Academic journal article Education Research International

Race Has Always Mattered: An Intergeneration Look at Race, Space, Place, and Educational Experiences of Blacks

Academic journal article Education Research International

Race Has Always Mattered: An Intergeneration Look at Race, Space, Place, and Educational Experiences of Blacks

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Academic Editor:David Neumann

Department of Human Development, College of Community and Public Affairs, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, USA

Received 3 June 2014; Revised 2 September 2014; Accepted 10 September 2014; 1 October 2014

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

More than one hundred years after W.E.B. Du Bois made his famous declaration about the color line, Black children continue to be challenged by racism in their educational journey. This is evidenced by a number of researchers who have written about the racial gap in educational outcomes between Black and White students, which include differences in standardized test scores and high school graduation rates [1-9]. Research has shown that Black students are subjected to harsher discipline than White students,and are more likely to be placed in special education classes, thus limiting their educational potential (e.g., [10-13]).

This paper engages and builds on the critical discourse of race in education by exploring how the social links between race and geographical space provide a lens for understanding the persistence of racism in the educational experiences of Black children. The exploration of space examines the experiences of those living in a rural versus an urban location in one northern US state and what influences a Black student's experience with race, racism, and racial identity in the context of school and community. The voices of four generations of Black Americans provide an intergenerational perspective on race and racism in the school experience of Black people. The generational groups include: Elders/Silent generation (born during 1930-1949), Black Power/Baby Boomer Generation (born during 1950-1969), Generation X/Hip Hop (born during 1970-1987), and Generation Y/Millennial (born during 1988-1995).

In addition to filling a void in research on the educational experiences of Blacks in the northern part of the US within an intergenerational framework, this study challenges the notion of the one size fits all approach to educational policies and programs directed at Black children. The challenges faced by Black children today require the specifics of race and space to be acknowledged in their educational experiences. As O'Connor and colleagues [2] suggest, historically specific analyses of the educational realities of Blacks can help researchers unpack and explain the variegated experiences of Black students operating in different spaces and times. These concepts, however, must be examined in a contemporary and historical context [14, 15]. This is particularly relevant today in the post-civil rights America where many educators subscribe to the rhetoric of a "post racial" social order and a colorblindness ideology [16, 17]. By ignoring the historical and contemporary existence of racist structural systems foundational to educational organizations, educators bring into their classrooms a characteristic of superficial racial tolerance [15, 16].

This study draws on the understandings of four generations of Black people from four different geographical locations. Their stories illustrate the need for further examination of the race-space nexus in the Black educational experience. The findings in this study suggest the way that students experience race may be different in smaller rural communities, with fewer populations of Black people, than in urban communities with larger populations of Black people. As such, there are salient implications for how students engage and participate inside and outside of school and how their identity development empowers or hinders them from acting on their own behalf when confronted with racism.

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