I am mindful of the many relationships that have made this book possible. For as much as this has been an independent project, it has also been a collaborative one.
I am indebted, of course, to the people in the Zion School District who allowed me into their classrooms, hallways, offices, and daily interactions. I have learned so much from this community, and I hope the time, experience, and knowledge they shared with me is beneficial to youth, educators, families, and leaders both within and outside of the Salt Lake area. I am especially grateful to the person who initially vetted my project, permitted my access, and then later read my entire dissertation and felt it was important enough to arrange an extensive dialogue with district leaders about the research. His belief in my work and his continued encouragement have meant a lot over the previous eight years.
This research was first conceived under the guidance of Stacey Lee, Michael Olneck, and Gloria Ladson-Billings. I was fortunate to be surrounded by such incredible scholars as a young graduate student. My good fortune has continued to grow as I find myself now surrounded by friends and colleagues who are far smarter than I. Bryan Brayboy’s work around equity, tribal critical race theory, and colonization has been integral to developing my ideas around whiteness in education; he also models the kind of engaged, politically savvy, and compelling work I aim to do. Sabina Vaught’s work around race and power inspires me, advances my own thinking, and provides yet another model for the methodologically and theoretically rigorous work I attempt. Both Bryan and Sabina read and commented on various iterations of this manuscript, and it is a more coherent and compelling book because of them.
Many of my ideas in this book evolved as I taught a doctoral-level course on race and whiteness during two different semesters at Northern Arizona University. I am grateful to all the students in those courses for engaging and learning with me, especially Robert Kelty, Nathan Velez, Wanda Tucker, Patrick Williams, and Derrick Span. Chapters 1 and 5 are based on collaborative work with Charles Hausman, and I am grateful for his ongoing support and thoughtful conversation. I am also grateful for the wisdom provided by the anonymous reviewers, both of whom pushed my thinking and analysis. Incredibly helpful editorial assistance was provided by Sylvia Somerville at NAU’s IDEA Lab and Pieter Martin at the University of Minnesota Press. Jaclyn Pace, a graduate student at NAU, provided thoughtful and timely assistance with the index.
Various writing groups have been integral to my progress, thinking, and writing for the past ten years. From a graduate school group in Madison, Wisconsin, to a dissertation group in Salt Lake City, Utah, and finally a faculty group in Flagstaff, Arizona, I am grateful to my writing group friends and colleagues who have supported and pushed me in countless ways. Most recently, Frances Riemer, JeanAnn Foley, Susan Longerbeam, Melvin Hall, and Christine Lemley have helped to keep my writing focused, interesting, and moving forward.
Without some nudging and a belief in the potential of my work from both Peter Demerath and Pieter Martin, this book would not have happened. I’m grateful that they, and many others listed here, had faith that this was worth pursuing, even when I was ready to let it collect dust on my shelves.
There were many months during which I’m sure my family may have preferred that I let this manuscript collect dust. Tarek, who was three and a half at the time, asked at least weekly when I was going to be done writing this book—a question that was always followed by “and what are you going to do after you’re done, mama?” I know my husband and Keelan, our younger son, probably had the same questions and implied eagerness to see this project completed. My mom provided time for me to actually do this work, as well as a lifetime of encouragement and unwavering support. Throughout the process, my husband, Tyler, provided much-needed comical relief, as well as reminders that this work needs to be accessible.
In the final months of writing this book, I attended a family celebration honoring the tenth anniversary of my Uncle Jim’s passing. In 2002, at the age of forty-nine, he died after a long battle with cancer. Speaking about him in 2012, my aunt noted the gifts of tenacity and truth he left with her and their young daughter. Coincidentally, or maybe not, my father-in-law also died from cancer in 2010 at the age of fifty-nine, and tenacity and truth are similarly fitting of his character and the legacy he left with his kids. As I think about my two young sons, just three-and-a-half and two years old, I hope that they grow into boys, and later men, who embrace tenacity and truth. These characteristics are not always “nice” ones, but they are necessary in the struggle against whiteness and the related pursuit of equity and justice.