racial socialization

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.