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This book considers in unprecedented detail one of the most confounding questions in American racial practice: when to speak about people in racial terms. Viewing "race talk" through the lens of a California high school and district, Colormute draws on three years of ethnographic research on everyday race labeling in education. Based on the author's experiences as a teacher as well as an anthropologist, it discusses the role race plays in everyday and policy talk about such familiar topics as discipline, achievement, curriculum reform, and educational inequality.
Pollock illustrates the wide variations in the way speakers use race labels. Sometimes people use them without thinking twice; at other moments they avoid them at all costs or use them only in the description of particular situations. While a major concern of everyday race talk in schools is that racial descriptions will be inaccurate or inappropriate, Pollock demonstrates that anxiously suppressing race words (being what she terms "colormute") can also cause educators to reproduce the very racial inequities they abhor.
The book assists readers in cultivating a greater understanding of the pitfalls and possibilities of everyday race talk and clarifies previously murky discussions of "colorblindness." By bridging the gap between theory and practice, Colormute will be enormously helpful in fostering ongoing conversations about dismantling racial inequality in America.
"Pollock attacks the topic with strength, providing a clear, compelling, and well-written argument. She helps readers cultivate greater understanding of the pitfalls and possibilities of daily race talk. A necessary and important work in fostering ongoing conversations about dismantling racial inequality in the United States."—Library Journal
"The dilemma at the heart of this book is the same dilemma at the heart of US society: practically no available form of public discourse about racial topics or issues actually engages with what race i. . . . This book's ethnographic setting, detailed observations, and transcripts provide a close-up look at a vexing everyday issue, demonstrating an important performative dimension in the generation of racialization."—Bonnie Urciuoli,Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
WeDon't Belong to Simple Race Groups, but We Do 18
Race Doesn't Matter, but It Does 44
TheDe-Raced Words We Use When Discussing Plans for Racial Equality Can Actually Keep Us from Discussing Ways to Make Opportunities Racially Equal 74
The More Complex Inequality Seems to Get, the More Simplistic Inequality Analysis Seems to Become 109
TheQuestions We Ask Most about RaceAretheVery Questions We Most Suppress 147
Although Talking in Racial Terms Can Make Race Matter, Not Talking in Racial Terms Can Make Race Matter Too 172
Moving Forward 210
Practically Speaking: Words for Educators in Particular 220