Making Whiteness Visible: A Black Feminist Perspective

16 Mar 2021
9:50 am

Making Whiteness Visible: A Black Feminist Perspective

Session Description

Societal and institutionalized cultural dominance (Eurocentrism/Whiteness) continues to pervade anti-oppressive social work education efforts, presenting challenges to the application of pedagogical frameworks aimed at attending to diversity for social justice. For example, intersectionality as a term, tool, and framework was first conceptualized by American civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw as a criticism of White Feminism (Crenshaw, 1989). The impetus for incorporating intersectionality as an overarching pedagogy is to challenge the single-axis analysis of identity categories and to capture the multidimensionality in Black women’s lived experiences, for instance (Crenshaw, 1989). Further, the concept of intersectionality grapples with interlocking, mutually constructing systems of power, privilege, and oppression (Collins, 2015). The invisible and entrenched Whiteness in the neoliberal colonial academy creates a context where even radical frameworks such as intersectionality continue to marginalize and reduce the experiences of people of color (Almeida, Rozas, Cross-Denny, Lee, & Yamada, 2019).

This presentation seeks to expose and resist the metaphysical challenges in conceptualizing and operationalizing intersectionality, effectively making visible the cosmological, ontological, and epistemological dimensions of White culture. The presenter will discuss how Eurocentric Western logic views humanity in dualistic terms where ways of being are dichotomized. The presenter outlines the harm and erasure of complex wholistic human experiences originating in an epistemology that privileges positivism and building knowledge based on principles and numerical analyses. Finally, the presenter unpacks how linear, sequential, and individualistic methodology separates and decontextualizes people from shared histories, experiences, and the impact of power structures on group membership (Ortiz & Jani, 2010; Schiele, 2000).

Until Whiteness and White dominance is made visible and White supremacy confronted, we will continue to experience barriers that impede the possibility of conceptualization and practice utilizing anti-oppressive frameworks, such as intersectionality, in social work education and practice.  The presenter contends social work education, practice, and policy attempts that ignore the significance of cultural domination in the form of Whiteness will continue to place multicultural populations, including the dominant group, at risk of incompleteness, oppression, and vulnerability (Ando, 2016; Bay & Macfarlane, 2011; Nicotera & King, 2009).