Next Article in Journal
Losing Face
Next Article in Special Issue
The Converging of the Ways?—What Sabbath Practice Can Teach Us about Jewish-Christian and Intra-Religious Relations Today
Previous Article in Journal
Gender Equality in and on Tibetan Buddhist Nuns’ Terms
Previous Article in Special Issue
Jeong: A Practical Theology of Postcolonial Interfaith Relations
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Utilizing Pedagogy for Disrupting White Supremacy

Shannon Frediani
Practical Theology, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA 91711, USA
Practical Theology, Starr King School for the Ministry, a Member School of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA
Religions 2020, 11(11), 544;
Submission received: 27 September 2020 / Revised: 16 October 2020 / Accepted: 19 October 2020 / Published: 22 October 2020


This article focuses on how practical theology and interreligious education can utilize pedagogy for disrupting white supremacy and coloniality. It draws primarily from postcolonial studies, practical theology, ethics, and interreligious studies. Creating learning crucibles that privilege those most impacted by systemic injustice, incorporating their knowledges, their experiences, and their agency in countering specific oppressions, has the capacity to change how students approach scholarship, change what they consider knowledge, and change their relationship to religious leadership. This article also draws upon the scholar’s experiences teaching at Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM), which has an institutional commitment to creating religious leaders in the world dedicated to structural change through their Educating to Counter Oppressions (ECO) philosophy.

1. Introduction

The question this article asks is: How can practical theology and interreligious education utilize pedagogy for disrupting power framed, wielded, and perpetuated by white supremacist patterns? Without trying to oversimplify disrupting the power of white supremacy, this article will cover four basic aspects of pedagogy designed to re-distribute power based on decolonial theory and the pedagogy of Starr King School for the Ministry, part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley CA: (1) inversion of power, (2) knowledge formation utilizing subjugated knowledges with the intention of creating liberative and emancipatory knowledge, (3) recognition of trauma, and (4) creating a religious leadership threshold requiring commitment to countering oppressions. Before articulating uses of pedagogy to redistribute power in various forms and levels, I will clarify definitions.
Through the lens of critical race theory, ‘white supremacy’ is understood as systemic control of power and resources “in which white dominance and non-white subordination exists across a broad array of institutions and social settings” (Ansley 1989). Psychologist William Liu articulates that white supremacy privileges not only whiteness, but white masculinity, heterosexual patriarchy and white property as “territory and White women” (Liu 2017, p. 351). Historian Ibram Kendi elaborates that being antiracist encompasses not only awakening to how racism impacts bodies, spaces, ethnicities, cultures, colorism, classism, gender identity, sexuality and power in all of its forms but involves contributing to an equitable society (Kendi 2019). Critical race methodology, while focusing on the intersectionality of race, gender, class, and other forms of subordination, also views all forms of subordination as “experiences as sources of strength”, which can be utilized for liberative means (Solórzano and Yosso 2002).
I define white supremacy as a matrix of patterns termed coloniality of knowledge, coloniality of being, and coloniality of power based on the scholarship of decolonial scholars and theologians such as Aníbal Quijano, Enrique Dussel, Walter Mignolo, Ramón Grosfuguel, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, and others (Quijano 2000; Dussel et al. 2013; Mignolo 2011; Grosfuguel 2002; Maldonado-Torres 2007). Coloniality of knowledge, being, and power refers to patterns that control knowledge formation, perpetuate heterosexual patriarchy, and dictate forms of governance, respectively, established by colonialism/capitalism created to exploit populations justified by narratives racializing a religious or ethnic other. I prefer using a decolonial lens because it articulates in detail the many patterns of subordination including use of narratives prevalent in our world.
Coloniality impacts current policy and erases the harm and suffering of those bearing the brunt of systemic injustice and demonizing narratives. Coloniality also persists through normalized patterns in every aspect of our lives. What do patterns of coloniality look like in Western education? A few examples are: faculty as experts, acquiring knowledge is focused on the written word (reading texts and writing papers), and productivity and competition are emphasized over relationship building (Okun 2018). Critical scholars in the field of interreligious education (IRE) recognize that in interreligious classrooms patterns of coloniality have begun to be challenged, as the emphasis has shifted to learning and building relationships across difference where dialogue and experience are centered. IRE also relies on the subjugated knowledges of peace studies, transformational leadership, and relational learning incorporating feminist and womanist pedagogy. Given these shifts in power away from a few patterns of white supremacy in IRE, how do these intersect examining power in the wider field of practical theology? Womanist practical theologian Phyllis Sheppard noted the field of practical theology is facing the need to address the “the invisibility of lived raced bodies” without “reproducing the negative cultural reproductions of raced experiences” (Sheppard 2016). Invisibilized raced bodies are an issue in both IRE and practical theology. Postcolonial and decolonial studies, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, are testaments to the suffering of those living in raced bodies that have been unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unaddressed. Beyond the skills needed to serve congregations, such as spiritual care, religious education, liturgy, and homiletics, closing the gap between the ideals of religions and the lived realities of those participating in religious and spiritual life also lies within the field of practical theology. Pedagogy for disrupting white supremacy demands that we understand how to close the gap of lived reality of raced bodies and unrecognized harm in all aspects of practical theology, spiritual care, religious education, liturgy, etc., as well as how to counter logics of white supremacy embedded within academia, practical theology, and interreligious classrooms involving experiential learning.

