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.