Kisha Porcher and Jessica Edwards, UDARI Faculty Fellow Project Update

Posted on July 22, 2021 at: 11:22 am

Black Racial Literacy Project Update, June 2021

Description of Project:

The racial discrimination Black faculty face in majority white places of work fall into two categories: institutional and personal. Institutional racism is a system of inherent institutional structures, processes, and policies that lead to the disparities between Black faculty and their colleagues. Personal racism stems from direct experiences with racism and discrimination at the individual level (Griffin et al., 2011; Porcher, 2020). Researchers (Cole et al., 2017; Porcher, 2020) argue that to mitigate the institutional and personal racism that Black faculty experience, it is important for us to have interpersonal connections and space within white dominated spaces as well as direct conversations about race and racism (Edwards, 2016; Sealey-Ruiz, 2021). With focus on anti-racism initiatives, Black faculty are expected to process the traumas of racism they experience among their white colleagues, who may have inflicted harm upon them. Or in many instances, Black faculty are expected to support in leading these initiatives without specific emotional, physical, and psychological support for themselves. Additional support is needed for Black faculty due to issues of racism, tokenism, and hostile campus environments (Porcher, 2020).

Using Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz’s affinity group practices as a model, we developed a Black Racial Literacy Roundtable at our institution for Black faculty as a space to build racial literacies while processing experiences with racism. We define Black racial literacy from the foundation of Sealey-Ruiz’s work with racial literacy (2011) as, “a skill and practice in which individuals are able to probe the existence of racism and examine the effects of race and institutionalized systems on their experiences and representations in US society” (p. 386). Racial literacy requires self-reflection, along with moral, political, and cultural decisions about how people can be catalysts for societal changes (Sealey-Ruiz, 2011). We have added Blackness specifically to center the racial experiences of Black faculty. A primary goal of using a racial literacy framework is to help Black Faculty engage in discussions about the psychological, interpersonal and structural dimensions of race and racism (Guinier, 2004) while also becoming familiar with the institutional history of the college. Through lectures and discussions with other Black Faculty, and by applying race as a diagnostic tool to analyze and develop strategies for taking care of themselves while awaiting systemic change.

Summary of Project thus Far:

In March, 2021, we conducted a survey to understand the pulse of thinking about Black racial literacy among Black faculty, graduate students, and staff at UD. We also facilitated two roundtable discussions via Zoom featuring speakers to help contextualize the themes for each session. In March, 2021, we welcomed our inaugural speaker, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, and she shared on the significance of Black racial literacy. Our second roundtable speaker, Dr. Norma Hanks-Gaines, rendered her time on Black history at UD in April, 2021. (See Flyers Below)

Additionally, we submitted a manuscript proposal to the Black Caucus volumes via the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Conference on College, Composition and Communication (CCCC) to share our efforts with Black faculty across the country.

Future Action:

With our survey data, we plan to devise useful programming for future events to help advance conversations about Black racial on campus among Black faculty, graduate students, and staff. We will discuss partnering with UD’s African Heritage Caucus to help further cement our efforts as we develop best practices to enhance access to mental, physical, and social health strategies.


Cole, E. R., McGowan, B. L., & Zerquera, D. D. (2017). First-year faculty of color: Narratives about entering the academy. Equity & Excellence in Education, 50(1), 1-12.

Edwards, J. “Race and the Workplace: Toward a Critically Conscious Pedagogy.” Key Theoretical Frameworks: Teaching Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Angela Haas and Michelle F. Eble, Utah State UP, 2018, pp. 268 – 86.

Griffin, K. A., Pifer, M. J., Humphrey, J. R., & Hazelwood, A. M. (2011). (Re) defining departure: Exploring Black professors’ experiences with and responses to racism and racial climate. American Journal of Education, 117(4), 495-526.

Guinier, L. (2004). From racial liberalism to racial literacy: Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-divergence dilemma. The Journal of American History, 91(1), 92-118.

McGowan, J. (2000). Multicultural teaching: African-American faculty classroom teaching experiences in predominantly white colleges and universities. Multicultural Education, 8(2), 19-22.

Porcher, K. (2020). Teaching while Black: Best practices for engaging white preservice teachers in discourse focused on individual & cultural diversity. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research. 15(1), 116-134.

Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2021). “Racial Literacy: A Policy Research Brief” Teachers College, Columbia


Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2011). Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline through racial literacy development in teacher education. Journal of Curriculum & Pedagogy, 8(2), 116-120. doi:10.1080/15505170.2011.624892 This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.