PhD ≠ Respect ≠ Assumed Equal Status

The last few months have been a time for reflection and refocus. The time has been great for me to do more reading and planning for my research, but one thing that has not changed has been my positionality. I still get reminded that I am a young Black man from Mississippi. Academic spaces were not made with people like me in mind. I recently went to a meeting for my professional society and no less than three times was I confused for or assumed to be a student. Most of the time, I was the only Black person and was also one of the youngest people there. I am constantly reminded that although I have the same degree, I am not automatically granted that respect. Even when that barrier is crossed, I am talked down to at points, even on topics I have experiential and academic knowledge of. I was asked my thoughts on specific issues relating to my community, only to have my perspective disregarded in favor of what that person already believed.

What do you do when you are at a power disadvantage? What if this person is a senior in your field? How many people like me have been in these situations in which we have to simultaneously be scholars and protect our sanity from racist microaggressions?

And why I gotta deal with this during Black History Month???

My Cup is Empty

It has been a while since I have posted. The last 6 months has been a blur. In the time, I’ve moved to Michigan to start a fellowship, helped organize a Democracy Day event, gotten married, presented at a conference, guest-edited a special issue of a journal, and have gotten started on my next research study. I’ve been divided between so many tasks and responsibilities that I’m struggling to remain motivated all the time. My wife suggested that I start back writing on here to refill my cup (in reference to a quote from yoga, we did yoga together before I moved). I’m going to give it a try. I’ve been in my head a lot recently (cold Michigan weather isn’t super conducive to leaving the apartment). so it would be nice to get some of these thoughts out of my head. I’ve been reading a lot, as you may know if you follow any of my social media. I don’t have a lot of folks to talk about my readings with, maybe this will be a good space to work out some ideas that I have been having. I also have a couple of pieces in the queue that I never got around to finishing that I should get done. I have another set of recommended readings I’d like to share. At some point I’ll compile a one list that I’ll just update over time. A living document you may say. Hopefully getting back to work on the blog will help refill my cup and give me a space to work out all the things I’ve been thinking about.

P.S.: Frankly, I’m missing my community/family and it sucks not having that here. And I’m trying to deal in the best way I can.

Suggested Reading List (2nd Edition)

I'm a really big fan of reading. I read a lot to keep my mind sharp and to stay connected to what's going on in the world. I spend most of my time reading books, blog posts, news articles, or research articles. I believe it can be healing under the right circumstances (and with the right book). It can recharge and motivate you or relax and calm you. With that said here is a list of books I have read that I hope will entertain and/or inform you. This is the second time I've done this; I waited until the list was sufficiently long that it could be a relatively large selection. You can find the original reading list here. Hope you enjoy!

  1. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  2. The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
  3. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  4. Intersectionality by Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge
  5. The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education by Ibram H. Rogers
  6. Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses by Lawrence Ross
  7. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  8. Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay
  9. Prejudice and Racism (2nd Ed.) by James Jones
  10. When We Fight, We Win! by Greg Jobin-Leeds and ArgiArte
  11. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha Womack
  12. Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Jones
  13. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire
  14. The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the 21st Century by Alan Sears and James Cairns
  15. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Cullors-Khan and asha bandele
  16. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  17. Justice While Black: Helping African American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System by Robbin Shipp and Nick Chiles
  18. Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation edited by Sheena Howard and Ronald Jackson
  19. Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena Howard
  20. Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin edited by Michael Warr
  21. The Radical King by Martin Luther King, Jr. (edited by Cornel West)
  22. The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum 
  23. Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie Glaude
  24. Outlaw Culture by bell hooks
  25. A Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
  26. The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities by Natasha Warikoo
  27. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
  28. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
  29. Discourse on Colonialism by Aime Cesaire
  30. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  31. Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Angela Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah
  32. The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris
  33. Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis

African American Health and Wellness: Part 3

African American Health and Wellness: Part 2

Dimensions of African American Health (Edwards, 1999)

