Shaking Up Logic and Methods

Before reading the content of White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology, edited by Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2008), I was perplexed by the boldness of the title. I initially thought the book was going to go one of two ways, the first being focused on the harm white researchers have played throughout history (specifically in eugenics) or, second, the history of how white men looking at race have perpetuated racial methodologies about looking at race. I was soon to discover that it was much more complicated. To be honest, I had to read several sections of this book over again because the way race was presented by Zuberi (2008) was so different than typical research articles on the subject.

Most of the articles and books that I have read prior single out race as a major indicator or causality in their findings. Most of the previous research looks at the “effects of race” within their specific research field. However, Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva (2008) “suggest that when we discuss the ‘effect of race,’ we are less mindful of the larger social world in which the path to success or failure is influenced” (p.6), pointing out that “If we begin with a racially biased view of the world, then we will end with a racially biased view of what the data has to say” (p.8, 2008). Essentially, what I took from this is that one simply cannot look at the effects of race without understanding what the original influence is on the given situation (external factors). By just looking at the effects of race, one continues to perpetuate the biased view of the world just as Francis Galton did with his eugenics experiment to suggest racial hierarchy (Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva, 2008).  When Galton set out to find empirical data that showed racial hierarchy, he was already determined to show that there was a cause and effect relationship between genetics and race, hence, Galton was able to find data that suggested racial genetic differences to support his theory through molding the empirical data. Zuberi and Bonilla (2008) elegantly describe this situation, “empirical results may be a way to understand what is happening; however, these same data tell us very little about why it is happening.” (p.9).

I would have to agree with Zuberi and Bonilla (2008) in this instance. As researchers, we often get so caught up in getting specific results or seeing correlations that we often forget about the many factors and determinants that play into the empirical data we gain. At the beginning of this summer semester, I was taking another class that observed the effects of race in the K-12 system. Several assignments in the course asked us to reflect on given racial high school data and determine different ways to fix problems with the achievement gap in education between white and colored students based off of testing standards, grades, and dropout rates. So I would do as assigned, prescribing a remedy for the factors presented.

Looking back, it would have been beneficial to look at the resources that were provided to the students, the type of atmosphere, the learning practices and the effectiveness of the administrators in the high school rather than simply looking at diverse student’s success rates and test scores. Maybe looking at the bigger picture would have helped to develop a more accurate and effective answer than just looking at how to improve the grades and test scores of students of color.

Zuberi, T. (2008). White logic, white methods: racism and methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Capital Campaign: Valuing the Linguistic Wealth of My Students

This week, I did some more reading about an idea that has my full attention: community cultural wealth, or “the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged” (Yosso, 2005, p. 69). (This is the same set of assets I discussed in an earlier post, “Motivational Marginalization: Diversity in Private Schools.”) I spent some more time considering the six types of cultural capital proposed by Tara Yosso “that are historically undervalued and unacknowledged in White, middle-class institutions like schools” (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009, p. 538). Here are Yosso’s categories, with her brief explanations of each:

  • aspirational capital: “the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future, even in the face of real and perceived barriers” (2005, p. 77);
  • navigational capital: “skills of maneuvering through social institutions” (2005, p. 80);
  • social capital: “networks of people and community resources” (2005, p.79);
  • familial capital: “cultural knowledges nurtured among familia that carry a sense of community history, memory, and cultural intuition” (2005, p. 79);
  • resistant capital: “knowledges and skills fostered through oppositional behavior that challenges inequality” (2005, p. 80); and
  • linguistic capital: “the intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style” (2005, p.78).

It’s the last of these, linguistic capital, that I’d really like to focus on today, for a couple of reasons: First of all, I think it would be beneficial to my own practice as a teacher to take some real, dedicated time to consider the ways in which I am–and, more importantly, perhaps, the ways I’m not–valuing and fostering each of these kinds of capital in my students of color. Secondly, I’m an English teacher, a writer, and a lover of language. I already believe, deeply, that the best vocabulary is one rich in the inflections, hues, loanwords, code-switching, hybrids, and mash-ups pulled from all of one’s languages and experiences.

One of the reasons I love teaching 10th-graders is that, on the whole, I think they strike an ideal balance between a child’s wonder and a young adult’s eagerness to engage in complex, intellectually sophisticated ideas. Because of that, I’m able to throw things at them that I didn’t really encounter until college: the idea of cultural marginalization, the literary and social concept of the Other, and the theory of multiple intelligences are all thematic touchstones to which we return, over and over, throughout the year as we study literature. Early on in the year, I try to establish that intelligence is not synonymous with years of formal education, and that education is not synonymous with schooling (this will serve us well when we get to our discussion of Colonialism with Things Fall Apart and I ask them if, for example, the people of Umuofia are “educated” before the white missionaries show up).

