Unsettling Understandings: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy and the Implementation of a Racial Diversity Initiative
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Unsettling Understandings: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy and the Implementation of a Racial Diversity Initiative


Scholarship on racial diversity initiatives outline the positive outcomes associated with initiatives, describes the types of initiatives, and the various ways faculty, staff, and university leadership can and do work together for effective outcomes. However, there is a need to understand how racial diversity initiatives are implemented, what influences their creation, and how systems of power like settler colonialism and white supremacy manifest during the implementation of racial diversity initiatives. Utilizing an embedded qualitative case study approach, this study explored the implementation of the White Racial Literacy Project, by way of the Welcoming Campus Initiative, at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Guiding questions focused on identifying the organizational and societal elements that influenced the creation of the WCI and WRLP, while illuminating the ways white supremacy manifested in the implementation of the WRLP. This study was guided by two theories, Implementation Theory and Settler Colonial Dimensions of Power (SCDP). Implementation Theory framed the process of implementation, accounting for the context of an initiative and the agency utilized by personnel to influence the implementation of an initiative. SCDP accounted for and illuminated the influence of settler colonialism and white supremacy in both the context of and agency used to implement the WRLP. Utilizing provisional coding and pattern coding as tools for direct interpretation and categorical aggregation, I mapped findings to the theoretical frameworks, positionality, and guiding questions of this study. Findings revealed three influencing organizational elements: that organizational factors the influenced the WCI and WRLP (a) the new Chancellor, (b) IUPUI’s 50th celebration, and (c) failed organizational practices to educate white faculty, staff, and students; and two societal elements, (a) Turbulent socio-political environment and (b) a storied history of racism at IUPUI. In addition, white supremacy manifested across two themes: (a) white supremacy as pushback and (b) white supremacy as refusal. Findings illuminate the challenges faculty, staff, and university leaders faced when implementing the WRLP, illuminating the need for further exploration of implementation processes of racial diversity initiatives. Insights from this study afford higher education research and practice with ways to boldy imagine new futurities for racial diversity initiatives.

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