiteness as a socio-political concept as it relates to power and privilege, and as a demographic reality as it relates to institutional discrimination in schools. The book is not a critique of white people, and it is important that readers make that distinction. This leads to a discussion of the tricky and challenging process of changing beliefs, values, and attitudes as they relate to school leadership and teaching, and how all of this is connected to the power dynamics in schools.
Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership encourages educators to acknowledge that we all have racial identities and biases that inform professional practice, and to reflect on the significance of this. It means thinking deeply about socially abhorrent subjects which make us uncomfortable and cause us to retreat to the safety of our comfort zones. This is necessary because for most under-served students, there is no retreat and no safety; there are only discomfort zones.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Justice in Search of Leaders
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • I Must Have Been Mistaken (Shaylah McQueen-Lee)
  • Part One
  • Chapter 1: If Not Courageous Conversations, Then What?
  • References
  • Chapter 2: Challenging the Mystification of Social Justice
  • Defining Social Justice
  • Are Social Justice Initiatives Part of a Radical Social Agenda?
  • How, When, and Why Did Justice Become a ‘Dirty’ Word, and What Does This Have to Do with Social Dominance?
  • References
  • Chapter 3: Reentering the Racial Self: Examining and Deconstructing Personal Biases
  • Prologue: Nakedness
  • Playing in the Dark …
  • The Nature of Prejudice: Why We Need to Talk About It
  • Definitions of Key Terms—Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination
  • More Definitions—Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Inner Conflicts
  • The Double-Edged Blade—Racism Damages Everyone It Touches—Even White People
  • Talking About Racism in the Workplace: Patterns of Denial and How We Interrupt Progress
  • Playing the Race Card
  • Dancing on Hot Coals: The Problem of Deconstructing Whiteness
  • Deconstructing Whiteness
  • Breaking the Silence—Step One Toward a Healthy White Racial Identity
  • Helms’ Model of White Racial Identity Development
  • Helms’ Model of White Identity Development
  • Stages and Phases of White Racial Identity Development
  • References
  • Chapter 4: Implicit Bias and the Bias Awareness Gap: Implications for Equity-Driven Teaching and School Leadership
  • Implicit Bias—An Overview
  • Implicit Bias—Quick Facts Where Our Biases Originate
  • Reasons to Ignore Implicit Bias Michael Carr’s Theory of Change—The 40% (Dis)solution
  • But What Does This Have to Do with Equity and Bias in a School Setting?
  • The 40% (Dis)solution
  • References
  • Chapter 5: Social Dominance Orientation (SDO): Implications for Equity-Driven Teaching and School Leadership
  • The Theoretical Basis for Social Dominance Orientation
  • Connecting Social Dominance Orientation to the Educative Process: 15 Critical Elements of SDO
  • 15 Critical Elements of SDO
  • The METCO Program: Busing in Boston, or What It Feels Like to Be Treated Like a ‘Guest’ in Your Own School
  • Transforming Social Dominance Orientation and Deconstructing Bias in Schools or How to Stop Viewing the World as a ‘Competitive Jungle’