  • Ideological/Beliefs – possessing a sense of spirituality, including the need for a belief in God and being in touch with a greater power or Supreme Being, having a strong cultural identity, and being proud of one’s cultural heritage, being practical and having common sense
  • Moral Worth – showing self-respect, positive self-esteem, demonstrating a sense of honesty, and responsibility and being true to oneself and others; expressing true respect and compassion for others
  • Interpersonal style – communicating and interacting well with others to develop, maintain and strengthen healthy relationships; being assertive and able to demonstrate respect for others while still expressing oneself and one’s true feeling
  • Competence – having capacities such as intelligence, being flexible and resilient, pursuing educational growth and possessing skills to survive
  • Determination – being determined and demonstrating the capacity for willpower and self-control, including being goal oriented
  • Unity – maintaining or possessing a sense of inner peace; having good self-knowledge and understanding; as well as striving to be one’s best
  • Health/Physical – being in good physical health, including having a healthy diet, taking care of one’s appearance and appreciating one’s own sense of beauty

Approaches to Studying the Mental Health of African Americans

  • Service utilization data – has been used as an indicator of psychopathology. Current service use data offers limited info about differences in actual rates of psychopathology between cultural groups
  • Epidemiological studies – better for understanding psychopathology rates than service utilization studies. It is the study of the rates of the incidence and prevalence of health/mental health conditions in population. Can help to explain similarities and differences between ethnic and racial groups in types and rates of psychopathology
  • National Survey of Black Americans – provides mental health info on African Americans. Provides opportunities to examine within-group differences of mental health issues among African Americans

Africultural Coping (Utsey et al., 2000) – an effort to maintain a sense of harmony and balance with the physical, metaphysical, collective/communal, and the spiritual/psychological realms of existence.”

  • Cognitive or emotional debriefing – adaptive reaction to manage perceived environmental stressor. It might involve having a discussion with a supervisor about a coworker who is contributing to racial stress
  • Spiritual-centered coping – based on a sense of connection with spiritual elements in the universe and with the Creator. It could involve connecting to one’s higher power and praying as a way of dealing with racial stress.
  • Collective coping – group-centered activities. This could be getting together with other African Americans and discussing and planning an activity.
  • Ritual-centered coping – use of rituals to manage a stressful situation. It might involve rituals such as playing certain types of music and lighting candles to deal with stress

African American Health and Wellness

African American Health and Wellness

April is National Minority Health Month so I thought it would be a good time to talk about health disparities that African Americans face. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that these health disparities demonstrate a complex problem that includes aspects of bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. They reported, "Mental health care occurs relatively frequently in emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals." African Americans are overrepresented in emergency and inpatient services. What this means is that African Americans disproportionately use these services instead of mental health care clinics and other centers. The National Survey of American life found that 10.1% of African American used some form of mental service within the past year; this includes 31.9% of African Americans who meet DSM-IV criteria (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, which is what psychologists/psychiatrists use to diagnose psychological disorders; this article came out before the new DSM-V). Other studies have highlighted similar disparities. African Americans have a greater mental illness-induced "disease burden" than White Americans, meaning that they experience more disabling forms and experience them for longer times. Of African Americans diagnosed with depression, 57% experience chronic depression. Additionally, African Americans have lower odds of receiving evidence-based treatments. These disparities continue into the studies that assess treatment quality and effectiveness. African Americans are underrepresented in efficacy studies (whether the treatment works in ideal situations).

Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?

I have been thinking a lot about history lately, particularly my own (or lack of one). The farthest I can trace my family is through my maternal great-grandmother (My mom's mom's mom). As far as I know our whole family history is in Gulfport. I don't know anything or place besides that. I realize that this is too common for many African Americans. The Transatlantic Slave Trade ripped people away from their homes, cultures, and history. We never talked about Africa in school and we barely discussed slavery. As far as what I was taught in school, I had no history outside America and slavery. I really envy people who can trace their families back to their countries of origin and I feel upset that I cannot do the same. Slavery took that from us and I do not believe people really grasp what it means for a people to be ripped away from their home, taken to a strange land, and to be told for hundreds of years that you are inferior, you have no history, you have no culture, you're not even human. Do you know how many times I've heard someone say that Black people have no culture? Maybe they're too busy stealing Black culture to notice.

