Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools

Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools

Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools

Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools


What are the features of the school environment that make students' of color incorporation greater at some schools than at others? Prudence L. Carter seeks to answer this basic but bedeviling question through a rich comparative analysis of the organizational and group dynamics in eight schools located within four cities in the United States and South Africa-two nations rebounding from centuries of overt practices of racial and social inequality.Stubborn Rootsprovides insight into how school communities can better incorporate previously disadvantaged groups and engender equity by addressing socio-cultural contexts and promoting "cultural flexibility." It also raises important and timely questions about the social, political, and philosophical purposes of multiracial schooling that have been greatly ignored by many, and cautions against narrow approaches to education that merely focus on test-scores and resources.

"There are simply not enough texts that look comparatively at the two foremost experiments with questions of race, culture, and class in the English-speaking world, the United States and South Africa. Prudence Carter's work is simultaneously scholarly and compassionate. It helps us see, in these two benighted but globally important societies, how easily things break, but also how well, when structures are in place and when human agency takes flight, individuals and the groups to which they belong flourish and grow."
- Crain Soudien, Professor of Education, University of Cape Town

"In this ambitious mixed-method study, Carter analyzes the social and symbolic boundaries that account for disparate educational experiences by race in the United States and South Africa. Resources are only part of the answer; equally important, she argues, are the cultural and institutional conditions that make students feel they are valued contributors of the community. Thus, school policies about hairstyle, dress codes, tracking, extracurricular activities, and language use are among the important dimensions that enable or discourage engagement in students. Educators, policymakers, and scholars alike have much to learn from this agenda-setting work."
-Michele Lamont, Harvard University
Author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class and Immigration

"Prudence Carter's remarkable book shines a light on the often invisible patterns that perpetuate educational disparity in both the United States and South Africa.Stubborn Rootsreveals how racial and ethnic divides are often reinforced, even in supposedly 'integrated' schools and even when many people of good will, try to eradicate them. Carter's insights illuminate how educators and schools can address these issues by becoming increasingly attuned to the socio-cultural worlds in which their students live. This book paves the way for the changes needed for historically disadvantaged groups to receive equitable, high-quality educations."
-Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University


2004 was a defining moment for two nations on different continents separated by thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Then, Americans commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown vs. the Topeka, KS Board of Education. South Africans celebrated ten years of its nascent democracy after nearly five decades of rigid racial exclusion under apartheid. Conferences and colloquia in these nations and abroad emphasized the shared and particular experiences of these societies, which had grappled with the inhumanity of racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance for far too long. Alas, the doors had “opened,” and national leaders and policy makers in both places sought to equalize opportunity for historically disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and economic groups through schooling and education. At that celebratory “50–10” moment, the United States and South Africa had both undertaken school desegregation as a means to economic transformation and a more equitable society.

Stubborn Roots argues that although the two nations vary in their structure, discourse, and policy agendas, school practices in both countries converge when it comes to the incorporation of the previously disenfranchised racial and ethnic groups—Africans, Coloureds, and Indians (South Africa), and African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans (United States). On the ground, behind school walls, explicit codes and school-specific policies are strikingly “decoupled” from the national goals of equity, access, and equality in both countries. How does this happen? And further, why do government initiatives and intentions fail to fully trickle down to the school level?

One morning, at a high-performing school in a southern U.S. state, an African American girl, “Tamara,” lamented: “They don’t really care about us when it comes to school; they [educators] just need us to perform well on these tests so that the school can look good, and they can keep their jobs,” she . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.