  • References
  • Chapter 6: Moving Forward: Biasing, (De)biasing, and Strategies for Change
  • The Problem with Color Blindness as a Response to Bias in Schools
  • “Bias Is Not a Choice, but Our Responses to It Certainly Are”
  • “You Can’t Handle the Truth!”
  • Forms of Subtle Racism
  • Microaggressions
  • Keeping It Real—Connecting Implicit Racial Bias to School Discipline Disparities
  • (De)biasing and Strategies for Change (Part 1)—Rethinking White Racial Socialization
  • Wendell’s Story
  • Differentiating Between Active and Passive Racial Socialization
  • White Racial Socialization: What Role Should Schools Play?
  • Schools Are the Missing Link in the Racial Socialization Process
  • (De)biasing and Strategies for Change (Part 2)
  • Successful Research-Based (De)biasing Interventions
  • References
  • Part Two
  • Chapter 7: The Paradox of Power, Justice, and School Leadership: Facing Diversity—Leading Change
  • Multicultural Education and Multicultural Social Justice Education Defined
  • Culture: ‘Borders’ and ‘Boundaries’
  • Multicultural Social Justice Leadership
  • Leadership Matters
  • Leading Change
  • Equity-Driven School Leadership
  • “I Don’t Think I’m a Racist, but I Don’t Want to Talk About Race!”: How Critical Race Theory Reframes Discussions About Race
  • Critical Race Theory
  • The Paradox of Leadership
  • Adaptive Change
  • Equity Leadership and Race
  • Present and Future Demographics
  • References
  • Chapter 8: Teacher Leadership for Equity and Social Justice
  • Teacher Leadership for Equity and American Democracy
  • Teacher Shared Leadership—The Creative Redistribution of Power in Schools: How Does This Affect Equity?
  • Teacher, Learner, Leader: A Conceptual Framework for Equity-Driven Teacher Leadership
  • References
  • Chapter 9: All Teachers Can Lead—All Leaders Can Learn: Making the Case for Social Justice in Teacher and Leader Preparation
  • Toward a Framework for Preparing Leaders for Social Justice: The Capper, Theoharis, Sebastian Framework for Social Justice Leadership Preparation
  • Case Study: In Search of a Model of Teacher Preparation for Equity and Leadership: An Examination of the Conceptual Framework of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University
  • The Conceptual Framework
  • Teacher Beliefs
  • Definitions of Social Justice
  • From Conceptual Framework
  • Anonymous Reflections from Pre-Service Teacher Candidates
  • Reflection/Mindfulness
  • Content Knowledge
  • Teaching that Values Diversity
  • Educator as Learner
  • Educator as Leader
  • Using the Capper, Theoharis and Sebastian Framework: Implications for Social Justice Teacher Leadership Preparation
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter 10: Conclusion: An Empowering Vision: Harnessing Bias and the Possibility for Change
  • Bias Cannot Be Eradicated, But It Can Be Harnessed
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: A Conversation with an Implicit Bias Skeptic
  • Note
  • Appendix B: Examples of Microaggressions in the Classroom
  • Definitions of Microaggressions
  • Examples of Microaggressions
  • Making Assumptions About Students and Their Backgrounds
  • Suggestions for Addressing Microaggressions in the Classroom
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Table 5.1: The Relationship Between SDO, Schools, and Social Justice