Everything we learn is about Europe or America and how great they are as if Africa did not have its own great universities that predated universities in Europe like Oxford. There are stories about beautiful structures built by Africans that were assumed to be built by Europeans because there's no way that Africans were smart enough to do anything like that. People still trying to act like Egyptians are White. Going through the education system with this is insult on top of insult on top of insult. Malcolm X posed the question: who taught you to hate yourself? My answer is racism, colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow, and the list goes on. I find myself having this painful longing to know where I came from. Maybe if I did one of those kits I would learn more, but I'm wary about giving another company my DNA. I'm writing this knowing that some of you either won't understand it or will just straight up dismiss it, but this is my experience and these are my feelings. I didn't grow up with wealthy parents who could afford to send me to the best schools in the world. Some of us had a more difficult road to get here. If you would have told me as a teen that I would have a Ph.D., I probably wouldn't have believed because I was never shown that as an option for me. That's why history is important.

Looking back, you can see what is possible for you to become. Unfortunately, African Americans have not been given the same opportunity to look at their own history (or even to have it be told from their perspective. Imagine a White person lecturing you about Africa and how insulting that really is). Power and privilege. Who has the power to tell you your history? Who has the power to shape and mold your history to their gain? Too often for African Americans, that answer is not us.

Black Militant

Militant. An interesting word. One of which I'm not sure people know the real definition. It's a label that has been applied to me. In courses I've taught, evaluations have said that I'm militant or that I am pushing an African American agenda. Is it militant to assert that African Americans face discrimination and domination in multiple areas of our lives? Is it militant to point out the number of ways that structural racism is reinforced by the connections between institutions that themselves reproduce racism? Is it militant to use words such as white supremacy, white privilege, or institutional racism? Is it militant to choose to not center whiteness as it has been in every other aspect of our society? Is it militant to suggest African Americans are humans and should be viewed as equally human as any other group?

Maybe the militant label gets applied to any individual who is unwilling to just accept the status quo and is willing to speak out. Maybe it's attached to anyone willing to assert Black Lives Matter. I have come to accept this label. I wear it as a badge of honor because it is a sign that I am on the right path. When you speak out against systems of domination or oppression, those who benefit from it or internalize it will deny or dismiss it. You are not rewarded by the system for fighting against the status quo. Most likely you will be sanctioned, punished, and/or isolated. If all of these things mean I am a militant, then I will claim that title. Black, militant, and proud.

Post-Ph.D. Reflections

Since finishing my Ph.D. program, I've found myself taking time to reflect and reassess. I realize that the six years of graduate school were not good for my mental health, so I needed some time to think about how to deal with past traumas and finding best ways to move forward. In many ways, my isolation from social media has been due to me grappling with these issues: issues that are rearing their ugly head again as a new Ph.D.

I'm currently a lecturer in the department from which I got my Ph.D. and I think that may be where some of my problems stem. I've had a complicated relationship with this department. For much of my time there, I felt isolated and not sure about my sense of belonging. I constantly felt like I was in a space that wasn't made for me. The more I learned and the more I matured, the more I realized I indeed was not in a space made for me. This system isn't made for poor Black boys from Mississippi to get ahead and make something of themselves. By virtue of my existence in this space, I am an outlier, an anomaly and a threat all in one. I am an outlier because so few people even get to graduate school, let alone finishing with a Ph.D. I am an anomaly because I'm not supposed to be here. History and statistics tell us that people like me typically do not get this far.  Blacks/African Americans make up only about 6% of psychologists, a lack of representation that can be explained by a number of educational barriers disproportionately experienced by African Americans. I am a threat because my presence is a statement against oppressive systems of white supremacy that seek to limit the progress of African Americans.

