Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Matthew D. Davis, PhD


Carl Hoagland, Ed.D.

Brenda Light Bredemeier, Ph.D.

Thomasina F. Hassler, Ph.D.


Language has always seemed to play a pivotal role in the identity of individuals and groups who are relegated to the status of other by members of the dominant group. The misshapen identities of the others are further exacerbated by systems and structures in place, like education, which ensure the continued hegemonic status of dominant groups. Not being a part of the dominant group, and yet being required to conform to their standards, can be confusing for those on the outside. The character Celie, expressed this confusion, “Whitefolks all over them, talking bout apples and dogs. What I care bout dogs? [emphasis added] […] Look like to me only a fool would want you to talk in a way that peculiar to your mind.” (Walker, 1982, pp. 193-194). This autoethnography is informed by Critical Race Theory and Critical Research. CRT states that racism is a normal part of American life, and in terms of Critical Research, Merriam (2009) wrote that “power in combination with hegemonic social structures results in the marginalization and oppression of those without power.” (p. 35). My own memories of living in South Africa and the United States, give voice to this phenomenon. I want to explore whether language is replacing race as a social and political identifier. Finally, this ethnographic study will hopefully encourage others to come forth and add their own voices. If all dialects hold equal status in a society, would this lessen the chance of language replacing race as a social identifier? Would structures like the police then serve all people, and would the people, and their identities, begin the process of healing?

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