Table 6.1: Examples of Microaggressions in a Classroom Setting

Table 6.2: Prevailing Research-Based Explanations for Disproportionate Discipline Policies and Practices

Table 6.3: Complex Factors That Interact to Produce Race-Neutral or Race-Biased Disciplinary Decisions

Table 6.4: Messages About Race

Table 6.5: (De)biasing Interventions for Teachers and Administrators (Part 1)

Table 6.6: (De)biasing Interventions for Teachers and Administrators (Part 2)

Table 9.1: Capper, Theoharis, Sebastian: Schema for Social Justice Leadership Preparation

| ix →


We can never know where inspiration will come from; never know whether or not the next door we open will bring us into light or darkness, or into a space that will cause our spirits to grow, even flower, or shrivel and die slowly. My inspiration and support for this book came from many sources, and some I will forget to remember, so please forgive me if you played a role in either inspiring or supporting me, and I forget to acknowledge you formally. Just know that this journey has been an extraordinary one for me, and that my heart is filled with gratitude for all of you who have offered support in overt demonstrable ways, or who tacitly wished me well.

Even though I know that the impulse to address the issues I cover in the book were germinating since I was a small child, I know that I was inspired to make a formal commitment to write about leadership and social justice during the year I spent as a fellow in the Community Leadership Program in New Haven, CT. This program was the brainchild of Bill Graustein, who heads the William C. Graustein Memorial Fund, which serves as a think tank, funder, convener, and resource for anti-bias training, community leadership, and capacity building. The heart and heatbeat of all of this is Bill Graustein, who is my hero. Mine is only one of the countless lives he touched in profound, life-changing ways. Bill’s generosity and commitment to social justice ← ix | x → and equity education is transforming the face of CT in ways that can never be quantified. Thank you Bill.

Once I knew that I would and could write a book, and that it would be a book about school leadership and social justice, I began to pay attention differently to the experienced leaders around me. Among other things, I realized how much I did not know. And, early in the process, I turned to my former colleague at Quinnipiac University, Gary Alger, who patiently read my first attempts at developing some coherence around these complex subjects. Using the lens of his deep experience as a professor and administrator, Gary helped me clarify and articulate what I was thinking. Thank you Gary.

Years into the process, after I had sifted through dozens of articles and books, I came across a small book, Renewing Struggles for Social Justice, A Primer for Transformative Leaders (2008), that helped me reframe my thinking about justice and leadership. Instead of thinking about justice as a static, lifeless thing as embodied in the Statue of Liberty and the blindfolded Lady Justice, this book helped me see justice as something that just is; animated, vibrant, engaged and regenerative. It informed how I conceptualized justice, and it inspired my title.

I would like to acknowledge and thank my colleagues at Quinnipiac University’s School of Education. More than colleagues, they are part of my family, and they helped keep me sane. They put up with my eccentricities, and never stopped loving me or supporting me no matter how difficult I was. I arrived at the School of Education (formerly the Division of Education) as an only child, but left with two sisters, Susan Clarke, and Anne Dichele, and a brother, Mordechai Gordon. Together, we survived and stayed whole through many unnerving challenges, and we shaped a small world in which a belief in equity and justice prevailed over all of our differences because we knew they were more important that skin pigment or cultural, ethnic, or experiential differences. And, I must give a special thank you to Mordechai, the most prolific writer among us. His astounding generosity helped us all become better scholars.

Quinnipiac also gave me Marilyn Ford, a colleague, friend, advisor, role model, and sister. Described as a force of nature, Marilyn’s energy and commitment to caring for, and serving others is uplifting, and I’m a much better person, because of her.

Thank you Becky Abbott for being my friend and confidante, for bringing light into the sometimes dark spaces that surrounded me, for always being a willing listener, and for your wise counsel.

I want to thank my unofficial readers, Thom Brown, Robert (Bob) Acevedo, and Claudette Parker. These are friends, whom I love, who had no professional ← x | xi → obligation to help, but they always did, with sensitivity, intelligence and honesty. And, Claudette is a sister/friend whom I loved before we ever met; she gave me the comfort of knowing that she was always there for me, no matter what.

Edward Porter, a friend, and early contributor provided support, and the benefit of his vast knowledge and experience as an administrator and trainer, and he guided my thinking in the early stages of this project. Thank you Ed.

In ways that I could never have anticipated, moving to CT to join the faculty at Quinnipiac University, prepared me to write this book. In CT, I was welcomed into a vibrant community of diversity educators that expanded and deepened my understanding of how bias and discrimination were undermining equity in schools, and sharpened my commitment to being an advocate for social justice. In this regard, I would like to thank my colleagues and friends at the Anti-Defamation League, especially Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, whose life-long fight for social justice was a model for me. This community also gave me mentors and friends like Bill Howe, Jack Hasegawa and Thom Brown.

There is a special thank you for Eugene Marsh, a tech genius, who generously provided tech support time and time again when my aging computer threatened to defeat me and destroy my sanity.