I say all of this to say I'm exhausted from this constant pressure. I'm tired of feeling marginalized, disrespected, and undervalued. The longer I stay in this environment, the more I feel like it's beyond saving. Things feel so messed up. There are so many things about academia (aside from racial issues) that are beyond problematic and I don't know if I have the energy anymore to fight this machine. It feels so much like a pyramid scheme. You get sold the myth that you can actually make change through academia, only to find out academia just reproduces those inequalities that you are trying to fight. I'm almost completely certain I don't want to be in academia any longer. I don't want to stop working to fight injustice, but I have lost faith that academia is the way to do it. Academia is not worth sacrificing my mental health.

Do Black Lives Matter to Community Psychology?

As an African American community psychologist, much of my research and interests revolve around social justice for African Americans.  I entered the field of community psychology because I believed that the values of field aligned with my own and the thought of entering a social justice oriented discipline appealed to me.  Much of my time in graduate school was been spent coping with the numerous instances of systemic injustices toward African Americans.  From Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown to Sandra Bland to Flint to Philando Castile, these occurrences left me feeling threatened and unsafe.  The Black Lives Matter Movement coalesced around these issues as an affirmation of Black lives in the face of oppression and systemic racism. Scholars from various fields have begun examining Black Lives Matter, yet there is little research in the field of psychology. Given community psychology’s focus on social justice, activism, and change, I thought we had a unique opportunity to contribute to the current societal discussion on systemic oppression. 

I repeatedly felt disheartened when many of the tragedies were left undiscussed. Discussions on listservs and position statements were initiated for several social issues, but little to none related to those that threaten Black lives. During the rare instance that Flint, MI came up during a conversation on the listserv, more time was spent discussing how support could be given to the whistleblower rather than to the people of Flint.  I felt disappointed given my own experiences as a child and the harm that can be inflicted by unclean drinking water, having lead in my blood and being put on medication at six years old.  Why did there seem to be silence on these topics?  This led me to wonder about the emerging discourse surrounding Black Lives Matter in community psychology literature, so I conducted a PSYCHInfo search. 

My initial PSYCHInfo search a few months back yielded only 12 results; the most recent (as of July 10, 2017) search yielded 24 results.  Only one result was from a community psychology-related journal (American Journal of Public Health).  After seeing this lack of conversation, my colleagues and I organized a roundtable at this past Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA, the community psychology division of APA) biennial.  In preparing for the roundtable, a broader question came up: do Black lives matter in community psychology?  Given the lack of discussion of the recent and public injustices inflicted upon African Americans, I began to have doubts.  These doubts are not new; I have experienced them periodically during my graduate studies and I still do.  These doubts led to another question: what does it mean to use theories and frameworks normed and created by White men to apply to marginalized communities?We thought about all of the scholars of color and theories that influence our work yet are never discussed within the broader field of community psychology, particularly those that predate and/or align with community psychology principles and values.  W.E.B. Du Bois was one of, if not the first, empirical social scientists.  In many ways, Du Bois could be considered the original community psychologist if you assess his work.  He conducted ethnographic research, integrating himself into the communities from which he gathered data.  He used his research to alleviate social problems that ailed the African American community.  Double consciousness is still a concept cited to this day as a framework for understanding the dual experience of African Americans.  Du Bois also exemplified what it meant to be a scholar-activist as one of the founding members of the NAACP.  Much of his work was as much social critique as pure research, echoing the words of Julian Rappaport (2005) when he discussed community psychology.  Scholars like Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Kenneth and Mamie Clark have conducted research that has influenced social movements spanning over the last half century, yet their names are rarely if ever, mentioned in the field as influences or even adjacent to community psychology.  Frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality are aligned perfectly with the social criticism inherent within community psychology, yet these theories and the scholars who develop them are not included in the canon of community psychology. 

