The Problem with Origins: Race and the Contrapuntal Nature of the Education Experience

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this essay, I offer a critique of essentialist theories of race. I suggest that such theories have limited explanatory and predictive capacity with respect to the operation of race in education and in daily life. Further, I argue that one cannot understand race by looking at race alone. One must look at the dynamics of class, ethnicity, and gender. These dynamic variables operate in contradictory and discontinuous ways in the institutional setting. Dynamics of gender and class often cut at right angles to race. For example, workingclass black women and men have radically different experiences of race relations than their middle-class counterparts because of the ever-widening economic divide that separates different groups of black people in the United States. In addition to critiquing contemporary theories of race, I will look at a number of ethnographic examples of contradiction in the experience of racial inequality that underscore the heterogeneity associated with the operation of racial dynamics in schooling. Finally, I will draw some conclusions about curriculum and educational reform that take the complexity and the heterogeneity of race into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducation and Cultural Studies
Subtitle of host publicationToward a Performative Practice
EditorsHenry A Giroux, Patrick Shannon
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781135254926, 9780203949238
ISBN (Print)9780415919135, 9780415919142
StatePublished - Sep 18 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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