Reflections on Teaching The Wire: Developing a Radical Pedagogy

Supplementary Files

This is America
Body-more, Murdaland

How to Cite

Johnson, L. (2018). Reflections on Teaching The Wire: Developing a Radical Pedagogy. Radical Teacher, 112, 6–15.


This essay applies the concept of the white racial frame (Feagin 2010) in a critical reflection of the authors use of the popular HBO series The Wire. By positioning the authors subjectivity and experiences teaching the series as a pedagogical tool, the author argues that issues of race, gender, and agency are problematic for classroom use. Despite its popularity in academia students are generally ill-prepared to understand a long history of housing policy and residential segregation to their understanding of The Wire. By default, the white spatial imaginary undermines the critical nature of the show because it only depicts the ghetto where the critical task is to explain the structures that created the modern American ghetto.


Bank Muñoz, Carolina. 2009. “A Dream Deferred: Undocumented Students at CUNY.” Radical Teacher 84(1):8-17.

Bennett, Michael. 1999. “Manufacturing the Ghetto: Anti-urbanism and the Spatialization of Race.” Pp. 169-88 in The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments, edited by Michael Bennett and David W. Teague. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2014. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

Brunsma, David L., Eric S. Brown, and Peggy Placier. 2013. “Teaching Race at Historically White Colleges and Universities: Identifying and Dismantling the Walls of Whiteness.” Critical Sociology 39(5):717-38.

Dandaneau, Steven P. 2001. Taking It Big: Developing Sociological Consciousness in Postmodern Times. London: Sage.

Daniels, Jessie. 2008. “Sociologists Critique the Wire.” Racism Review. February 26. Retrieved March 12, 2017 (

Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. 2014. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press.

Duneier, Mitchell. 2016. Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Feagin, Joe. 2010. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter Framing. New York: Routledge.

Gallagher, Charles A. 2003. “Color-Blind Privilege: The Social and Political Functions of Erasing the Color Line in Post-Race America.” Race, Gender & Class 10(4):22-37.

Jones, Sophie. 2008. “Women and ‘The Wire.’” Pop Matters. August 24. Retrieved January 12, 2018 (

Hancock, Lynnell and Meredith Kolodner. 2015. “What It Takes to Get into New York City Best Public Colleges.” The Atlantic. January 13. Retrieved March 18, 2017 (

Lipsitz, George. 2011. How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Logan, Enid. 2011. “At This Defining Moment”: Barack Obama's Presidential Candidacy and the New Politics of Race. New York: New York University Press.

Love, Chris. 2010. “Greek Gods in Baltimore: Greek Tragedy and The Wire.” Criticism 52(3):487-507.

Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.

Muhammad, Khalil Gibran. 2011. The Condemnation of Blackness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Owens, Paul. 2010. The Wire Re-Up: The Guardian Guide to the Greatest TV Show Ever Made. London: Random House.

Parker, Simon. 2010. “From Soft Eyes to Street Lives: ‘The Wire’ and Jargons of Authenticity.” City 14(5):545-57.

Pollock, Mica. 2009. Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Reed, Ishmael. 2010. “Should Harvard Teach The Wire?” The Boston Globe. September 30. Retrieved January 12, 2018 (

Robinson, Cedric J. 2000. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Durham: University of North Carolina Press.

Shakur, Assata. 1987. Assata: An autobiography. Chicago: Zed Books Ltd.

Stalker, L. Lynda Harling, and Jason Pridmore. 2009. “Reflexive Pedagogy and the Sociological Imagination.” Human Architecture 7(3):27.

Szasz, Andrew. 2007. Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Williams, Linda. 2014. On The Wire. Durham: Duke University Press.

Williams, Rhonda Y. 2004. The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles Against Urban Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wingfield, Adia H. and Joe Feagin. 2013. Yes We Can?: White Racial Framing and the Obama Presidency. New York: Routledge.