When we discussed this question at the roundtable, many nodded their heads in agreement that there was an issue to be fixed.  Others began to point out that similar issues had been brought up before with not much changing afterward.  Throughout the remainder of the conference, I heard similar sentiments from both junior and senior scholars of color, particularly African American scholars.  Multiple people shared their personal stories of invisibility and lack of support, both as scholars and as marginalized people.  Many felt that our issues were not exotic enough for SCRA to focus on given there is such a focus on international work over that of domestic racial issues.  More so this year than previous years, I felt a sense of anger from people, angry that SCRA was not vocal enough on the issues that matter to the work we do and the communities we represent.  It is disheartening to feel that your work and the issues affecting your community are not viewed as important by your broader field.  This broader field being community psychology, a field of scholars that “fight oppression, work to reduce social inequalities, and work with marginalized people toward their empowerment.”  There are some times when I question my place in the field and do not necessarily feel like a community psychologist.  A lot of these situations stem from my racial identity.  I feel out of place many times when I go to community psychology conferences and see how few African Americans are present.  I feel out of place when I read all the seminal articles in the field and most of them are authored by White men.  I feel out of place when there are serious issues in society that are related to African Americans and the field seems to be relatively silent on these issues.  I originally went into the conference asking questions related to the connections between Black Lives Matter and Community Psychology, but I left convinced that the more important question that needed to be tackled was “Do Black lives matter to community psychology?”

Book Review #1: iVenceremos?

Jafari Allen’s book seeks to examine the ways in which Afro-Cubans engage in self-making. He argues that self-making in Cuba, whether it is gendered, raced, or sexed, is constructed in response to interaction with foreigners and global discourses and by individual and group desire for freedom. The book combines historical analysis, personal observations, and interviews in order to provide a complex picture of life in Cuba. He draws from literature in the social sciences and humanities, combining them to provide an overarching framework to elucidate and contextualize the lived experiences of Afro-Cubans. A major theme in the book is erotic subjectivities. Erotic subjectivity refers to the way in which individuals scrutinize all aspects of their lives in order to find their deeper meaning within these individuals’ lives. In this sense, erotic goes beyond the sexual and is indicative of a deep longing for meaning.

Allen begins with giving an overview of the historical context in post-revolution Cuba and Afro-Cubans’ place within it. He provides evidence that while Cuba has made significant gains in the time since Castro came to power, some of the racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies that were in place during pre-revolution Cuba were maintained and reified. Present throughout the book is a theme of the gaze. The state’s gaze on Black bodies was vital for helping to maintain and control the revolutionary image that it sought to portray to the rest of the world. The combination of political and economic pressures structured the ways in which Afro-Cuban could create their own identities.

The work centers the everyday lived experiences of individuals. Rather than relying heavily on participant interviews and distant observations, iVenceremos? relies on very intimate and involved experiences. It is strengthened by the fact that Allen immerses himself within several different aspects of Cuban life and includes observations from each of these spheres. The relatively informal nature of the interviews seemingly leads to more open and honest dialogue, which is definitely aided by the fact that Allen significantly embedded himself as a part of the community. He is also very descriptive and detailed in his recollections of the settings around him. The amount of detail allows the reader to feel as if he or she is there with him in Cuba.

In addition to the detail provided in his observations, he employs the use of metaphor throughout the book in order to describe both macro level and micro level phenomena. He uses the phrase “sleight of hand” in reference to the post-revolution discourses of race, gender, and sexuality that serve to suggest that these issues do not matter anymore while simultaneously reinforcing these systems of subjugation. Another instance is his positioning of men’s interactions with women en la calle as being similar to the dance form of rumba. In this dance, women are expected to portray a sense of sexual agency and desire while simultaneously portraying a sense of chastity. A similar dynamic occurs on the streets in which men attempt to get the attention of women through various creative means. Both instances are performances of some form in which the men seek the favor of women in the presence of an audience and in which women engage in the “dance” while still maintaining a level of distance.

