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


  • Olivia Perlow Northeastern Illinois University
  • Sharon Bethea
  • Durene Wheeler


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


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.

Author Biographies

Olivia Perlow, Northeastern Illinois University

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology

African & African American Studies

Women's & Gender Studies

Sharon Bethea

Sharon L. Bethea is an associate professor in Counselor Education, African and African American Studies, and Inner City Studies. Her research interests include African-centered therapeutic paradigms, the psychosocial and intellectual development of African American youth, Oakland Freedom Schools, and culturally responsive counselor identity development.

Durene Wheeler

Durene I. Wheeler is an associate professor in Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies, African and African American Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her research interests include educational history of African Americans and women, black women and the civil rights movement, feminist perspectives in higher education, and education for liberation



How to Cite

Perlow, O., Bethea, S., & Wheeler, D. (2014). Dismantling the Master’s House: Black Women Faculty Challenging White Privilege/Supremacy in the College Classroom. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 4(2). Retrieved from https://wpcjournal.com/article/view/12307