‘I Just Treat Them All The Same Really’: Teachers, Whiteness And (Anti) Racism In Physical Education

Year: 2015

Author: Flintoff, Anne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is little research about teachers’ understandings of race and (anti) racism in Physical Education (PE) and how these may inform their pedagogy and practice. Most studies on race and PE focus on the experiences of ethnic ‘others’ – minority ethnic pupils, students, or teachers (e.g. Flintoff, 2015; Nelson, 2012). Although usefully in revealing how racialised practices are negotiated and resisted, such studies may also contribute to a deficit view of ethnic ‘others’ in relation to an accepted white ‘norm’. They also serve to position white teachers ‘outside’ of race. Given the persistence of a largely white teaching profession, this paper argues for a shift in focus towards examining the workings of the dominant culture through a critical engagement with whiteness, thereby centralising white teachers within processes of racialisation (Levine-Rasky 2002).
This paper presents data from a larger study exploring white physical educators’ narratives of race, whiteness and (anti)racism in Norway and England, underpinned by such a critical whiteness studies approach (Gillborn, 2008). Using a collective biography approach (Davies and Gannon 2006), twelve physical education teachers (6 from England and 6 from Norway) have generated written stories with the help of memory triggers from their childhood, schooling, sports experiences, teacher education and work experience. These have consequently been shared with fellow participants, who have interrogated the texts and critically reflected upon the kinds of truths and discourses that have produced them.
Emerging themes in the on-going analysis include the ways in which race is constructed and talked about only in relation to ethnic ‘others’; its invisibility in teachers’ own educational and professional stories, and their colour-blind strategies of ‘treating all the kids the same’. The paper concludes by considering the contribution of critical whiteness studies in challenging how whiteness works in HPE.