The theme of gaze reemerges in the discussion of sex laborers. In this situation, the gaze comes from American and European tourists who seek out erotic and exotic experiences. This is reminiscent to Joanne Nagel’s concept of ethnosexual adventurers. These potential ethnosexual encounters are motivated by monetary and other currency exchanges. The sex laborers in iVenceremos? may receive money, but in many instances they receive job opportunities, chances to leave the country, and other non-monetary benefits. These individuals are very well aware of the stereotypes that tourists may have of them and in many cases they play up to those stereotypes in order to gain more from the tourists. In this sense, the gaze reflected back onto tourists.

iVenceremos? is an important work for understanding how people on the margins construct their own identities and senses of self. Allen manages to show how each of these individuals possesses agency within their lives while also still making it clear that racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies interact to constrain the options available to these agents. In this work, they are not victims, rather they are people who are taking whatever they are given by society and using those resources for the purpose of their own self making.

Black Lives Matter Meditation

Hello everyone. I came across this great resource a little while back. It's a meditation that was created by Dr. Candice Crowell, a professor at the University of Kentucky. This is great for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by all of the racial injustice that has been going on recently. I tried this myself so I definitely recommend using it.  Here is the link to the meditation and I hope it helps anyone who needs it.

What is Science?

The older I get and the more I study, the more I realize some of the boundaries that we construct are just that: constructed boundaries. For example, the distinction between natural sciences, social science, and humanities. If you really think about the history of intellectual inquiry, most scholars of particular ages use general strategies and paradigms to produce knowledge. Eventually there are people who are "radical" enough to shift these conventions. So many scientific fields are offshoots of philosophy, hence why the highest level of academic attainment regardless of discipline is the Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy or as it is in Latin, Philsophiae Doctor). Basically what I'm saying is that I do not believe science only refers to certain fields and subfields, but rather refers to a broad set of practices that help us to understand the reality of our world, just like philosophy used. Just as philosophy transformed into science, maybe science evolves into another mode of inquiry. Whether or not science transforms into something radically different, I do believe that we need to have more discussions on what is considered to be science and what isn't, particularly as it relates to power dynamics and structural inequalities because how we construct and organize our knowledge also indicates some underlying truths about our society.

Article Summary #5: Black Youths' Academic Success: The Contribution of Racial Socialization from Parents, Peers, and Schools

Hughes, D. L., McGill, R. K., Ford, K., & Tubbs, C. (2011). Black youths’ academic success: The contribution of racial socialization from parents, peers, and schools. African American children and mental health: Development and context1, 95-124.

Black children receive racial socialization messages from several sources including parents, peers, and the larger school context.  Peers transmit ideas of what it means to be Black and define standards for being an “authentic” member of the Black community.  The school context transmits messages about who is valued, smart, troublesome, and worthy.  Peer socialization comes in five different forms: peer pressure, antagonistic behaviors, behavioral reinforcement, behavioral display, and structuring opportunities.  Through peer pressure, peers may try to persuade youth to accept certain values and beliefs about what it means to be black.  Peers could also tease and ridicule others for behaving in ways that are seen as inconsistent with being Black.  Peers reinforce behaviors by accepting youth who adhere to notions of acceptable Black behavior and reject those who do not.  Peers also socialize youth by their behaviors or serving as models for appropriate behavior.  Structuring opportunities include creating situations that facilitate “Black” behaviors without necessarily encouraging or discouraging them.

One way that school contexts send messages to youth is through relationships with teachers.  Teachers tend to have less favorable views of Black students.  Teachers also report more conflict with their students and students report less supportive relationships.  Discipline also sends messages to Black youth.  Black students are more likely and more harshly punished and are also overrepresented in special education classes.  The curriculum also transmits messages about race.  Messages can be transmitted through the presence or absence of Black history or culture, the distribution of time studying White versus Black history or culture, and the use of curricular materials to teach about racial bias and discrimination.  Tracking sends messages by the disproportionate placement of Black students in lower tracks and the isolation of Black students placed in higher tracks.

