At the time of this writing, much of the attention in higher education is focused on the question of how teaching will take place at colleges and universities across the United States in the fall of 2020. This period of preparation and planning comes on the heels of the massive shift to online learning that took place suddenly in the spring as a result of the lockdowns that accompanied COVID-19 outbreaks across the nation. Underscoring the profound change that instructors experienced in this crisis, research released in November of 2019 suggests that the majority of higher education faculty had never taught online prior to the arrival of college and university campus closures last Spring.
The brief break before the beginning of the fall 2020 semester affords educators the opportunity to reflect upon how their own pedagogies might address familiar questions in a new digital context should they be asked to teach online again. One of the most pressing and familiar questions in critical pedagogy has been how teachers can make themselves aware of the work of racism and White Supremacy in their disciplines, classrooms, and teaching and how both they and their students can act with agency to resist these oppressive systems and practices. Most faculty have received some form of diversity training or are at least passively aware of their institution’s/institutions’ policies regarding racism, equity, and diversity. Regardless of whether or not faculty have taken these policies and trainings on as meaningful parts of their own pedagogy and practice, it seems reasonable to assume that the majority of the training educators have received and pedagogical scholarship educators have read about racism in relationship to teaching and learning has been situated within the context of “traditional” face to face classroom settings. As the fall of 2020 approaches, and the possibility of again teaching online classes becomes increasingly likely, this reality reveals a potential gap in the way that even the most thoughtful instructors are prepared to think and work through the realities of racism in online and hybrid classes.
Given the steep learning curve many faculty face in teaching online, it is perhaps tempting to avoid the difficult questions about racism and White Supremacy embedded within the tools and practices of digital teaching and learning. Instead, an instructor might fall back on the idea that racialized bodies are not “present” in the same way in online classes or might comfort themselves with the notion that the LMS is an ideologically neutral container for teaching and learning. These false rationalizations only obfuscate the growing sense, in both critical and popular discourse, that the digital is an extension of the corporeal – that while “presence” might be constituted in digital environments in unique ways, the self and its varied identities persist online, and, in the case of education, is mediated through tools and technologies that are themselves, inevitably products of our broken, racist culture.
This document was started out of a desire to find and providing a variety of resources – philosophical, sociological, quantitative, qualitative, reflective, and practical – that can enable educators, specifically white educators, to think critically about their personal and institutional systems, biases, values, and pedagogies with specific attention to the various ways in which racism and White Supremacy are uniquely expressed and perpetuated in the tools, systems, and practices that constitute online teaching and learning. It is my hope that the resources provided here will give educators insight, language, practices, and hope for creating more just, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist online learning spaces.