Taking seriously Donnell Rawling’s advice that we need to interrogate our own “inner racism”, this paper begins by examining work on anti-racism in North American education. Arguing that the narratives of diversity, equity, and social justice have paradoxically risen in prominence among educational researchers while their attempts to address equity issues in schools have simultaneously been resisted (Chase 2010), this paper advocates for the continued need to make discourses of race and racism explicit in educational settings (Lindo 2007, 2010, 2015; Solomon & Levine-Rasky 2003; Bell 2009; Earick 2009). To this end, this paper presents and describes the work of “Race Comics” qua anti-racist educators and introduces the benefits of incorporating the comedic material of comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle in teacher education classrooms. Drawing on personal reflections of this pedagogical strategy in Canadian teacher education classrooms in Ontario (Canada) and Prince Edward Island (Canada), this paper teases out the ways in which these comedic texts in particular provided developing teachers with an opportunity to reflect upon their own normalised racial discourses, highlighting how these interfered with their ability to be the “perfect teacher”. This paper concludes with a discussion of comedy’s ability to help those devoted to developing socially just educational pedagogies to speak freely about their own normalised prejudices. In this way, “the man and his mic” facilitate explicit discussion of social inequities that, as critical race theorists like Derek Bell (1992; 2009) and Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995; 2009a; 2009b) have suggested, ensure that conversations about discourses of race and racism remain central in contemporary discussions about equity.
Bell, D. (1992). Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. New York: Basic Books.
Bell, D. A. (2009). ‘Who’s afraid of critical race theory?’, in Taylor, E., Gillborn, D. & Ladson-Billings, G. (eds.), Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education, New York: Routledge, pp. 37-50.
Bell-Jordan, K. (2007). ‘Speaking fluent “joke”: Pushing the racial envelope through comedic performance on Chappelle’s Show’. Performance Research 12 (3), pp. 74–90.
Boler, M., & Zembylas, M. (2003). ‘Discomforting truths: The emotional terrain of understanding difference’, in Trifonas, P. (ed.), Pedagogies of Difference: Rethinking Education for Social Change, New York: Routledge Falmer, pp. 110-136.
Britzman, D. (1998). Lost Subjects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning, Albany: State University of New York Press.
Broader, T. (Director), & Chappelle, D., Rawlings, D., Murphy, C., & Brennan, N. (Writers). (2005). Chappelle’s Show: Season 2 Uncensored. United States: Comedy Central.
Callner, M. (Director), & Rock, C. (Writer). (2008). Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger [DVD]. United States: CR Enterprises.
Carby, H. V. (1998). Race Men. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Chase, S. E. (2010). Learning to Speak, Learning to Listen: How Diversity Works on Campus. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Comedy Central. (Writer). (2006). Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes [DVD]. USA: Paramount Pictures.
Danesi, M. (2008). Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
DiFranco, J., & Eldridge, S. (2013). ‘Antiracist teaching under fire in public schools: A case study’. Understanding & Dismantling Privilege: The Official Journal of The White Privilege Conference and The Matrix Centre for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion 3 (1), pp. 173-190.
Earick, M. E. (2009). Racially Equitable Teaching: Beyond the Whiteness of Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators. New York: Peter Lang.
de Freitas, E. & McAuley, A. (2008). ‘Teaching for diversity by troubling whiteness: Strategies for classrooms in isolated white communities’. Race Ethnicity and Education 11 (4), pp. 429-442.
Gardner, J. (2014). ‘Slashed wrists, sex with prison guards and a jailhouse lesbian lover: Inside the twisted world of Susan Smith 20 years after she drowned her sons and blamed “a black man”’. Mail Online, Available online: http://www.thegrio.com/slideshow/blame-it-on-black-infamous-racial-crime-hoaxes.php [Accessed on 28 October 2015].
Haggins, B. (2007). Laughing Mad: The Black Comic Personae in Post-Soul America. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Henry, A. (2000). ‘Black women teachers’ positionality and „everyday acts”: A brief reflection on the work to be done’, in Dei, G. J. S. & Calliste, A. (eds.), Power, Knoweldge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader, Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, pp. 93-97.
hooks, b. (2003). Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge.