I also would like to remember, and thank those people who gave me support long before I began writing this book. They are no longer here in body but their spirits will always remain a part of my conscious being. My sister/friend Madeline did not survive to see this book completed, but her humor, and constant love and encouragement still feel like a warm embrace; she taught me that friendship has no season, and no beginning or end. Rose Zimbardo, my professor, mentor, friend and coach was the consummate teacher. She told me once that she would never stop teaching. Even if she ‘retired,’ she said, if necessary, she would stop people on the street and teach them. Rose was a role model for me, and she never stopped believing in me. How does one quantify that? Saint Rose was one of the smartest, most caring people I ever knew, and she changed my life. It saddens me that she won’t get a chance to read and critique my book.

My friend and colleague, Kevin Basmadjian, is not here to read my book, but I smile when I remember his caring leadership, and his light, and his compassion, and his generous spirt, and his unfailing support for my work.

And what can I say about my family? We tend to think that they have to love and support us, but really, they don’t, so I take neither their love nor support for granted. My mother, Thelma Hicks, will be 92 when this book is published, and it fills me with joy and gratitude to know that she will experience ← xi | xii → this with me. At 92, she is still the strongest, most generous person I know, and she has taught me the power and beauty of unconditional love. My oldest daughter, Lalise, did not live to share this moment with me, but her survival for many years against great odds was, and still is, an inspiration for me. She taught me many lessons about courage and strength. She always believed in me, as I believed in her.

My daughter Luana, has been a partner, a friend and a sister, and we have fought in many wars shoulder to shoulder. I used to say that in a fight, I wanted her in back of me. Now, I say, in a fight, I want her in front of me, because she’s been my shield so often.

Support from my granddaughters, Brandi and Marjani means so much, and Jayda’s silly humor and loving touch has lifted my spirit so many times, and kept me writing. My great grandson Javion is only seven, and he does not know that he reminds me why I must continue to care about the plight of black boys who are being forced to carry an intolerable weight in this society because they are Black.

My brilliant millennial granddaughter Jazmin is a kindred spirit, and she has often inspired me with her wit, and her wisdom that is far beyond her years. So often, she has read and critiqued my writing, and sometimes, with scathing honesty, she has shown me a different and important perspective that I would have missed. Jazmin, the image of you is forever inside me.

I would like to thank Michael Carr, my pastor at Central Church in Hilton Head, SC who has provided a religious lens for my scholarship, and has shown me how to bridge the sacred and the secular in ways that continue to inspire my writing.

I must also acknowledge those people, who at important transitional moments in my life intentionally tried to block my progress. Instead of encouraging me to soar, they tried to anchor me to the ground, even bury me. They did not succeed. They tried to discourage me from reaching my academic or career goals, and tried to undermine my self-esteem, and dis-empower me. They did not succeed. Their efforts had the reverse effect. Inadvertently, they motivated me to work harder, focus more, challenge myself, and never give up. In an odd way, the completion of this book is also a tribute to them.

Finally, I would like to thank God for making me, me.

| xiii →


I’ve been Black all of my life, and in some respects, this book is a substation in a long journey to interpret what that means. I’m Black and black, an American, an African American, a woman, a mother, and a teacher; a product of Harlem, a Long Island suburb, and a Pentecostal church; a former high school drop-out, and a PhD. All of these identities coalesced in the writing of this book.

Several months ago, when I began thinking about a preface and the strong impulses that drove me to write this book, I remembered two incidents in my life, separated by about three decades. And yet, despite the difference in time and place, these incidents seemed like mirror images. The first happened when I was a girl-child living in Harlem, and the second happened when I was a professional, home-owning woman living in a largely white Long Island suburb.

At the age of nine or ten, as I stood on a corner in NYC waiting for the stoplight to change, a white man in a car stopped in front of me. Unprovoked by anything that I had said or done, he began to yell angrily, “Why don’t you go back to Africa!!!” He then drove off. It was a stunning and confusing moment that I’ve never forgotten. I didn’t understand why this stranger was screaming angrily at me, or why my very existence seemed to infuriate him. ← xiii | xiv →

The second incident occurred about thirty years later, when I was a professional educator, and a well-established suburbanite shopping in my own Long Island neighborhood. I had parked my car on one side of the street, and decided to cross the street to shop in a store on the other side. Before I could cross, a white man driving-by pulled-up in front of me and asked, “Can I give you a ride to Wyandanch?” Wyandanch wasn’t Africa, but it was a nearby city that had a population that was about 90% black.

