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Justice in Search of Leaders

A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership

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Gloria Graves Holmes

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.

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Chapter 2: Challenging the Mystification of Social Justice

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CHALLENGING THE MYSTIFICATION OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …

—Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

If you’re going to hold someone down you’re going to have to hold on by the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.

—Toni Morrison

Although the American Dream that anyone who works hard enough and is resilient enough can succeed is seductive and greedily internalized by most Americans, it is a dream. And, it is a fallacy to assume that in America there is a rock-solid foundation of social justice that ensures that this dream can become a reality for these legions of hard-working American dreamers. It is a fallacy to assume that there is universal acceptance of the idea that social justice is guaranteed because it is the birthright of every American. It is also a fallacy to believe that there is even a common understanding of what social justice actually means even though it is implicit in America’s constitutionally endorsed moral stance which states unequivocally that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …” For many, the concept of social justice is like background music for the mythic American story; a mere ← 17 | 18...

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