Article Summary #4: African American Mothers' Socialization Beliefs and Goals with Young Children: Themes of History, Education, and Collective Independence

Suizzo, M. A., Robinson, C., & Pahlke, E.  (2008).  African American mothers’ socialization beliefs and goals with young children: Themes of history, education, and collective independence.  Journal of Family Issues, 29, 287 – 316.

The goal of the study was to identify and describe cultural models of child rearing with 3 to 6-year-old children.  This research focused on middle-class suburban mothers.  Many African American parents believe that education is the only way their children will have opportunities in a world that could be racist toward them.  Communicating the importance of education is an important socialization goal.  A semistructured interview was developed for the study.  Questions included: mothers’ relationship with child, mothers’ own upbringing and family background, child’s experiences with racial discrimination and mothers’ racial socialization beliefs and practices, and the mothers’ long-term goals and values for her child. 

Three themes were identified: teaching children about African Americans’ history and their ancestors’ struggle, promoting educational achievement as a means to overcome barriers of racism, and promoting individual autonomy while maintaining close family relationships.  Mothers talked about teaching their children that African Americans have a unique history that non-Blacks do not share, may not understand, and may misinterpret.  Teaching this history was used to also prepare them for future discrimination.  Nine out of the 12 mothers explicitly mentioned wanting to transmit the values of pride to their children and incorporating it into their interactions.  Mothers did not mention the brutality of Jim Crow or slavery because they did not seem to be ready or willing to tell this side of the story, but they chose to highlight the positives.  Mothers of younger children seemed less likely to have taught their children about African American history.  Mothers used several strategies to communicate what it means to be African American (Kwanzaa, Juneteenth). 

Education was the most frequently mentioned long-term goal.  Many felt that it was important for them to be actively involved in their children’s learning and education.  They also expressed the need for their children to learn African American history in school.  There was also mention of racism being a potential barrier to their children receiving a good education and their educational attainment; they described several ways in which they saw racism manifested in education.  Educational achievement was explicitly connected to the practice of racial socialization.

Article Summary #3: Race Socialization Messages Across Historical Time

Brown, T. N. & Lesane-Brown, C. L.  (2006).  Race socialization messages across historical time.  Social Psychology Quarterly, 69, 201 – 213.

The study proposes that what children are told is a function of their parents’ appraisals of the racial climate during which their children are coming of age; are certain messages about being Black more likely to be transmitted from parents to children during particular historical periods?  The study is based on the life course perspective because it describes how individual lives are shaped by social change. 

Racial socialization responses were coded into 5 categories.  Individual pride messages emphasized hard work, individual achievement, and personal character development in spite of racism.  Racial group pride messages emphasized black unity, positive feelings about one’s racial group, and teachings about blackness.  Messages emphasizing self-subordination made up the category of deference to and fear of whites.  Color-blind messages emphasized equality among all racial groups.  “Whites are prejudiced” messages emphasized recognition of racial inequalities and ways to deal with whites. 

Three historical periods were focused on.  Pre-Brown v. Board of Education (roughly before 1957): blatant segregation of the races, racial terrorism, economic exclusion, and “Whites Only” signs.  Protest period (shortly after Brown v. Board of Education): civil rights movement.  Post-protest age: increasing economic opportunities for large segments of the black community, integration of predominantly white spaces and thus more interracial contact, the emergence and isolation of an urban black underclass, and the institutionalization of covert racial discrimination.  Racial attitudes were also examined. 

Racial socialization messages differed by birth cohort.  People born during the pre-Brown v. Board of Education period were less likely to receive individual pride messages and more likely to receive deference to and fear of whites messages and color blind messages.  Individuals born during the post-protest period were more likely to receive individual pride messages, racial group pride messages, or no messages and less likely to receive messages emphasizing deference to and fear of whites and color-blind messages.  Attitudes about voting for Black candidates and explanations for why Blacks do not get a good education or good jobs were linked to messages received.

Article Summary #2: Microaggressions and Psychological Functioning Among High Achieving African Americans: A Mixed-Methods Approach

Torres, L., Driscoll, M. W., & Burrow, A. L.  (2010).  Microaggressions and psychological functioning among high achieving African-Americans: A mixed-methods approach.  Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29, 1074 – 1099.