2. Pedagogy and the Inversion of Power

Brazilian educator Paolo Freire introduced the world to student centered learning which incorporated critical pedagogy fifty years ago when he published his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire [1970] 2009). This liberationist approach to education incorporates learning about the systemic oppressions impacting the life of the students and acknowledges that the teacher is also a learner. Freire’s emphasis on the conscientization process, defined as developing awareness of oppressive social structures, integrates the lived reality of those present and transforms the teaching environment into a cooperative learning space.
This concept is further applied in Pedagogy of the Poor, a work by poverty scholar, activist, and organizer Willie Baptist and philosopher Jan Rehmann (Baptist and Rehmann 2011), who debunk the paradigm that frames trained theological scholars as “experts” when working with communities or congregations. What Pedagogy of the Oppressed does for students in an educational environment, Pedagogy of the Poor does for community outreach, shifting the paradigm from communities or people being served as recipients of charity, whether by churches, nonprofits, or the government, to communities and people as organic intellectuals. It centers those most impacted by poverty as the most knowledgeable about poverty, and most capable of sustained leadership for cooperative grass roots organizing. Creating learning crucibles that privilege those most impacted by systemic injustice, whether inside the classroom or in experiential learning involving community outreach, shifts students’ frame of reference regarding where knowledge is formed, who is the subject, and who has agency. Deconstructing the hierarchal relationship of teacher/student, expert/learner, and subject/object also mirrors peace work, where it is understood that those closest to a problem are the experts. Creating environments where reflection in community is integral to hearing perspectives from everyone present, especially those who may have nondominant perspectives, opens the way for options that would otherwise not have been considered. Pedagogy that creates participatory learning environments inverts where power is located, honors the multiple experiences of participants’ lived oppressions, disrupts white supremacy patterns in education, disrupts the concept of charity, and disrupts charity’s inherent hierarchal power structure.

