Dismantling the Master’s House: Black Women Faculty Challenging White Privilege/Supremacy in the College Classroom

Olivia Perlow, Sharon Bethea, Durene Wheeler


Lorde's 1979 essay, “The Master’s Tools will never Dismantle the Master’s House” is a particularly useful contribution to academic discourse for scholar-activists seeking social justice within the academy (Lorde, 2007).  The ivory tower, as the name implies, can be seen as the concrete foundation of “the master’s house” (p. 112), in which the majority of faculty, their pedagogies and curriculum, both normalize and privilege the white, Western, male, Christian, middle-class, and heterosexual human experience (Guy-Sheftall, 1997).  This can be alienating and oppressive for both faculty and students that do not fit this model and can have insidious consequences that manifest within the classroom environment. Black women in particular are regularly confronted with a tripartite of student resistance related to our counter-hegemonic and social justice-oriented curricula, frameworks, pedagogies, as well as to our racialized and gendered bodies (Meyers, 2002). Thus we argue that as black women faculty, our embodied reality in the classroom creates challenges and limits regarding our pedagogical options and this precariousness informs many of our choices. In this essay, we will focus on our commonalities regarding the following themes: (1) the ways in which our raced and gendered bodies create challenges that inform our pedagogies and (2) the pedagogical tools and strategies we employ in order to challenge some of the manifestations of white privilege/supremacy in the classroom, including our own oppression and experiences, and those of marginalized students.


Race; Class; Ability; Privilege; Oppression; White Supremacy; Education; Teaching; Research; Tools; Strategies; Youth; College

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