My students are already discovering and critiquing the ways in which language is all bound up in power. For example, all year long we talk about what makes something a “real word” (and I struggle to disabuse them of that question, encouraging them instead to ask if a word is “standard usage”–which allows us to parse whose standard is the standard and whether it will, or should, remain the standard). In tandem with the Richard Rodriguez essay “Aria,” which I discussed in that earlier post, we also read a first-person essay titled “Blue Collar Brilliance,” in which Mike Rose’s reflections on his mother’s experience as a waitress serve as a jumping-off point for him to consider and discuss “how much [blue-collar, service-industry, low-wage occupations] demand of both body and brain” (Rose, 2009).

As I’ve mentioned before, most of my students come from pretty financially comfortable homes. Several, however, do not. And so I offer this article to the class with the hope that it will, for the kids from wealthy homes, broaden their definition of what it means to be competent, skilled, and valuable as a worker and therefore broaden their respect for the people who perform these jobs. For the students who come from homes where their parents hold jobs like the ones Rose describes, or for students who themselves have experience working as waitstaff, house cleaners, landscapers or other jobs that their wealthy peers benefit from but sometimes fail to even see, I hope that this essay–and our careful, respectful consideration of it–communicates to them that I respect that work and that I want to create a space in my classroom where that work is valued, honored, respected, seen. I talk about this article in terms of multiple intelligences, but I realize now that I’m really talking about different kinds of cultural capital.

In fact, now that I reread Rose’s essay through the lens of cultural wealth, I realize that he’s celebrating the kinds of capital in which his mother and other blue-collar workers are wealthy–among them linguistic capital (“Lingo conferred authority and signaled know-how”) (Rose, 2009), navigational capital (“Joe learned more and more about the auto industry, the technological and social dynamics of the shop floor [and] the machinery and production processes”) (Rose, 2009), social capital (“She became adept at reading social cues and managing feelings, both the customers’ and her own … The restaurant became the place where she studied human behavior, puzzling over the problems of her regular customers and refining her ability to deal with people in a difficult world”) (Rose, 2009). If I were in a position to nominate another kind of capital to add to Yosso’s six, I might add something like sequencing or task flow capital: Certainly there’s a particular valuable knowledge and skill at work when a one does what Rose’s mother did when “she’d sequence and group tasks: What could she do first, then second, then third as she circled through her station? What tasks could be clustered?” (Rose, 2009).

Yosso asks: “Are there forms of cultural capital that marginalized groups bring to the tale that traditional cultural capital theory does not recognize or value?” (2009, p. 77). Her answer is an unequivocal “yes.” To try to address that systematic undervaluing, she works from a framework of Critical Race Theory (CRT) , which “shifts the center of focus from notions of White, middle class culture to the cultures of Communities of Color” (Yosso, 2009, p. 77). According to Yosso, “community cultural wealth is an array of knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed and utilized by Communities of Color to survive and resist macro and micro-forms of oppression” (2009, p. 77).

For that reason, I think it’s risky–if not downright inappropriate–to simply borrow the idea of cultural wealth from its home within CRT and simply apply it to poor or working-class people of all colors. (Although I know this is not a universally accepted opinion, I believe that a poor or working class white person retains white privilege. I’m not saying a poor white person has an easy life, only that his or her road is smoothed in ways that a similarly impoverished non-white person’s is not. Let’s park that idea to the side for the time being!) I want to be explicit in saying that I don’t think I can appropriate the concept of community cultural wealth and divorce it from its roots in CRT without doing so carefully and with limitation.

That said, poor and working-class people, like people of color, suffer a reductive and dismissive fate in the hands of our popular culture and our educational institutions. As Rose (2009) says,  “Although writers and scholars have often looked at the working class, they have generally focused on the values such workers exhibit rather than on the thought their work requires — a subtle but pervasive omission. Our cultural iconography promotes the muscled arm, sleeve rolled tight against biceps, but no brightness behind the eye, no image that links hand and brain.” Students who come from poor or working-class families, I would argue, might also be victims of deficit thinking, which “takes the position that minority students and families are at fault for poor academic performance because: (a) students enter school without the normative cultural knowledge and skills; and (b) parents neither value nor support their child’s education” (Yosso, 2009, p. 75). The suspected deficits are all the more magnified if a student is a poor or working class student of color.