3. Utilizing Subjugated Knowledges: Creating Liberative and Emancipatory Knowledge

From an emphasis on inverting power in teacher/student, charity giver/receiver, or community learning environments, this section examines power between students in learning crucibles in order to create emancipatory knowledge. In any classroom, aspects of classism, racism, sexism, patriarchy, ableism, etc. interfere with a genuinely cooperative and democratic learning environment. Given our nation’s history of chattel slavery, multifaceted attempts at Native American physical and cultural genocide, Orientalism embedded in scholarship, and continuing patterns of coloniality embedded within academia and larger society, pedagogy needs to take into account and examine how each of these impact those with raced bodies and racialized religions. This requires exploring power in and between the students themselves and examining the legacy of the logics of white supremacy.
Andrea Smith in her contribution “3 Pillars of White Supremacy” (Smith 2016) outlines three logics of white supremacy: the logic of genocide, primarily targeting American Indians; the logic of slavery and capitalism that includes the historic erasure of the suffering of Black people; and the logic of Orientalism that perpetually keeps Arabs, now labeled as Muslims, or Islam itself, as the feared ‘other’ along with Mexicans and others labeled “perpetual immigrants” (Smith 2016, pp. 67–68). All three pillars of white supremacist ideology are embedded in coloniality.
Another aspect of white supremacy that is a current issue is the rise of the Alt Right. The work of sociologist Ed Pertwee elaborates that although much research has been done on the Alt Right, that the Alt Lite or transnational counterjihad movement is also salient and has received less attention (Pertwee 2020, p. 213). Through researching these two movements and their ideologies he distinguishes between the two in several ways, yet one easy identifier is that the Alt Right are anti-Semitic compared to the Alt Lite being pro-Israel as exemplified by the Trump administration (Pertwee 2020, p. 214). Another aspect of the counterjihad movement noted by Pertwee is that it has co-opted human rights language with the term Islam being used as an ethnic or civilizational reference that is framed as aligned against the West (Pertwee 2020). Educators in religious education and interreligious education in particular have new reason to utilize pedagogy that fosters conscientization regarding logics of white supremacy given the growth of the Alt Lite and its successful reliance on social media to propagate disinformation and garner resources and followers to impact miseducation about Islam (Pertwee 2020, p. 219).
The issue of raced bodies and the need to counter logics of white supremacy has been addressed in the field of ethics by womanist and ethicist Katie Cannon. In her work, “Pedagogical Praxis in African American Theology” (Cannon 2014), she articulates the components of womanist pedagogy needed to deconstruct ideologies of traditional academia that, as she states, “taught black women to be complicit in their own oppression” (Cannon 2014, p. 321). First presented in 1992, this work of womanist theology centers the experiences of those living in racialized gendered bodies as the experts on what it is to live within bodies targeted by the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia etc. (Cannon 1992). This highlighting of epistemology is, like Pedagogy of the Poor, a crucial element of womanist theology. Cannon’s work exemplifies the criteria of liberationist educational theory, incorporating the knowledge of organic intellectuals in pedagogy by highlighting the experience of those who have borne the brunt of oppression within academia, specifically within the field of theology and ethics. We as scholars need to understand that our pedagogy, how we teach and what we teach, is harmful to others if we are teaching them ideologies that reinforce their own complicity in oppression as noted by Cannon. Countering and reversing ideologies that are complicit in oppression are critical aspects of pedagogy in practical theology including interreligious and religious education.
Cannon’s work outlines womanist pedagogical praxis as consisting of three components. In brief, the first is “historical ethos” which includes embracing one’s “rich cultural heritage” in the classroom, where in the past certain cultural perspectives were unwelcome or seen as inappropriate (Cannon 2014, p. 321). The second is “embodied pathos” which Cannon states, “…centralizes personal experience in teaching for justice-making transformation” (Cannon 2014, p. 322). Integrating how one’s body, gender, sexual orientation, or skin color provide epistemological insights that white cisgendered heterosexual people of privilege do not have. It also highlights that just by being present with black skin, or being female in academic environments, or being Muslim or perceived as being Muslim, one can be viewed as a disruption by those with white Christian heterosexual normative privilege. The third component is creating a “communal ethos” (Cannon 2014, p. 324), which is prioritized over individualism, thus creating a learning environment that upholds the ethic of communal well-being. Cannon refers to these three components as “emancipatory historiography” that in her words, “questions whose experience is validated, what groups are left out, what ideology accompanies the analysis and what is the framework that provides meaning and holds conflicting elements together” (Cannon 2014, p. 325). Creating safe learning environments encourages students stepping fully into subjecthood and integrating their conscientization, including aspects of their identity that are not welcome in traditional hierarchal educational environments assuming white male heterosexual Christian privileged lives. In recognizing that their very presence is a disruption to white supremacy, students have many opportunities to reverse internalizations encoded by dominant society. Emancipatory historiography engages critical pedagogy, cultural and cognitive diversity, and makes visible raced, gendered bodies and racialized religions in an effort to unveil systemic injustice and to expose lived reality that also includes unaddressed grief and loss.
