No Humans Involved: Colonialities of Power in Early Childhood Education

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In this paper, I take up Wynter’s (1992) call to interrogate our disciplines for the ways that they discursively ignore, legitimate and, therefore, are complicit in the perpetuation of racial violence by examining how discourses of early childhood education in the United States are underwritten by what Joseph R. Washington (1981) called a “religion of antiblackness” (p. 146). Anti-blackness, a long-existing spiritual condition that constructs Black people as less than human (p. 146), enables the reproduction of classificatory systems based on white supremacy. As Wynter (1992) points out, in the criminal justice system, such constructs make possible the logic by which “any case involving a breach of the rights of young Black males who belong to the jobless category of the inner city ghettoes” were termed by public officials as “No Humans Involved.” The anti-blackness that makes possible a criminal justice system in which African Americans are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites also produces a hegemonic conception of the “child” in early childhood discourses that feeds the pre-school-to-prison pipeline. Accepting Wynter’s (2003) assertion that any effort to “unsettle the coloniality of power” necessitates the unsettling of the overrepresented Western bourgeois conception of the human, I seek to disrupt normative notions of humanness that inform early childhood education and care and operate to perpetuate social inequalities and, ultimately, racial violence. I examine what anti-blackness “does” in early childhood discourse; how it functions to construct an educational ontology of race in which young black bodies “always-already signify violence” (Ferreira da Silva, 2009, p. 213). To that end, I examine how taken-for-granted terminologies and practices are underwritten by anti-blackness and thus operate in ways that perpetuate social inequalities and limit the educational opportunities of young children of color. In challenging normative ideas about early childhood care and education I seek to disrupt the idea racism is not enacted by “well-meaning” people, in this case the predominantly white, middle-class Americans who make up the nation’s teaching force. Such a belief perpetuates the assumptions that “bad” whites enact and perpetuate racism, but “good” whites can transcend racism by working against it. However, anti-blackness, and the conception of humanness it produces, “sticks to us, or we become ‘us’ as an effect of how it sticks, even when we think we are beyond it” (Ahmed (2004, ¶ 49).


American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA)


Washington, D.C.