The second time, I was slightly surprised, but I was not confused.

Reflecting on these two incidents brought other disturbing memories to the surface; memories that I’ve strung together over time; memories that form a pattern that has informed my experience as a Black, and as a woman living in the world’s greatest democracy.

I was a thoughtful and precocious child, and I remember embracing, even internalizing the romanticization of the American past, and loving, and being inspired by, stories of the triumphs of hardy European pioneers trekking across the American plains to make new lives for themselves in someone else’s home. To me, a little dark girl growing up in Harlem, they were all ‘giants in the earth,’ and their ‘conquest’ of the west seemed heroic and right. It never occurred to me that they were trekking over, and appropriating someone else’s land, or that their history trampled mine. My schools and my teachers, most of whom were White, reinforced these ideas, and since I loved my schools and I loved my teachers (most of them), as a child, I instinctively believed and trusted them; they were among the most important and influential adults in my life. I was taught to respect them, so trust came naturally. I trusted them to tell me the truth about American history. I trusted them to explain where I, and my little black and brown classmates, fit into the American story.

And yet, I distinctly remember that there came a time when I began to question what Ron Takaki called the master narrative that was an integral part of my daily bread. On some subconscious level, I understood that I lived in what Toni Morrison has called a ‘wholly racialized society’ long before I had any clear idea what this meant or how it would shape my life. Race, and racism and the tension around blackness versus whiteness always swirled around me; it was like the smog Beverly Daniel Tatum described that had the effect of robbing her of her innocence as a child. I felt this, too. It was like a toxin that was diminishing me and the quality of my life with every breath I took.

I also remember that when I was in the fifth grade, I learned what it felt like to be invisible. Intuitively, I understood at that early age what Ellison was describing when he said, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people ← xiv | xv → refuse to see me … they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

One day when my white social studies teacher spent an entire class period listing the accomplishments and contributions of all of the different cultural groups that made America a great nation, I learned a lesson that he never taught and I never forgot. Even though he was facing a room full of black fifth graders who were engaged and intent, he wasn’t seeing us at all. He was oblivious to our reality, or our value and significance as part of the American story other than as the detritus left from America’s dark slave past. This is what I now believe.

In this class, we learned of the exploits and accomplishments of Europeans who were becoming Americans. They were British and French, Dutch and Italian, and Norwegian and Spanish, and they all produced heroic and memorable people who were presented to us as larger than life. Seemingly, as an aside, we learned about George Washington Carver, a former slave, our Black hero, the peanut man. At the time, experimenting with peanuts didn’t sound like much, and Carver wasn’t presented as particularly significant or heroic like those who were discovering new land, finding gold, surviving blizzards, or winning battles in war.

Years later, when I became an educator, I learned that there is a distinct difference between what a teacher thinks she’s teaching, and what students actually learn. I now understand that my fifth grade social studies teacher taught me lessons that continue to resonate, and in many ways, they serve as the foundation for this book.


XX, 324
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XX, 324 pp. 8 tables

Biographical notes

Gloria Graves Holmes (Author)

Gloria Graves Holmes is Professor Emerita in the School of Education at Quinnipiac University. She earned a Ph.D. in English from SUNY Stony Brook, a MA/LS from SUNY Stony Brook, and a MS from Queens College, CUNY. She also earned a Professional Diploma in School Administration from Long Island University. Holmes has received the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League, the Multicultural Teacher of the Year Award in Higher Education from the National Association of Multicultural Education, and the Multicultural Leadership Award from Quinnipiac University.


Title: Justice in Search of Leaders
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