Teaching at Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM), an institution committed to student centered learning, often times students of multiple sexual expressions and orientations share about realizing their call to religious leadership and service in youth ministries as teens, then when they came out, being shunned by the conservative churches and communities of their upbringing and stripped of any youth religious leadership role. Teaching in the Claremont School of Theology context, with a more international student body, students’ shared experiences more often reflect navigating multicultural or multireligious backgrounds and their sharing about a diversity of forms of religious intolerance based on their country of origin and/or residence before attending seminary. In both learning environments, tremendous learning occurs based on their own collective experiences about various forms of oppression and intersectionality that religious leaders face.
This critiquing of the epistemological assumptions of academia encourages what sociologist Bonaventura de Sousa Santos refers to as “cognitive justice” (de Sousa Santos 2014), which integrates alternative forms of learning with critical assessment of material or content. Cognitive justice also increases awareness of different cosmologies, perhaps multiple religious belonging, or an entirely different cosmology, such as an indigenous worldview. Cognitive justice is more than multiple perspectives of cosmologies and power awareness, it is cross cultural and multicultural respect and sensitivity. Experiencing cognitive justice also allows for growth in epistemic humility as noted by Otto Madero (Madero 2012), whether across cultures, gender expressions, class lines, religious identities, or beyond racialized narratives of others. Cognitive justice and epistemic humility are invaluable in interreligious and secular encounters as they signal a willingness to learn outside of one’s own habitus and build capacity regarding awareness of the privilege such habitus usually incorporates, as noted by Miguel De La Torre (De La Torre 2004). The work of Cannon and Santos was reflected recently in a comment made by theologian Rev. Stephen Lewis during a Wabash Center webinar when he said, “cognitive diversity is embodied” (Lewis 2020).
Katie Cannon’s emancipatory historiography addresses intersectional pieces such as cultural heritage, race, and gender oppression. Santos’ and Madero’s concepts of cognitive justice and epistemic humility similarly address intersectional pieces of non-hegemonic Western academic knowledge from global south and indigenous perspectives. What these scholars have in common is attention to creating relational learning conditions that require pedagogy that expands the boundaries of thinking about form and content in academic environments. Adhering to formal lecture processes without critical examination of power asymmetries and without dialogic and dialectic reflective practices that include students’ embodied cognitive diversity and epistemological privileges denies students opportunities to engage in skill building for learning across complex differences. Justice, then, is reflected in the process of both form and content being employed for liberative means to counter systemic injustice, particularly within academia. Critical pedagogy mirrors justice in its multiple forms within academic settings.
Drawing from my experience at SKSM in creating learning environments that reflect on systemic injustice and intersectionality as an interdependent matrix, and the need to counter injustice in our world, engaging in collective reflection while building spiritual community is a way to unveil systemic injustice, expose unaddressed grief and loss, and form religious leaders and activists more empathetic to multiple oppressions beyond those students know personally. Pedagogy integrating emancipatory historiography understands the learning process as a crucible for surfacing, naming, and acknowledging unaddressed grief and loss. This process is not for engaging pastoral counseling work, but for articulating one’s conscientization, or personal experience dealing with systemic injustice, inextricably as both process and content. This can also translate into spiritual formation and restoring one’s own identity and become a catalyst for healing, as well as for growing into religious, interreligious, and multireligious leadership. In peace education, specifically within conflict resolution, the expression of grief is recognized as the second step in breaking the cycle of violence. The first step is establishing safety (Yoder 2005). In my mind, Cannon’s components of emancipatory historiography are what constitutes safety in the learning environment by accounting for the lived reality of everyone in the room. Creating this kind of safety is quite different than maintaining academic standards of “respectful behavior” while denying systemic injustice and its impact.

