Although institutions of higher education incessantly profess multiple commitments to "diversity," scholarship reveals that instructors who explicitly teach race at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI) consistently experience vexing challenges, called "racial issues." The literature does not address the broader sociopolitical context that shapes the persistence of these racial issues, and professors' interpretations and responses. Scholars are conspicuously silent about professors' perceptions of race, in courses not designed to teach the topic. This study used critical qualitative methods and critical race theory to investigate perceptions of race among mostly white professors, who do not teach race courses, at one PWI. Data was collected using ethnographic interviews, field notes, and document review. It was analyzed using critical race methodology. Most participants expressed inconsistent and contradictory perceptions about race in academia. Many said they did not think about or experience issues related to race, because it had nothing to do with their work. Nevertheless, they thought it was important to hire a professor of color, because it would provide diversity to their nearly all-white departments. They could not explain how a person would provide diversity beyond a racialized identity, yet they insisted that this diversity was imperative. Some participants, however, sensed that race is always already present, but felt fearful, isolated, and uncertain about how to articulate this. Two participants were unique and had elaborate examples and experiences of how PWIs, acting in institutional self-interest, feigned an interest in race through diversity policies, which actually incited racism and provided no benefit to students and faculty of color. Critical race theory and critical ethnography revealed that PWIs' relentless and obsequious attention to "diversity" functioned to thwart any critical and authentic knowledge, scholarship, teaching, and collaboration among the faculty, regarding race and racism. Additionally, institutional structures such as tenure criteria inhibited professors from exploring innovations that could contribute to new ways to free ourselves from the prism and prison of race. Recommendations were made for practice, policy, and future research.
Adviser: Marybeth Gasman. Thesis (Ph.D. in Social Welfare) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2011. Includes bibliographical references.