Race as a Consequential Practice
By Rob Schroeder
February 2, 2017
For Marcus Croom, thinking about race from an educational perspective is not just about body features or skin. As a literacy researcher, he invites educators to understand race as a consequential social practice.
Croom, a PhD Literacy, Language and Culture student, was recently named to the National Council of Teachers of English Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color (CNV) program, providing two years of support, mentoring and networking opportunities for early career scholars of color.
Croom is paired with mentor George Kamberelis, associate professor at University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Together, the two are laying the groundwork for Croom to carry out his research agenda, building theoretical work around understanding race, including genres of race. Croom recently presented his practice of race theory (PRT) at the Literacy Research Association conference in Nashville.
Croom has also published his work in the latest issue of the Black History Bulletin, founded in 1937 by Carter G. Woodson to enhance teaching and learning in the area of African Americans in US history, the African Diaspora and the peoples of Africa. The 2017 theme of the Black History Bulletin is ‘The Crisis in Black Education.’
“The question I ask is what makes Black education Black?” Croom said. “We need to be able to make sense of race and how to respond to racism and hierarchical assumptions about racial groups.”
Croom’s article includes a lesson plan that he hopes teachers will use to help students to make sense of race from an alternative perspective. If race is viewed as a consequential social practice that changes over time and varies from place to place, Croom says, the “common sense” ways society thinks about race are not sustainable.
He wants teachers and students to think about race on new terms, calling for opportunities for teachers and students to redefine themselves. Race is a topic that doesn’t arise in many classrooms, but Croom says that the exploration of personal identities is a positive for young learners, particularly in light of the 2016 election.
“To have a person as President of the United States who has stated really horrible things in terms of racial hierarchy, who belongs and who doesn’t, how would leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X make sense of this,” Croom said. “In the phrase ‘Make America Great Again,’ on whose terms? In which period was America great? All those questions are not considered by Trump.”
His article, “Reading: The Crisis in Black Education from a Post-White Orientation,” outlines his argument that race can be theorized as common sense or as a consequential social practice. He posits that the idea of a Black education crisis in “common sense” terms frames Black education as separate from education at large and subordinate to White education. Viewing race as a consequential social practice, he sees Black education--and whatever crises there may be--as the product of social practices that often position human knowledge, human institutions, and human beings according to the White superordinate racial hierarchy. Nonetheless, Croom highlights that the vindicationist tradition (including Woodson, Du Bois, and others) counters the typical distortions and deficit assumptions that are racially associated with “Black.”
“We have the power to make Black mean good, beauty, prestigious, excellence, and even greatness,” Croom said. “And that choice also carries consequences.”
Read Croom's article in The Black History Bulletin