Reading, Writing, And Racism: Disrupting Whiteness in Teacher Education And In The Classroom, by Bree Picower
I would like to begin this review with a thought experiment. I have taken perhaps the most egregious passage of this book and will change only what the passage is referring to. How do you as a reader feel about the (barely) revised text? “That’s this Black s***. You just did all this privilege. You don’t even f****** know it. You have lots to learn–f*** your critical race theory (123).” Do you consider this revised statement to be obvious truth, or a racist statement? In short, do you, as a reader, have a proper view of justice and equity that recognizes reciprocity at the basis of genuine justice, or do you believe that justice is a matter of identity rather than consistent standards of behavior? While it would take a book at least as long as this one to deal with the errors and debunk them in detail, there are some fundamental issues with the book that are easy enough for a reader to see. While justice is often spoken of in this book, the author appears to have no proper understanding of what justice is, and this book reads like the account of a Jewish progressive woman detailing her struggle sessions rather than like someone who has a even a basic grasp of the fundamentals of the subject of this book. What the book reveals is that critical race theory–and critical theory of any kind really–deserves the same kind of critique that it levels on others, and that as it is conceptualized and understood it is hopeless to understand or attain genuine justice.
This book is mercifully short at less than 200 pages in length. The book begins with a foreword as well as with a heated but ultimately inconsequential introduction about the supposed problems of a curriculum that is so white that it challenges the racist presuppositions of students of color by forcing them to see through the perspective of whites, which is apparently a privilege that only belongs to people of color to do in reverse. After that come discussions of curricular tools of whiteness (1), which the author finds objectionable in a selective fashion. This is followed by the iceberg of racial ideology and curriculum, where the author is blind to its obverse (2). After that the author seeks to reframe understandings of race within teacher education by engaging in leftist indoctrination (3), and again, selective double standards. This leads the author to advocate the disrupting of whiteness in teacher education that she would never countenance when it comes to blackness or Progressive thinking in teacher education (4). Finally, the author discusses the biased nature of humanizing racial justice in teacher education (5), after which the book ends with acknowledgements, notes, and an index.
And rather than making me upset, this book really demonstrates the sorry state of justice among the Progressive left. The foundation of any just view is reciprocity, and this book fundamentally lacks an appreciation of that. Throughout the book the author points to it being traumatizing for black students to be forced to imagine what it would be like to think and behave like a white slaveowner, or even an ordinary white person. If this is so, there is something defective in demanding that white people try to place themselves in the point of view and perspective of people of color, but apparently trauma is something that is only a problem for people who are not white. Many of the assignments that the author views as problematic are in fact ways for the student to gain an understanding of people and need only to be expanded upon, so that a student could imagine oneself in the point of view of a runaway slave, those people who might meet the runaway slave and provide shelter and advice, the master seeking to regain his supposed property, the sheriffs and newspaper editors who work in the logistics of protecting the slave system, and well-meaning outsiders. One of the fundamental problems of politics in the contemporary period is that Progressives simply forget that those who do not share their defective worldviews are in fact human beings who deserve to be respected and treated as such. It would be unjust to forget that Progressives, for all their moral blindness and hypocrisy, are people as well.