Black and immigrant girls of color often face indifference and even cruelty in the classroom, which is a hostile learning environment for many, according to recently published research by Ranita Ray, a new associate professor of sociology and Maxine Baca-Zinn professor at the University. from New Mexico.
Ray is interested in how racially and economically oppressed children and youth navigate school and work systems, and how racial and gender violence, racial capitalism, and academic and public discourse affect them.
She is currently working on a book and several articles based on four years of ethnography at a range of educational institutions in a large metropolitan school district in the southwestern United States, as well as interviews with scholars. teachers and administrators and archival research, to theorize contemporary schools in the United States in a larger global legacy of schools as sites of institutional violence.
In the elementary and secondary schools she studied, black and immigrant-colored girls have experienced gender-based racial harassment, erasure of the intellect, and estrangement within their communities.
In the article, Ray conceptualized gender-based racial harassment as bullying – defined as repeated emotional or physical violence contextualized by an imbalance of power between the sexes and those oppressed by race. In her study, Ray said, this included verbal abuse against black and immigrant-colored girls by teachers.
Ray conceptualized the erasure of the intellect as the neglect of the intellectual contributions made by girls of color, inside the classroom, due to their gender and race.
Remoteness within their communities, in the document, refers to how cleavages and divisions have been created among girls of color through school practices such as school monitoring.
“For black and recently immigrated girls of color, the classroom is a psychologically traumatic, alienating and emotionally violent place where they face racial and gender-based harassment from teachers, their intellectual contributions are erased and they move away. of their communities within schools. ”
Ranita Ray, professor of sociology
“We’ve all heard that girls are now ahead of boys – regardless of race and grade – in education. This has puzzled academics over the past decades, as this is one of the few contexts where girls and women do better than men in a patriarchal society, ”Ray explained. But this focus on girls’ academic success overshadows the daily violence they endure inside the classroom. She spent two to three days a week for three years in two largely economically marginalized and racially minority schools (an elementary school and a middle school) in a southwestern metropolitan school district and found that although racially marginalized girls did been able to make academic progress, the school is nevertheless a hostile institution for them.
“For black and recently immigrated girls of color, the classroom is a psychologically traumatic, alienating and emotionally violent place where they face racial and gender-based harassment from teachers, their intellectual contributions are erased and they separate from their communities within schools. Additionally, I have discovered that immigrant girls are disparaged and simultaneously used to perpetuate evil on black girls. More importantly, the earnings of some racially marginalized girls in school are used to justify hostility against them, ”noted Ray.
Ray studied middle school and elementary school in a large metropolitan school district, following a cohort of 80 students in grades four to six in classrooms, school hallways, and playgrounds as she took detailed notes every day. The article is part of a larger project and a book on schooling. For this project, she also conducted participant observations in other education-related organizations and institutions, such as a university, a non-profit organization, and a trial court, as well as interviews and research. archives.
The majority of teachers at both schools were white.
“This reflects a national trend where the overwhelming majority of teachers are white and female. I think racial violence against black, native and other girls of color is normalized within schools. You hear about this type of violence on the news and social media from time to time. Schools, as I say, are also violent institutions. For example, historically schooling, as opposed to education, has served to provoke violence on marginalized people. So I think this type of violence is routine and much more prevalent than we would like to think and often sanctioned by institutions. “
The experience left her angry and scared for the children.
“The girls resisted in various ways,” observed Ray. “Some girls have rejected the definition of school excellence, some have spoken up and others have built a community. But this daily school violence is an alienating and traumatic experience for black and immigrant girls of color.
In her article, Ray said she was concerned her experience might not have shown the whole story, noting: “My position as a South Asian immigrant has had implications for data collection and analysis. Since the teachers knew about my position as a brown immigrant, their remarks were probably tempered rather than exaggerated in my presence. As such, my findings are probably a toned down version, and the classroom was perhaps a more hostile space for black girls and new immigrant women of color in my absence. “
The long-term consequences of this hostility include, among other things, emotional and psychological damage.
Ray believes that having more black, native, brown and queer teachers “is the urgent resolution, but we must also keep in mind the historical and contemporary role of schools as oppressive institutions.”
The article will be published in the journal Gender & Society. The book will be based on the larger study.
“I hope that in general people will talk about the well-being of girls beyond their academic success. I hope for a wide awareness of what girls of color face in the classroom, ”she said.
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