4. Recognition of Trauma in Pedagogy

Another benefit of engaging emancipatory historiography is preparing religious leaders and spiritually grounded activists to be aware of and monitor their own historical trauma exposure as manifested in their particular circumstances, whether due to racism, assimilation practices imposed on Native Americans, or being racialized religiously to name a few. If we are truly bridging lived reality and theological education, then trauma exposure is part of the equation. This was first brought to my attention by the theologian and ethicist Dr. Gabriella Lettini, who founded the Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC) program at SKSM in 2005 to address the need for training transformational leaders interested in social justice work based in spirituality without being on a particular denominational ordination track. The dual understanding that justice work entails trauma exposure and recognition of the fact that many students called to justice work have histories of personal traumas requires attention and engagement of resilience practices in training leaders. Simultaneously building spiritual community as well as assignments, which culminate in creating a selfcare plan based on students’ increased awareness of their own trauma exposure, is foundational for engaging in sustained long-term social justice work.
The MASC program also highlights counter oppressive pedagogy. SKSM had already initiated an institutional commitment to Educating to Counter Oppression (ECO) in 1998. Part of comprehending trauma is surfacing the many ways that traumas have been erased in academic settings. Although epistemicide may not seem like a form of inflicting trauma to dominant EuroAmerican Christian centric thinkers, an awareness of epistemicide combined with an awareness of intersectionality and accurate histories of populations contending with ongoing narratives of demonization over generations that account for violence and systemic injustice begins to broaden the concept of trauma. Dr. Lettini designed an introductory survey course on addressing justice making intersectionally with a focus on economic and racial justice, which is a required course for all incoming students. Teaching ECO to students from a variety of backgrounds mirrors my experiences in jail ministry that those bearing the brunt of systemic injustice often have high levels of being exposed to trauma. This perspective was reinforced during a Wabash webinar when Dr. Angela Sims, president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, noted that, “as the browning of theological education continues there is a need to provide time and space for people to process trauma” (Westfield et al. 2020). In the same webinar, the president of Chicago Theological School, Dr. Stephen Ray, Jr. noted the need for quality theological education that connects the systemic injustice of the world with one’s faith and God’s power in a broken world. He continued that theological education provides support for how to live into the tensions that exist in our world while grounding spiritually (Westfield et al. 2020). Growing into the tensions, connecting systemic injustice, providing time and space for people to recognize their trauma exposure, bridging lived reality with theological education, imagining a new world, and building relationships with people living in the midst of trauma due to the legacy of coloniality all need to be an integral part of theological education and interreligious engagement to disrupt patterns of white supremacy.
It has been my experience that pedagogy involving emancipatory historiography benefits from emphasizing people’s discomfort as a growing edge as something sacred that will continue to reveal additional insights over time. For whites, holding the discomfort, the grief, the moral injury, the parts of ourselves that never want to be perpetrators, yet parts that are perpetrators, requires our spiritual formation to be able to simultaneously hold ourselves in love while also seeing the reality of our world and our part in it. For all students, noticing what brings discomfort and what pulls them away from being present reinforces the skills needed by practical theologians and educators.
In conclusion, recognition of trauma in pedagogy disrupts patterns of white supremacy that seeks to erase suffering, grief, and loss due to systemic injustice. Recognition of trauma teaches religious and social justice advocates not only to recognize the truth of living in today’s conditions, to face the accurate histories of our nation, and to face and monitor one’s own trauma exposure, but to maintain resilience and hope in a broken world. Spiritual community acknowledging trauma is a form of resistance and resilience (Johnson 2016).

