The Right to Define: Analyzing Whiteness as a Form of Property in Washington State Bilingual Education Law

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Language Policy

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Recent studies of language policy and bilingual education have focused on federal level legislation (Wiley and García in Mod Lang J 100:48–63, 2016., and immediate consequences of state level policy. Although Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been employed to analyze the structural impact of local policy on minoritized communities (Davila and Aviles de Bradley in Educ Found 24:39–58, 2010), few studies have explicitly connected CRT and language policy, or applied CRT to state level law. In this study, I apply CRT, specifically the theory of whiteness as property (Harris in Harv Law Rev 106:1–63, 1993), and the theory of raciolinguistic ideologies to three Washington State laws related to bilingual education: the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Act, the Seal of Biliteracy law, and the Dual Language Grant Program Bill. I utilize a Critical Discourse Analysis to examine the laws, related legislative reports, and materials such as guidelines created by Washington school districts. Results of this analysis suggest that the discourse embedded in these laws and related documents upholds whiteness as a form of property. Further, I relate these findings to language planning, and suggest that language education policy-makers employ racial impact reports (Fathi in Gonzaga Law Rev 47:531–545, 2009) in order to re-center race, racism and racial inequity in language planning.


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*At the time of publication, Rachel Snyder Bhansari was affiliated with the University of Washington.



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