Race, Gender, Class and Action! Are We There Yet? Radical Hip Hop Pedagogies in Formal Education

Keynote Address

Silhouette Bushay, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, University of East London

I explore some of the ways Hip Hop pedagogies can provide opportunities for educators to speak with students (instead of to students), in order to intercommunicate with their hearts and minds.   In doing so, I assert Hip Hop pedagogies are multifaceted, interdisciplinary, culturally relevant, meaningful, equitable, holistic and contemporary ways of supporting students in accessing the curriculum.

So called apolitical and ahistorical, as well as de-racialised approaches to implementing inclusive practices are still most prevalent in our education system.  For the most part, superficial engagement with the concept of race is dominant, and structural and institutional racism (including explicit bias) have been replaced with unconscious (racial) bias which suggests natural behaviour and attitudes – therefore unintentional, consequently, individuals are exonerated from all accountability (Arday, 2018; Mirza, 2018) – taking into account the linear, binary and compartmentalised tradition of western worldviews (Asante, 1987), it is no wonder that many struggle to straddle the interplay between the two.

Interestingly, the use of the term sexism receives much less hostility, making way for (deracialised) gender literacy development and discourse in ways that are not afforded to issues concerning race, as sexism in silos does not disrupt whiteness nor for the most part classism (Bhopal, 2018). Given the overwhelming documentation of pervasive structural (including institutional) racism in education and more generally (Coard, 1971; Warmington, 2014; Gabriel and Tate, 2017; Eddo-Lodge, 2018), institutions have not adopted the approach, language of, or the terminology of decolonial racial mainstreaming, as this pose an immediate threat to the invisibility and hypervisibility of whiteness and the power structures that it innately reproduces.  

Race literacy and discourse within education institutions range from denial of institutional racism and lack of engagement (or lack or meaningful and purposeful engagement) with the notion of centralising race with regard student well-being, retainment and progression, to student activism for decolonising the curriculum and Higher Education at large.  Further, I argue that irrespective of where located on this spectrum, there is an ongoing whitest-classist respectability/acceptability policing of race discourse, modes and style of delivery, terminology, and sensibilities expressed, and embodiment/bodies inherited by Black and Asian educators and students alike. 

I endeavour to dispel the myth of Hip Hop pedagogy as a ‘one hit wonder’ within the academy, through exploration of the concept of radical pedagogies, as well as a radical organisation culture within both compulsory and non-compulsory formal education.  Hip Hop culture is evolutionary, innovative and forever responding to the social, political, technological and economic climate – further, Hip Hop pedagogy can be contextualised as imagination in action.

That having been said, Hip Hop (and Hip Hop pedagogues) will always maintain some form of underground or a space in-between to evolve as radical is no longer radical when institutionalised – this is the only way that radical and mainstream can sustainably co-exist.

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