Jabali-Nash, N. (2010). ‘Acid attack hoax “victim” Behtany Storro charged with theft’. CBS News, Available online: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20017099-504083.html [Accessed 28 October 2015].
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). ‘Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy’. American Educational Research Journal 32(3), pp. 465–491.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2009a). ‘Fighting for our lives: Preparing teachers to teach African American students’, in Darder, A., Baltodano, M. P. & Torres, R. D. (eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, pp. 460-468.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2009b). ‘Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education?’, in Taylor, E., Gillborn, D. & Ladson-Billings, G. (eds.), Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education, New York: Routledge, pp. 17-36.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2009c). ‘Race still matters: Critical race theory in education’, in Apple, M. W., Au, W. & Gandin, L.A. (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Education, New York: Routledge, pp. 110-122.
Lea, V., & Sims, E. J. (eds.). (2008). Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom: Critical Educultural Teaching Approaches for Social Justice Activism. New York: Peter Lang.
Littleton, D. (2006). Black Comedians on Black Comedy. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.
Lindo, LM (2015). ‘The whiteness of philosophy: Imagining non-white philosophy in schools’, in Lund, D. E. & Carr, P. R. (eds.), Revisiting the Great White North? Reframing Whiteness, Privilege and Identity in Education 2nd ed., Rotterdam, The Netherlands: SENSE Publishing, pp. 229-240.
Lindo, LM. (2007). ‘Whiteness and philosophy: Imagining non-white philosophy in schools’. in Carr, P. R. & Lund, E. E. (eds.) The Great White North? Exploring Whiteness, Privilege and Identity in Education, Rotterdam, The Netherlands: SENSE Publishing, pp. 189-198.
Lindo, LM (2010). ‘Comic revelations: Antiracist pedagogy under pressure’, in Smith, C. C. (ed.), Anti-racism Education: Missing in Action Ottawa, Ontario: Our Schools/Ourselves, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, pp. 185–198.
Mayo, C. (2008). ‘Being in on the joke: Pedagogy, race, humour’. Philosophy of Education, pp. 244–252. Available online: http://ojs.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/pes/article/view/1372/122 [Accessed 28 October 2015].
McNair, J. (2007). ‘“I may be crackin’, but um fackin”: Racial humour in The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963’. Children’s Literature in Education 39 (3), pp. 201-212.
Means Coleman, R. R. (2000). African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. New York: Garland Publishing.
Mooney, P. (Writer/Performer). (1993) . Race [Stand-up comedy CD]. United States: Novamute.
Nachman, G. (2003). Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. New York: Pantheon Books.
Pryor, R., & Gold, T. (1995). Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences. New York: Pantheon Books.
Ramsey, G. P., Jr. (2003). Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Reporter. (2010). ‘Sgt. Robert Ralson shot himself and lied, saying unidentified black male did it’, Hinterland Gazette, Available online: http://hinterlandgazette.com/2010/05/sgt-robert-ralston-shot-himself-and.html [Accessed 28 October 2015].
Rotenberg, M., Rock, C., Chanley, S., Bull, T. (Producers), & Truesdell, K. (Writer/Director). (1996). Bring the pain [DVD]. United States: Universal.
Solomon, R. P., & Levine-Rasky, C. (2003). Teaching for Equity and Diversity: Research to Practice. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Sutherland, M. (2008). The Flip Wilson Show. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.
Washington, V. (1981). ‘Impact of antiracism/multicultural education training on elementary teachers’ attitudes and classroom behaviour’. The Elementary School Journal 81 (3), pp. 186-192.
Watkins, M. (1994). On the Real Side: Laughing, Lying, and Signifying¬¬ – The Underground Tradition of African-American Humour that Transformed American Culture from Slavery to Richard Pryor. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Watkins, M. (ed.). (2002). African American Humour: The Best Black Comedy from Slavery to Today. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.
Woolfork, L. (2009). Embodying American Slavery in Contemporary Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press
Zenovich, M. (Writer) (2013). ‘Richard Pryor: Omit The Logic’, in Ackerman, R. & Pryor, J. (Producers), United States of America: Fresh One Productions & Tarnished Angel.
Zoglin, R. (2008). Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America. New York: Bloomsbury.