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.