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This Ain't No "Wizard of Oz," Becky: Using Parable to Explore Gender and Whiteness in Higher Education

Fri, April 5, 2:25 to 3:55pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 600 Level, Room 606

Abstract

Purpose: Using a textual analysis grounded in Critical Race Theory (Vasquez Heilig, Brown, & Brown, 2012) to analyze a parable akin to the children’s classic tale “The Wizard of Oz” (Baum, 2014), this paper examines the racial and gendered undertones engaged by white women, known as “Becky” (Matias, forthcoming) and its implications for the pursuit of racial justice and equity within higher education.

Perspectives: Whiteness is characterized by how white racial identities have been (re)produced over time by pervasive racial domination, privileges, and cultural practices which reinforce white supremacy and dominance over communities of Color (Manglitz, 2003). Specific to higher education, this ever-present whiteness, what Gusa (2010) coined the white institutional presence, represents how white power structures dominate students, staff, and faculty of Color (Brunsma, Brown, & Placier, 2013).

Yet, by its very nature, whiteness is hidden and operates through its invisibility (Leonardo, 2009). Within institutions of higher education (IHE), Cabrera, Franklin, and Watson (2016) note this invisibility as the “missing link” (p. 7), which obscures the impact of whiteness on educational policy and practices. As a means to help uncover the clandestine nature of whiteness, Bell (1992) used parable and Preston (2013) recommended using speculative fiction, with both creative modes unveiling the hidden aspects of whiteness, racial dynamics, and racism. Applying this narrative approach to IHE serves to reveal the mechanisms of whiteness and gender dynamics in higher education. Only when hidden whiteness becomes exposed can it be addressed, disrupted, and dismantled.

Methods: Textual analysis is used to interpret a text from a particular cultural perspective (McKee, 2003). When grounded in Critical Race Theory (Vasquez Heilig, Brown, & Brown, 2012), a textual analysis serves to unveil “the racial politics and ideologies embedded” within a text (p. 404).

Source: The text under analysis is a book chapter entitled, “This ain’t no ‘Wizard of Oz,’ Becky!” (Sarcedo, forthcoming). The chapter has been accepted to be part of the edited volume “Surviving Becky(s): Pedagogies of whiteness and Gender” (Matias, forthcoming). The chapter is a parable (Bell, 1992; Montoya & Sarcedo, 2018) in the spirit of speculative fiction (Preston, 2013), about the fictional (mis)adventures of Becky in the land of Ny as she faces obstacles that she can only overcome by grappling with her own whiteness.

Findings: This textual analysis of the race and gender dynamics illustrates that “This ain’t no ‘Wizard of Oz,’ Becky!” serves as a cautionary tale for supposedly critical and antiracist white women and the experiences they must overcome to unhook from whiteness (Hayes & Hartlep, 2013) to understand their positionality and the implications of that position within higher education.

Significance: This work has theoretical significance by adding to the developing literature on “Becky” in education, which serves to bolster an understanding of racial and gender dynamics while reducing the ills of racism and whiteness in higher education.

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