5. SKSM Threshold and ECO Commitment

In the context of the ECO course, site visits of local nonprofits are incorporated. By balancing theoretical academics with experiential site visits, engaged pedagogy involves modeling procedural knowledge, modeling a democratic learning environment, as well as witnessing and reflecting on social justice ministries that are based on developing grass roots leadership of those most impacted by issues of systemic injustice. During COVID-19, as on-site visits are limited, one adapted assignment is for students to find online a non-profit or social justice ministry that focuses on each student’s main area of interest or social justice issue that also fulfills the ECO course criteria of power distribution. Students later share briefly how and why they chose that particular non-profit. After a class of short student presentations done on Zoom, many students commented on how much hope this assignment had generated. Their critical awareness had increased as to the way that organizations and ministries working for various causes integrated organic intellectuals and redistribution of power for grass roots organizing. This is a key element for effective social justice advocacy.
SKSM integrates another aspect of student development regarding their ECO philosophy. SKSM has defined thresholds as part of the student requirements. Crossing a threshold in life is often accompanied by changes in one’s relationship with the world, and how one perceives it. Creating a significant rite of passage, dedicated to countering oppression is core, especially in the formation of religious leaders, lay people, or scholars. A pedagogy that names a threshold of countering oppressions as an educational philosophy and goal, assessed by witnessing transformation and spiritual formation, exemplifies an academic rite of passage that is designed to counter white supremacy. When experiential learning and scholarship change comprehension of how to relate to and respond to systemic injustice by countering epistemicide and seeking out the knowledges of those bearing the brunt of intersecting oppressions, academia participates in disrupting white supremacy rather than continuing to be complicit.
Regarding assessment, SKSM is designed for cooperative institutional implementation. There is a standard SKSM evaluative rubric that assesses each student in every course on the basis of students’ affirmation of SKSM’s ECO philosophy and principles as well as academic performance. Based on students’ term papers, class discussion and presentations, reflective essays, and online posts, faculty fill out narrative student evaluation forms and categorize students’ performance with a pass, middle, or fail unless a student requests a letter grade at the beginning of the course. Examples of student assessment criteria in SKSM’s ECO philosophy from the evaluative rubric are as follows:
  • Demonstrates sufficient flexibility to deal with differing/multiple paradigms of inquiry.
  • Demonstrates sensitivity to and responsible handling of ethical problems if they occur.
  • Is guided by Starr King’s ECO philosophy and demonstrates consistency with ECO practices in class participation.
An example of fulfilling the first criteria from the evaluative rubric in the ECO course is gleaned from utilizing reflective exercises from My Grandmother’s Hands (Menakem 2017), which draw on somatic learning to illuminate how racism lives in our bodies regardless of background. These reflective practices examine the individual body and psyche as it has been impacted by media, society, and messages often internalized unconsciously. A student’s willingness to engage in somatic learning is instrumental in assessing one aspect of flexibility dealing with non-dominant learning. This paradigm of inquiry bridges the wisdom of bodily existence and reality with the theoretical underpinnings of intersectionality and multiple oppressions and how they are interdependent. The reflective exercises given to monitor trauma exposure, drawing from Trauma Stewardship (Van Dernoot Lipsky and Burk 2009), integrate another paradigm of inquiry. Some students initially resist the exercises, some admit openly that they will revisit the exercises after hearing the insights other students gained from engaging the practices. It is apparent which students have shown sufficient flexibility as their insights and dialogue express the level of engagement.
The second and third evaluative rubrics can be assessed by monitoring the willingness and capacity of students to see beyond the lens of their own oppressions and grapple with how their own oppressions intersect with the oppressions of others during class discussions, integrating the multiple required readings on intersectionality and experiences shared in the co-participatory learning environment. Student capacity to see beyond the lens of their own oppression or privilege becomes apparent in discussion and small group settings. Thinking intersectionality also ties into the second assessment of students demonstrating sensitivity to the sharings and readings about oppressions of others while also being accountable for harm caused by one’s insensitivity. In addition, the course requires each student to lead an opening or closing ritual at the beginning or end of each class session whether residential or online. The guidelines are for students to draw upon their own belief system while mindful that class participants embody multiple cosmologies, religious traditions, and worldviews. Leading and participating in the many varied rituals also provide insights into the integration of students’ sensitivity to navigating environments of spiritual diversity and provides numerous opportunities for faculty to evaluate consistent or perhaps inconsistent student behavior with the ECO philosophy. Students have an opportunity to build a spiritual learning community across differences and learn from their mistakes. Did the rituals succeed at being inclusive? Why or why not? Ethical problems, small and large, do arise in various forms; for example, a white woman soothing the emotions of a white male peer challenged by me for exerting privilege, only to realize later she was playing out an indoctrinated role. Or a straight cisgendered woman interrupting a Black trans student sharing. Facilitating the conversation back to the first student and making note of the interruption provides insights into student accountability and reveals student willingness to learn while making missteps. Or perhaps a more serious encroachment of a student unable to realize their comments are harmful to others in the course which requires intervention. The mistakes are not evaluated as much as the response when the behavior is noted. Is there a change in sensitivity levels? Do they stop interrupting? What level of inclusion do students display in countering white supremacy in all of its forms at the graduate seminary level? For more on this topic I recommend Willie James Jennings’ most recent work, After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (Jennings 2020), as well as the edited works of Eleazar Fernandez, Harold Recinos, and Kwok Pui-Lan (Fernandez 2014; Fernandez 2017; Kwok 2015; Recinos 2011).
This pedagogy/process changes how students approach scholarship and knowledge formation, as well as changes what students consider knowledge. Honoring organic intellectuals, witnessing transformation, assignments incorporating somatic reflection and self-examination, as well as stepping into interreligious leadership, foster the ability and capacity to articulate transformation of oneself. Students’ own life experience takes on new meaning and relevance. This also augments their own sense of leadership in honoring organic intellectuals in their social justice work environments.

