Reflections on Researching Within a Structurally Racist Institution
Keywords:race, white supremacy, higher education, racism, critical race theory, white fragility
During a required group research assessment at our higher education institution, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD), we uncovered multiple underlying and intersecting axes of oppression that affected our research. These axes include silence, gatekeeping, discrimination, white fragility, and emotional labour. This article explores how our research process was affected by these axes of oppression in an academic setting. First, we unpack the scope of our initial research which included a heuristic methodology and Critical Race Theory. Next, we uncover how this internal study around structural racism was interrupted by the oppressive practices and to what extent they affected the research process and our final assessed presentation. Finally, using autoethnography we investigate how, as three researchers with different backgrounds and ethnicities (two Black women and one white woman), we seemingly disrupted an internal research conference at a higher education institution. Writing this article is a necessary act of liberation for us as researchers to contextualise and define our experiences through Critical Race Theory. Through this paper, we aim to expand the dialogue among researchers and institutions on how structural racism and oppressive practices become evident in the fabric of academia. Furthermore, any lack of dialogue will inevitably continue to cause acts of oppression within institutions until they are faced with resilience, honesty, and a balance of power free from oppression.
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