Just as the educational system fails to value the forms of cultural capital that students of color bring, the educational system largely “defin[es] intelligence solely on grades in school and numbers on IQ tests. And we employ social biases pertaining to a person’s place on the occupational ladder. The distinctions among blue, pink, and white collars carry with them attributions of character, motivation, and intelligence. Although we rightly acknowledge and amply compensate the play of mind in white-collar and professional work, we diminish or erase it in considerations about other endeavors — physical and service work particularly” (Rose, 2009).

All of this is to say that in analyzing these two essays–“Aria” and “Blue-Collar Brilliance”–with my sophomores, we are already in a space where we are discussing cultural capital, though we have never used that term before. When I head back to school in August, I will bring this term, and this concept, to my students as a framework for discussing these two articles. So that answers how I can talk about cultural capital with my students, but it doesn’t really resolve how I can better value and honor the cultural capital–and today I’m focusing on linguistic capital–that they bring with them to school.

I want my classroom to be a place where these students get practice as both analyzers of literature and creators of literature. This dual goal was really crystallized for me when a friend, a middle-school teacher at an independent school, commented that “[He and his middle school co-faculty] had taken for granted that students should study literature in order to write about it. Yet [his elementary level faculty counterparts] emphasized that their students study literature in order to actually write it” (M. Fishback, personal communication, April 9, 2014). Similarly, I don’t want to just talk about educational equity with my students, I want to work toward educational equity with them. I don’t want to pay lip service to linguistic capital, I want to create a space where they can cash in on their linguistic capital.

One activity that I created last semester comes to mind as an example of a way that I could do just that. Although I conceived of this activity and implemented it before I’d learned about cultural capital, I’ll share it here as an activity that operates on the premise of valuing the language my students come to me knowing, as opposed to the language I teach them.

Last spring, we were reading Things Fall Apart, a novel by the great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Our discussions tended to revolve around plot (what happened?), reader response (how do I feel about what happened?), and historical context (Colonization and the importance of the book as a reclamation of a narrative of Africa). What was lacking–perhaps because the language in the book is deceptively simple–was discussion of the book qua book and what my students as budding writers could learn from it.

I selected a passage from the novel that had a lot of italicized Ibo words and ask my students to walk me through Achebe’s way of using the word to cumulatively depict its meaning as opposed to defining it with an appositive. Sentence by sentence, we read the clues provided by the text: Ah, yes, the egwugwu are feared; we can tell because the women of the village run from them when they emerge. Oh, but the egwugwu are also objects of fascination and admiration; we can tell because the women run only far enough away to remain safe but near enough that they can still see. Oh, look, here we see there are nine egwugwu. In this manner, we packed on understanding of the term that the author did not ever explicitly define for us, and we came to a full understanding of the function, appearance, and reception of these nine awe-inspiring ancestral spirits depicted by male village elders in costume at important community gatherings. We also realized that as readers we were quite tolerant and patient about having an unknown term take shape for us. In fact, we found it rewarding as readers not to be simply told what the word meant. So if we were patient as readers, we could probably, as writers, count on that patience from our readers.

Next, I asked students to choose a word they knew but that they guessed their peers would not know. It could be a word from a non-English language they knew, a technical term or piece of jargon from an activity or industry they knew well, or a nonsense word. I gave them 20 minutes to write a passage in which the word gets used at least five times but was never explicitly defined. Just like Achebe did, I wanted them to depict meaning as opposed to dictating meaning. I framed it like a challenge to them: By the end we should know what the word means and as much as possible about it.

Most students did not choose nonsense words. Students chose words from Mexican slang, Hindi words, and family inside-joke words. As it turned out, my students knew all kinds of words their peers didn’t know, and they were eager to share their writing (more eager than usual, I’d say). In terms of the writing itself, the results were clever, imagery-rich, and syntactically freewheeling and unbounded. After sharing, we talked about how else a writer could use this technique–with technical language, fantasy writing, or in boundary-blurring fiction and nonfiction like Amy Tan’s, where she tries to capture the experience of being the American daughter of a Chinese mother. They also independently connected the technique to what they saw in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