6. Conclusions

Pedagogy is a form of justice when focused on the reversal of harmful white supremacist ideologies embedded in societal structures. Pedagogy is a form of justice when requiring the reversal of desensitization. Pedagogy is a form of justice when highlighting and embedding cognitive justice in relational learning environments. Pedagogy is a form of justice requiring seeing the suffering and impact of the colonial legacy and intergenerational trauma. Pedagogy is a form of justice requiring the recognition of systemic injustice and proactive countering of oppressions in their multiple structural implementations. Pedagogy is a form of justice entailing a decolonial learning crucible where all can actively work to rid themselves of logics of white supremacist ideologies, be they sexist, racist, systemic academic EuroChristian centric expectations, theological and ethical normatives, or other unveiled patterns complicit in oppressions. Pedagogy is a form of justice embodying relational learning with epistemic humility integrating form, content, and context through emancipatory historiography and praxis.
Imagining a new world where these issues are addressed is the call of love. It includes shaping religious leaders, scholars, and educators to change public perceptions about relations between the religious other, the indigenous, and our secular state as interreligious issues. Theological training, social theory, and knowledge of accurate histories provides the necessary skills. Since we are all the legacy bearers of our nations’ policy makers who incorporate the patterns of coloniality that continue to harm specific populations, coming together to witness the suffering of those bearing systemic injustice, and understanding our relation to trauma is the beginning. Awareness of loss is the pathway of our relationship to hope.