Torres’ (2010) study sought to identify the types of racial microaggressions described by high achieving African Americans and to investigate the way in which microaggressions influence mental health over time.  Racial microaggressions have been to come in three forms: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.  Microassaults are explicit, racially derogatory statements or actions with the intention of hurting the victim.  Microinsults are rude or insensitive comments that demean the person’s racial or cultural heritage; it is not always explicit.  Microinvalidations exclude, negate, or minimize the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, or other experiential components of targets’ realities. 

The qualitative phase of the study was based on the responses to the question “What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome in order to earn your doctorate degree?”  Concepts that were identified in this phase included assumptions of criminality/second-class citizen, underestimation of personal ability, and cultural/racial isolation.  Assumption of criminality/second class citizen refers to events in which the person of color was thought to be doing something illegal or was being treated as an inferior person.  Underestimation of personal ability included stereotypes and negative perceptions about an individual’s ability to succeed in academia.  This also included a need to prove oneself academically.  Cultural/racial isolation referred to being singled out because race or the lack of peers of the same race. 

Results suggested that individuals usually utilized active coping strategies and that they had moderate levels of stress during the month prior.  All three types of microaggression subscales were related to increased stress and depression.  Active coping was related to lower stress, fewer symptoms of depression, and less underestimation of personal ability.  Underestimation of ability predicted depression and perceived stress.  After accounting for the effects of microaggressions on depression through perceived stress, the direct effect of microaggressions on perceived stress was significantly reduced.  Results also suggest that the effect of underestimation on perceived stress depends on the level of coping behaviors.  High coping and low underestimation of personal ability were associated with the lowest perceived stress scores.  Cultural/racial isolation predicted depression.

Article Summary #1: Critical Race Theory, Racial Microaggressions, and Campus Racial Climate: The Experiences of African American College Students

Solorzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T.  (2000).  Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students.  The Journal of Negro Education, 69, 60 – 73.

Solorzano’s (2000) study used a critical race framework to examine how the racial climate of a college influences African American students through racial microaggressions.  The argument is also made that stereotype threat plays a major role in academic achievement.  The study explored the relationships between college racial climate, racial stereotypes, racial microaggressions, and academic performance.  Campus racial climate is defined in this study as the overall racial environment of the campus.  A positive racial climate has the four characteristics, the inclusion of students, faculty, and administrators of color; a curriculum that reflects the historical and contemporary experiences of people of color; programs to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of students of color; and a college/university mission that reinforces the institution’s commitment to pluralism.  The study sought to answer four questions: “How do African American college students experience racial microaggressions?” “What impact do these racial microaggressions have on African American students?” “How do African American students respond to racial microaggressions?” and “How do racial microaggressions affect the collegiate racial climate?” 

The basic critical race theory model consists of five elements: the centrality of race and racism and their intersectionality with other forms of subordination, the challenge to dominant ideology, commitment to social justice, the centrality of experiential knowledge, and the transdisciplinary perspective.  The study sought to take these five elements and apply them to the study of microaggressions, racial climate, and the experiences of African American college students.  The research was done using focus groups of African American undergraduate students from three predominantly White, Research I universities. 

Many students spoke about feeling invisible in the classroom.  They also felt that their experiences were omitted, distorted, and stereotyped in the curriculum.  There was also mention of how faculty had low expectation of them, even when evidence proved otherwise.  These types of interactions often would lead to a sense of self-doubt within the students.  Their responses also illustrated a negative racial climate outside of the classroom, in other academic spaces on campus.  This seems to indicate that a negative racial climate promotes more covert and subtle racism within the classroom and more overt racism outside of the classroom.  Such situations left the student feeling as if they could not perform well academically; some even stated that they were driven to drop a class, change their major, and even transfer schools.  Their experiences show that even at levels of higher education, racism and discrimination still exist.