Toward Pedagogies and Methodologies of Collaboration, Inclusion, and Voice
1. Inheriting Footholds and Cushions: Family Legacies and Institutional Racism
“I didn’t own slaves, why should I feel guilty?” This is a common response of White people to hearing about racism today (Trainor, 2005). Essentially, such a response objects that slavery, as well as theft of Indigenous peoples’ land, happened so long ago that attending today to violent forms of racism in the distant past evokes only anger and guilt, rather than helping us to transcend racism.
In this chapter, using the methodology of critical family history (Sleeter, 2011), I show how racial privilege, rather than being a relic of the past, is a living inheritance. Those of us who are White, particularly if our ancestry in the US extends back at least three generations, have inherited material and psychological resources that I will describe as footholds and cushions. Footholds enable opportunity; cushions protect from misfortune. Both enable White people as a whole to retain continued disproportionate control over the nation’s resources. While laws that had supported White supremacy have been overturned, inheritances built on the basis of those laws continue to be passed from one generation to the next.
Surveys have found a gradual liberalization of White adults’ attitudes about racial integration (such as where people can live), and a gradual decrease of genetic explanations for racial disparities (Hunt, 2007). While this shift represents progress in racial attitudes, the dominant White perspective today—that race does not matter (and should not be focused upon)—contrasts with perspectives among African Americans and Latinos, ← 11 | 12 → and...
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