Higher education in the United States, mainly since Brown v. Board of Education 1954, has lifted a philosophical impetus solidifying integrationist policies, practices, and pedagogy “as not only the most desirable, but most realizable condition of Black (co)existence in America” (Curry, 2008, p. 36). The course of events after Brown has collapsed the education of Black students into “a single ideological goal, namely how to mold Black [folks] into more functional and productive members of American society under the idea of equality” (Curry, 2008, p. 37). Against this backdrop, we examine the outcomes of a racial realist curriculum. Following Bell (1992), racial realism contextualizes the racialized realities of the temporal moment against the longer histories of anti-Black racism. The realist curriculum in this study used self-definition (Okello, 2018) as an organizing principle that centrally asked, how do we exist in the bodies that we hold, in this historical moment? Employing a critical phenomenological approach (Guenther, 2019) to analyze student essays from a Black Studies course, two research questions guided this study: “How do Black folks persist in a world constructed by whiteness?” and “How could a curriculum that centered realism assist in reshaping students' sense of self and dignity?".
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