Silvia Bettez, professor in the Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations Department at the UNCG School of Education, discusses her recent publication and the importance of social justice activist teaching.
1. Your first book, But Don’t Call Me White: Mixed Race Women Exposing Nuances of Privilege and Oppression Politics was published a year ago. Could you please talk about your research behind this publication and what inspired you to write on this subject matter?
I address the answer to this question in the opening to my book, so I will share that here: I believe that the more intimately interconnected people feel—the more we take the time to learn about and connect with people across cultural differences—the less separation, segregation, and oppression there will be. Connecting with others in a way that has the potential to minimize oppression, however, requires striving to understand the complex operations of privilege related to race, class, gender, and sexuality. My beliefs about the importance of cross-cultural connections, my desire to do work that dismantles oppression, and my personal mixed race identity, led me to seek out life stories by mixed race women, individuals who simultaneously embody racially/ethnically oppressed and privileged identities and thus could speak directly to the challenges of deconstructing hierarchies built on emphasizing inequity in differences. For this project, I conducted extensive interviews with 16 biracial women in three parts of the United States; each has one White parent and one parent who is a person of color. I approached this research with a sociological lens searching for meaning related to issues of social justice: What can these women’s stories tell us about how to better communicate cross culturally? How do their multiple positionalities – of gender, race, class, and sexuality – affect the ways in which they claim agency and are limited by structure? What do their stories reveal about racial politics?