Furthermore, and importantly, the exercise served to heighten the attention they paid to the literary elements of Achebe’s book, which I think is crucial given the fact that “some works are called literature whereas other works are termed folklore. … the literature of people of color is more likely to fall into the folklore category” (Dunbar, 2008, p.85). Keith Booker argues that “anthropological readings … have sometimes prevented African novels from receiving serious critical attention as literature rather than simply as documentation of cultural practices” (as cited in Snyder, 2008, p. 156). Snyder (2008) adds that “the naive ethnographic or anthropological reading treats a novel like [Things Fall Apart] as though it transparently represents the world of another culture, ignoring the aesthetic dimensions of the representation” (p. 156). Although I do think the book opens students’ eyes to practices, rites, and traditions of a culture most of them know nothing about, I do not want to contribute to that very Eurocentric and Colonialist approach to studying Achebe’s work as a cute little artifact as opposed to a powerfully important anti-Colonial event and an aesthetically and structurally intricate piece of literature.

In addition to those benefits, I see now, this activity also invited students to leverage their linguistic capital. In this activity, bilingual students had the edge. By asking them to choose a word they knew that their peers did not, I communicated to them that I was explicitly looking for words outside of our shared classroom experience. Furthermore, in the sharing portion of the activity, students asked one another about the words they’d share–what did it mean, exactly, how was it used, what were the shades of connotation, was it “standard usage” or slang? To stand in front of the room and be the teacher, even for a few minutes, transferred the power to these students and their outside-of-school language. (Notably, the students who used a family-created “inside joke” word were also leveraging their familial capital to fulfill their teacher’s expectations of a piece of school writing.)

This is only one small opportunity that I have found in my current pedagogical practice and curriculum to increasingly emphasize, foster, and value linguistic capital. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe that each facet of Yosso’s discussion of cultural wealth is worthy of reflection and examination in terms of my classroom. How am I welcoming, rewarding, and fostering the development of navigational capital? Resistance capital? There’s lots to think about here.

Finally, to talk about these “knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts” (Yosso, 2005, p. 69) in terms of capital or wealth invites me to consider how that metaphor can be extended: can a person become bankrupt of cultural capital? I doubt it. Can a person invest her cultural capital and enjoy compounding interest? Probably. Does a person pay any kind of cultural tax when he acquires cultural wealth? Perhaps. Can cultural wealth can be shared, spread around, redistributed? Yes. All of my students left linguistically richer after that activity, as did I.


Dunbar, C. (2008). Critical race theory and indigenous methodologies. In Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y., & Smith, L.T. (Eds.) Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies. 85-99.

Liou, D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latino/a students’ college-going information networks. Educational Studies, 45, 534-555

Rose, M. (2009). Blue collar brilliance. The American Scholar. Retrieved from

Snyder, C. (2008). The possibilities and pitfalls of ethnographic readings: Narrative complexity in Things Fall Apart. College Literature, 35(2),154-174

Yosso, T. (2005). Whose culture has capital?: A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race, Ethnicity and Education, (8)1, 69-91.

“Barbershop” as an Entity of Cultural Wealth

Short video clip here:

(Source: Story, T. (Director). (2002). Barbershop [Motion Picture].

This weekend, the film Barbershop, starring rapper Ice Cube, was on television. One of my favorite movies, the film chronicles the everyday life of “Calvin”, played by Ice Cube, who has inherited his father’s barbershop. Not just your ordinary barbershop, a long-standing, well-known, “pillar of the community” barbershop opened by this father during the civil rights era. The cast is comprised of old and young men, loan sharks, criminals, congressmen, and other colorful characters that frequent the barbershop on a daily basis. Calvin, who has other aspirations of his own, is reluctant to keep the shop open, but is quickly schooled by “Eddie”, the senior barber on the staff, who reminds him of the history, purpose and value of the ‘shop, saying, “This is the barbershop! The place where a black man means something! Cornerstone of the neighborhood! Our own country club! I mean, can’t you see that? “Through this exchange, and other insights Calvin begins to understand that closing the shop would mean the demise of a major cultural institution in his predominately Black community (Story, 2002).

I saw a direct connection from this film to Tara J. Yosso’s (2005) article, Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. While Barbershop is not about education inequity, the themes in the film have strong connection to cultural wealth in the Black community. Yosso (2005) uses Critical Race Theory in drawing attention to how minorities draw on the values, wisdom, and inspiration that are deeply rooted within their own cultural community. Yosso (2005) begins her sentiments by discussing the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1977), and his idea of cultural wealth to explain why minority students do not excel as frequently as White students. According to Bourdieu, students obtain capital through cultural means (i.e. language, education), economic means (i.e. finances, assets), or social means (i.e. “who you know”), and such capital is received from one’s formal education or through their family connection (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977). However, Yosso (2005) takes issue with Bourdieu’s position which openly presents the White, middle-class culture as the standard by which to judge others cultural wealth and value.