This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


  1. Ansley, Frances Lee. 1989. Stirring the Ashes: Race, Class and the Future of Civil Rights Scholarship. Cornell Law Review 74: 993–1077. [Google Scholar]
  2. Baptist, Willie, and Jan Rehmann. 2011. Pedagogy of the Poor: Building a Movement to End Poverty. New York: Teachers College Press. [Google Scholar]
  3. Cannon, Katie G. 1992. Wheels in the Middle of Wheels. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 8: 125–32. [Google Scholar]
  4. Cannon, Katie. G. 2014. Pedagogical Praxis in African American Theology. In The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology. Edited by Katie Cannon and Anthony Pinn. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 319–30. [Google Scholar]
  5. De La Torre, Miguel. 2004. Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. [Google Scholar]
  6. de Sousa Santos, Bonaventura. 2014. Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers. [Google Scholar]
  7. Dussel, Enrique, Alejandro A. Vallega, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Eduardo Mendieta, Yolanda Angulo, and Camilo Pérez Bustillo. 2013. Ethics of Liberation: In the Age of Globalization and Exclusion, 1st ed. Durham: Duke University Press. [Google Scholar]
  8. Fernandez, Eleazar S. 2014. Teaching for a Culturally Diverse and Racially Just World. Eugene: Cascade Books. [Google Scholar]
  9. Fernandez, Eleazar S. 2017. Teaching for a Multifaith World. Eugene: Pickwick Publications. [Google Scholar]
  10. Freire, Paulo. 2009. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum International. First published 1970. [Google Scholar]
  11. Grosfuguel, Rámon. 2002. Colonial Difference, Geopolitics of Knowledge, and Global Coloniality. Utopian Thinking 25: 203–24. [Google Scholar]
  12. Jennings, Willie James. 2020. After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing. [Google Scholar]
  13. Johnson, Cedric C. 2016. Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [Google Scholar]
  14. Kendi, Ibram. 2019. How to Be an Antiracist. New York: One World. [Google Scholar]
  15. Kwok, Pui-lan. 2015. Teaching Global Theologies: Power and Praxis. Edited by Kwok Pui-lan, Cecelia González-Andrieu and Dwight Hopkins. Waco: Baylor University Press. [Google Scholar]
  16. Lewis, Rev Stephen. 2020. Organizational Change, Collaboration and Creativity. Wabash Center Webinar Series. Available online: (accessed on 4 June 2020).
  17. Liu, William Ming. 2017. White Male Power and Privilege: The Relationship between White Supremacy and Social Class. Journal of Counseling Psychology 64: 349–58. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  18. Madero, Otto. 2012. An(other) Invitation to Epistemological Humility: Notes toward a Self-Critical Approach to Counter-Knowledges. In Decolonizing Epistemologies: Latina/o Theology and Philosophy. Edited by Ada María Isasi-Diaz and Eduardo Mendieta. New York: Fordham University Press, pp. 87–103. [Google Scholar]
  19. Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. 2007. On the Coloniality of Being. Cultural Studies 21: 240–70. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  20. Menakem, Resmaa. 2017. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Las Vegas: Central Recovery Press. [Google Scholar]
  21. Mignolo, Walter. 2011. The Darker Side of Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke University Press. [Google Scholar]
  22. Okun. 2018. Tema White Supremacy Culture. Available online: (accessed on 1 August 2018).
  23. Pertwee, Ed. 2020. Donald Trump, the Muslim Far Right and the New Conservative Revolution. Ethnic and Racial Studies 43: 211–30. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  24. Quijano, Aníbal. 2000. Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America. In Nepantla: Views From the South. Durham: Duke University Press, vol. 1. [Google Scholar]
  25. Recinos, Harold. 2011. Wading through Many Voices: Toward a Theology of Public Conversation. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Google Scholar]
  26. Sheppard, Phyllis. 2016. Raced Bodies: Portraying Bodies, Reifying Racism. In Conundrums in Practical Theology. Edited by Joyce Ann Mercer and Bonnie Miller-McLemore. Leiden: Brill, p. 220. [Google Scholar]
  27. Smith, Andrea. 2016. Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing. In INCITE! Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 67–68. [Google Scholar]
  28. Solórzano, Daniel G., and Tara J. Yosso. 2002. Critical Race Methodology: Counter-Storytelling as an Analytical Framework for Education Research. Qualitative Inquiry 8: 23–44. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  29. Van Dernoot Lipsky, Laura, and Connie Burk. 2009. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. [Google Scholar]
  30. Westfield, Nancy, Angela Sims, and Stephen Ray Jr. 2020. What Is Still True? Survival of Theological Education. Wabash Center Webinar Series. Available online: (accessed on 14 May 2020).
  31. Yoder, Carolyn. 2005. The Little Book of Trauma Healing: When Violence Strikes and Community Security Is Threatened. Intercourse: GoodBooks, p. 47. [Google Scholar]
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Frediani, S. Utilizing Pedagogy for Disrupting White Supremacy. Religions 2020, 11, 544.

AMA Style

Frediani S. Utilizing Pedagogy for Disrupting White Supremacy. Religions. 2020; 11(11):544.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Frediani, Shannon. 2020. "Utilizing Pedagogy for Disrupting White Supremacy" Religions 11, no. 11: 544.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop