aboriginals and racism

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Educating for Anti-Racism: Producing and Reproducing Race and Power in a University Classroom

Christopher C. Sonn a
Victoria University
Melbourne, Australia

Author Posting. (c) 'Copyright Holder', 2008.
This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of 'Copyright Holder' for personal use, not for redistribution.
The definitive version was published in Race Ethnicity and Education, Volume 11 Issue 2, July 2008.
doi:10.1080/13613320802110266 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13613320802110266) www.informaworld.com

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School of Psychology,Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne City MC, Melbourne

Australia, 8001.
Email: Christopher.Sonn@vu.edu.au

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Abstract
In this paper I explore some of the issues associated with teaching about race, culture and ethnicity in a psychology program. These curriculum initiatives are part of a broader agenda of raising awareness about racialised oppression and exclusion and contributing to the development of ways of researching and practicing psychology that are transformative and culturally sensitive. I overview the broader context and describe our subject and the guiding principles. This is followed by a description and analysis of two events in the classroom that illustrate the ways in which students differentially respond to the challenges posed by writings that challenge taken for granted understandings of race. Part of the analysis shows that students can often engage in the reproduction of oppressive practices and invest in whiteness. It is suggested that more than single semester subjects are required to promote and support the development of critical capacities for anti-racism practice.

Keywords: Critical Pedagogy, Whiteness, Racism, Indigenous Australians, Psychology

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Educating for Anti-Racism: Producing and Reproducing Race and Power in a University Classroom

Recent statistics paint a picture of Australia as very diverse culturally, and linguistically. Thomas (2004) highlighted Australia’s diversity stating that people who live here come from 232 different countries, that we speak 193 different languages, and that Indigenous people have lived here for thousands of years. Yet, even though we have this diversity many have argued that psychology has remained monocultural; it is white, and as a result often unresponsive to core issues that undermine the wellbeing of ethnic minorities and Indigenous people’s in Australia (e.g., Riggs, 2004a, Thomas, 2004). This critique is of course not limited to Australian psychology. There is a large volume of work critiquing the dominant Euro-American worldview that forms the basis of North American psychology including those psychologies that have been transplanted into different countries through uncritical modes of research and practice (e.g, Sinha, 1997; Kao & Sinha, 1997). In Australia, Indigenous and other minority voices are under-represented in psychology (Dudgeon & Pickett, 2000). Although, there is criticism levelled at what many regard as mainstream psychology, there are pockets that are proactive in redressing these deficits, omissions and ongoing exclusions. In Australia, the Indigenous Interest Group and the College of Community Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society are two groupings that are actively engaged in promoting and responding to issues of cultural diversity and racialised oppression (Gridley, Davidson, Dudgeon, Pickett, & Sanson, 2000). There is also a body of research and writing by ethnic minorities in different countries that is part of the broader movement of indigenous peoples advocating for the reconstruction and development of a psychology that can positively contribute to social justice for Indigenous and other minority communities in Australia and elsewhere (e.g., Bulhan, 1980, 1985;

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Comas-Díaz, Lykes, Alarcón, 1998; Harris, Carney, & Fine, 2002; Martin, 2003). In my view this writing is vital to informing critical pedagogy that...
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