In my own life as a Black girl, I was responsible for getting my younger sister and myself to and from school every day. I was to cook breakfast, put our clothes on, pack our backpacks, lock the door, catch the city bus to the school, deliver my sister to her school, and walk to my own school. Our mother worked two jobs, so light grocery shopping, cooking dinner, answering the telephone, bathing my sister, homework, and bedtime were left up to me as well. Basically, I could manage our home! However, these skills were not as valuable as those obtained by my White classmates who had cars to take them to and from school, and whose parents could provide them with technology to help them excel in school, which was expected in the school system at that time. Today, my seven-year-old daughter is often assigned online homework. Again, this supports Yosso’s (2005) statement that White-middle class culture is considered the normative, excluding many marginalized who families do not own a home computer, nor do they have access to the internet, which is clearly the expectation in our school systems.

Yosso (2005) goes on to explain that Communities of Color foster cultural wealth on different principles than White communities do. Aspirational, familial, social, linguistic, navigational, and resistant capital are building blocks that create a foundation for rich, cultural capital in minority communities. Interestingly, Barbershop shows several of these types of capital within the movie. Many of the patrons talk about their dream jobs, goals, and plans for their futures while getting their hair cut (Aspirational). Calvin often leans on his wife for advice and moral support, while being reminded of the historical value of the barbershop by others (Familial).  Congressmen and lawyers who patron the barbershop, as well as citizens step up to help keep the ‘shop open, and the staff employed when the city attempts to tear down the business for upgrading by persuading officials to keep it open (Social). Finally, the patrons often come to barbershop not only to get their hair cut, but they also come for a weekly dose of strength and support  in dealing with racial and social injustice issues within their jobs, schools, and community (Navigational and Resistance).

So, while Barbershop’s script is not based on education, it does show the paradigm of cultural wealth in the Black community. Furthermore, educational entities should take note on how valuable such cultural institutions are and partner with them to help marginalized students succeed. Yosso (2005) draws upon Gloria Anzaldua’s (1990) sentiments of “de-academizing” educational theory putting it to practical use by connecting educational institutions to the community. Schools should partner with local churches, beauty shops, barbershops, athletic coaches, and recreational centers within marginalized communities to re-structure the mainstream standard of cultural wealth in an effort to see these institutions as valuable and practical for people of color; a concept I deeply agree with. After school tutoring programs could be held at neighborhood places of worship, or perhaps, “real world” learning credit can be earned for students who have part-time jobs, or who work in a family business. Recognition of cultural wealth is essential for change to happen.


Anzaldua, G. (1990). Haciendo Caras/making face, making soul: creative and critical perspectives by women of color. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Press.

Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society, and culture. London: Sage.

Story, T. (Director). (2002). Barbershop [Motion Picture].

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

Subtle Behaviors, Large Impact


Solorzaro, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73. Retrieved from

In my quest to begin compiling information on micro-inequities in higher education, I thought it would be great to find some historical literature on the topic. While there is a great deal of information pertaining to the corporate sector, there is menial information on micro-inequities as it relates to higher education and student retention.  Colleges and universities, nationwide, seemed to be continuously in the hunt to “fix” access and retention issues for minority students. From my personal and professional experience, the fix isn’t necessarily the access, but, rather the campus environment (campus climate) that makes retention such a challenging issue.

This article, by Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso uses critical race theory as a framework to discussing microaggressions and campus climate as it relates to African American college students.  The authors studied a group of thirty-four African American students at three Research 1, predominantly white institutions to discover the types of racial discrimination experienced, and how students responded to those experiences. None surprising, they conclude that the effects of covert, subtle microaggressions can be more harmful to the student than the blatant racism that is so often discussed.

This article was simply fantastic in that it clearly defined the difference between race, racism, and microaggressions. For the sake of the article, race is defended as the socially constructed “colorized” category created to show differences between ethnicities which is further used to show superiority of one race, namely White’s, over other races. The author’s use Audre Lorde’s definition of racism as the basis of the study: “the belief in the inherent superiority of one race of the all others and thereby the right to dominance” (p. 61). While this is a solid definition of racism, I prefer Manning Marable’s view on racism as a “system of ignorance, exploitation, and power to oppress African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Americans, American Indians and other people on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, and color”. Manning’s’ definition is appealing because it puts a multi-ethnic face on the issue of racism, which is usually centered on the relationship between Black and White (Solorzaro, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000).

