Rhetorically speaking: on white preservice teachers’ failure to imagine an anti-racist English education

S. R. Toliver, Heidi Hadley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper aims to identify how white preservice teachers’ inability to imagine an equitable space for Black and Brown children contributes to the ubiquity of whiteness in English education. Further, the authors contend that the preservice teachers’ responses mirror how the larger field of English education fails to imagine Black and Brown life. Design/methodology/approach: Using abolitionist teaching as a guide, the authors use reflexive thematic analysis to examine the rhetorical moves their preservice teachers made to defer responsibility for anti-racist teaching. Findings: The findings show preservice teachers’ rhetorical moves across three themes: failure to imagine Black and Brown humanity, failure to imagine a connection between theory and practice, and failure to imagine curriculum and schooling beyond whiteness. Originality/value: By highlighting how preservice teachers fail to imagine spaces for Black and Brown youth, this study offers another pathway through which teacher educators, teachers and English education programs can assist their faculty and students in activating their imaginations in the pursuit of anti-racist, abolitionist teaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-500
Number of pages16
JournalEnglish Teaching
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 23 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Abolitionist teaching
  • Antiblackness
  • Antiracism
  • Imagination
  • Teacher education
  • Whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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