What we talk about when we talk about race: Inventing feminist anti-racist teaching in a ninth-grade English class

Patricia Ann Suyemoto, University of Pennsylvania


This study explores the ways in which adolescent students and their teacher invent a feminist anti-racist classroom. The study was conducted in a ninth grade English classroom of a multicultural academic summer program for low-income students in San Francisco. Understanding how students construct race and culture is critical because racism still exists in both blatant and subtler manifestations. This study argues for classrooms that embrace anti-racist pedagogy—meaning that issues of racism and oppression are addressed directly and students work to develop agency to change the status quo. The study argues that an English class is a particularly rich site to study students' understanding of race and culture because it allows the examination of the issues using multiple processes such as literature discussion, experiential exercises, and writing. This study is interpretive qualitative teacher research and my methodology is informed by feminist, ethnographic, and teacher research perspectives. Data included transcriptions of classroom activities and discussions, student writing both formal and informal, my reflective journal, and transcriptions of informal interviews. Taking the class as the unit of analysis, this study looks through three different lenses. First my theory of practice as the teacher is examined as I work to teach from a feminist anti-racist stance. I reflect on and uncover the theories that guide my teaching and argue that teachers need to articulate and make explicit their theories of practice when attempting feminist anti-racist teaching. Second, the analysis turns to the classroom activities and the ways that the students understood anti-racist themes and related them to their lives. It argues that anti-racist work can be done in English classrooms without compromising attention to content and language processes. Finally, through analyzing the classroom conversation, I come to understand that discourse types on race and racism are both embraced and challenged. I argue that teachers need to be aware of the dominant discourse types about race in order make them explicit to the students and themselves.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Suyemoto, Patricia Ann, "What we talk about when we talk about race: Inventing feminist anti-racist teaching in a ninth-grade English class" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9976481.