“When saying you care is not really caring”: Whiteness and the Role of Disgust

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Drawing on one of the author’s experiences of teaching white teacher candidates in an urban university, this paper argues for the importance of interrogating the ways that benign emotions (e.g., pity and caring) are sometimes hidden expressions of disgust for the Other. Using critical race theory, whiteness studies, and critical emotion studies, it is shown how whiteness ideology erroneously translates disgust for people of color to false professions of pity or caring. This phenomenon is particularly interesting because care, sympathy, and love are emotions that are routinely performed by teacher candidates (who are predominantly white females) and embedded in teacher education. Yet not much literature theorizes how these performative emotions are not exempt of whiteness ideology. To engage in a genuine process of antiracism, we argue that the emotions that undergird teachers’ dispositions need to be critically and sensitively unpacked. We end with implications for teacher education, particularly in relation to pedagogical ways of identifying and interrogating narratives of caring-as-hidden disgust and cultivating critical compassion.