Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Complicating Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Unpacking West African Immigrants' Cultural Identities

Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Complicating Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Unpacking West African Immigrants' Cultural Identities

Article excerpt

Conceptual and Theoretical Framework

Research Design

Findings

Implications and Conclusions

Notes

References

Appendix A--Participants

Appendix B--Interview Protocol

From that point on, like my senses, everything around me was so heightened because I, I realized I was Black, but I never put meaning to it.... [L]ike in elementary school, I was like, I am NOT Black! I am milk chocolate brown! ... I started not doing art activities because none of the colors were good enough for my skin. I started looking at books and I was like, how come these illustrators can't draw me? ... And then also I realized like the difference in art, like to me, honestly, art is like looking at ... African fabrics and like looking at batiks and just looking at the way my mom cooks, and I didn't value art the same way kids in my elementary school and middle school did. And that became a big issue because I hated painting, I hated coloring. But I could make a quilt for you! (laughs) You know, so it was just, it was hard. I felt lost a lot. (Lily (2), Interview, 10/14/2009)

First of all, every country [in Africa] has their own, you know, ideologies and just ... every country is different. It's not just one continent ... it's more than just being West Africa, East Africa, and South Africa, and it's more than just that, you know? (Kaya, Interview, 11/29/2008)

Immigrant students bring into schools a wealth of diverse cultural knowledge, values, and ideologies that are unrecognized or under-utilized in classroom instruction. Furthermore, the current climate of anti-immigrant discourse often positions immigrants as a threat to our country's national and economic security (Fryberg et al., 2011). This is demonstrated in Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which authorized the arrests of individuals based upon assumed immigration status (O'Leary & Sanchez, 2011) and House Bill 2281, which banned ethnic studies, calling the programs un-American despite such programs leading to increased student achievement (Orozco, 2011). The "immigrant bashing" (Suarez-Orozco, Roos, & Suarez-Orozco, 1999, p. 161) occurring in public discourse negatively affects the schooling experiences of immigrant children. As the quotes from Lily and Kaya, participants in our study, indicate, West African immigrants in particular often experience dissonance when American peers and teachers do not understand or appreciate their heterogeneous cultural values, practices, and identities. Although attempts to incorporate immigrant students' cultural ways of knowing have been made in educational scholarship (cf. Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005; Valdes, 1996), students are frequently marginalized by teaching and curriculum that do not speak to who they are and what they know. The voices of Lily and Kaya remind us that West African immigrant students can feel lost, frustrated, or isolated in the classroom due to such marginalization. In addition to negative academic outcomes, there are also social and emotional consequences that can influence how students conceptualize and negotiate their identities. Although the African immigrant population within the United States has steadily increased since 1980, with 40 percent of African-born Blacks having arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2005 (Kent, 2007), they are a largely understudied and invisible immigrant group in educational literature (Knight, 2011). Within the context of discourses surrounding immigrant students, African immigrants receive little attention, which adds to their invisibility. Much of the current rhetoric and debate over immigration reform focuses on immigrants from Latin American countries, the largest population of immigrants to the United States (O'Leary & Sanchez, 2011). Consequently, African immigrants are left on the periphery with the potential impact of anti-immigration legislation on this population often overlooked. …

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