Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Discuss Issues of Race in Education
Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Discuss Issues of Race in Education

April 2019

Daniel Gilbert Solorzano

The AERA Distinguished Lecture and the AERA Wallace Foundation Lecture featured prominent scholars engaging meeting attendees in important conversations about race, racism, microaggressions, and education at this year’s Annual Meeting in Toronto.

Chaired by 2019 AERA Annual Meeting co-chair Janelle T. Scott (University of California, Berkeley), the AERA Distinguished Lecture, “My Critical Race Journey to Racial Microaggressions and Microaffirmations—1969 to 2019,” was delivered by Daniel Gilbert Solorzano (University of California, Los Angeles), an AERA Fellow and eminent scholar in critical race theory, educational access, and persistence of minority students in higher education.

In his compelling talk, Solorzano recounted his scholarly journey working on critical race theory, including his work helping to develop an explanatory framework that accounts for the role of race and racism, as well as racial microaggressions and microaffirmations in education.

“Is the presence of people of color in a space like this, or your classrooms, or in text and history, a microaffirmation?” asked Solorzano. “Is the absence of people of color in a space like this, in classrooms, or in text and history, a microaggression?”

Throughout his lecture, Solorzano emphasized the fact that the “micro” in “microaggressions” does not mean “less than.” Instead, it means “in the everyday,” indicating that verbal and nonverbal microaggressions have a harmful cumulative impact on people of color.

“Microaggressions matter because they are symptoms of larger structural problems,” said Solorzano. “We need to recognize and disrupt the discourses of racial microaggressions in the everyday. We need to affirm the humanity of one another as a response to everyday racism.”

Carla D. O'Connor

Carla D. O’Connor (University of Michigan), a leading expert in the areas of African American achievement, cultural studies, urban education, and ethnographic studies, delivered the AERA Wallace Foundation Lecture, “Educational Research and the Disruption of Racialized Distortions: Establishing a Wide-Angle View.” The lecture was chaired by Annual Meeting Co-Chair Jennifer Jellison Holme (University of Texas, Austin).

In her engaging discussion, O’Connor posed a challenge to the audience to think deliberately about how education researchers can design studies of educational inequality in ways that situate racially minoritized students and their families in expanded fields of view. Drawing on insights from James Baldwin, O’Connor also demonstrated that the image of Black people is regularly distorted, and that those distortions often have deadly consequences.

“These consequences have been marked via the bodies of Eleanor Bumpers, Erica Garnder, Trayvon Martin, Deborah Danner, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Tyisha Sheree Miller, and Antwon Rose,” said O’Connor. “The consequences may be particularly intractable as per their articulation in everyday and mundane interactions that have become routinized in systematically structured school inequality.”

O’Connor also demonstrated how taken-for-granted everyday racial microinteractions and the embedded distortions of marginalized communities compound over time to produce and reify educational stratification and inequality.

“If we only study the problems related to Brown and Black communities, and we do not study the problems within wealthy and White communities, we frame these problems from a White perspective and create Whiteness as the norm,” said O’Connor. “We must privilege the voice and perspective of those most subject to distortion.”

Videos of both lectures will soon be posted on the AERA website. Solorzano has just assumed responsibility as chair of the AERA Fellows Committee and O’Conner has taken the helm of the AERA Journal Publications Committee.