African American students

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 #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.