Toward (Racial) Justice-in-the-Doing of Place-Based Community Engagement




place-based community engagement, whiteness-at-work, Black Wall Street, antiracist community engagement, community organizing


Community and campus partners benefit from place-based community engagement to enact a commitment to racial equity and community-driven decision making. Racial equity is paramount in place-based community engagement. However, very little attention has been given to the ways whiteness in the ideological foundations of higher education shapes the work lives of professionals, faculty, and the collaborations they form to address community issues. Thus, the commitment to racial equity will be no more than words without the necessary work toward the #relationshipgoal of disrupting hegemonic whiteness as a shaping force in community-university interactions. The purpose of this case study is to foreground the paradoxes of whiteness-at-work in an informal place-based community engagement collaboration between the Center for Public Life at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and members of the historic Greenwood community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The case study design reflected participatory action research; data sources included semi- and unstructured interviews, field notes from participant observation, artifacts and documents, researcher journals and participant reflections.  Reading this case with an eye to whiteness-at-work underscores the necessity of acknowledging the power of the university to determine the culture of the partnership and taking necessary steps to disrupt the practices which serve to devalue local communities and their ways of being, knowing, and doing to address the issues they prioritize. Doing the internal, interpersonal, and institutional work to disrupt hegemonic whiteness is the justice-in-the-doing in place-based community engagement that may garner the racial equity to which we aspire.

Author Biographies

Lindsey Phillips Abernathy, Oklahoma State University

Lindsey Abernathy is pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Oklahoma State University.  Her research examines the experiences of graduate student mothers.

Gregory C. Robinson II, Standpipe Hill Strategies

Greg is the founder the community development/engagement consulting firm Standpipe Hill Strategies. As a professional community organizer, he works with communities to build power and influence systems for more equitable outcomes.

Marshan Marick, Health Integrated Solutions

Marshan is founder and principal consultant with Health Integrated Solutions, Tulsa, OK.  

Mike Stout, Oklahoma State University - Tulsa

Mike is associate professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University - Tulsa.


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