As mentioned earlier, the study was conducted through a series of focus-groups with thirty-four African American college students at three predominately white institutions (two public institutions, and one private institution). I was most intrigued by the fact that the researchers selected participants based on pre-determined criteria, although that specific criteria was not made available. With permission, the conversations were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded for data analysis. Using a qualitative approach with both open and closed-ended questions allows for liberal answers from participants which shows the intersectionality of several themes about race, gender, class, age, and disability.

The article was organized so that the connections between campus climate, academic microaggressions, and social microaggressions impact both the academic and social counter spaces. The information on microaggressions in the classroom is really impactful, as it serves as a segway into why Black students choose certain majors, why they are noticeable absent from STEM degrees, and why Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) still serve a purpose in higher education. Participants in this study reported that they are often the only student of color within the classroom, which leads to feelings of being ignored, and isolated. What I found particularly interesting was the intersection between the faculty perception and the student’s perception of themselves. One student who scored well on a math examination, was called into the professor’s office to be questioned about how he achieved the score, and was asked to re-take the examination a second time.

Additionally, the authors made a solid connection to the effects of microaggressions to counter spaces, which can be likened to the idea of “high stakes information networks as a source of community cultural wealth” (p. 542). as stated by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper (2009) in their article on Community Cultural Wealth. Counter spaces include social networks, and organizations that minority students depend on for academic, moral, and spiritual support (i.e. Black student organizations, fraternities and sororities, church groups). This is important to my research because this shows not only the effects of the behavior, but, the alternative ways in which students cope with these small, yet, damaging form of racism.

One critique I have on this article, is that there could have been more statistical information provided in the method and findings section. The interviews were informative and gave life to the study, yet, it would have been better to understand the number of students who share the same feelings discovered in the interviews, and solid proof of their findings could be better understood through hard numbers. Also, the interview questions should have been in included in the article so that the nature and angle of the questions, and thus, the answers would be better analyzed by readers to see if there could be follow-up questions, or further areas of examination that were not included in the interview questions. The literature review was noticeably absent from the article, so I am not quite sure what other theories or previous studies have been conducted on the topic. However, the study’s conclusion was reasonable and coherent based on the examples and survey answers given by the participants.

While the study of microaggressions (microinequities) is not new, how we apply them to the educational environment greatly enhances the view from minority students and how they perform in in their respective programs. Personally, I have experienced microaggressions in my everyday life. They have been more apparent since I began working in higher education in a mid-level position, where there are few people of color in mid and senior-level positions. I see the relevance of this research as a practice-based issue in higher education as many practitioners are trained to apply student development theory to the educational process, but are not required to undergo any microaggression training to aid practitioners and faculty in identifying, and repudiate this form of bias.


Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Solorzaro, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73.

Community Cultural Wealth and High Stakes Information

“I do all kinds of work with people in the community. I work with the Private Industry Council and help people get jobs. I also work with the Historical Society. These jobs keep me busy and focused on school and help me meet lots of interesting people.”

-from “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” by Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper.

The word “community” means different things to different people. For me, my community is multi-faceted. My blood family, my in-laws, my spiritual influences, and now, my doctoral program cohort, are all part of my community through shared passion, interests, and goals. I see my community as more than people; they are a network of resources for me to draw from for knowledge and support. The article, Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research discussed the collaboration of students, teachers, researchers and other community entities engaging in action-research to identify and solve systemic issues in education (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013). Wegner (2000) discussed how organizations should design themselves to act as social learning entities to foster a “sense of belong” thus enriching the community of practice holistically. The authors of Keeping up the Good Fight used Flores v. Arizona as a basis for presenting a framework, and approach to having a purposeful discussion on English learning programs and the ways in which the community offers rationalities in support of such programs (Thomas, Aletheiani, Carlson, & Ewbank, 2014). Communities, whether social, familial, educational, and practice-based should be the network in which educational capital and success is cultivated.

In my effort to formulate research focused on micro-inequities and their impact on student retention in higher education environments, I found Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, and Cooper’s (2009) article on community cultural wealth to be a strong connection to not only my research interests, but to the theme of how community systems impact student learning and their aspirations to attend college.  In short, the article discusses the ways that college-orientated information is shared between teacher-educators and students who have college aspirations, primarily those who come from Latina/o communities. This is a different argument entirely from the large amount of research centered upon access to higher learning for minorities. Rather, this argument seeks to expose the ways in which minority students are not provided with necessary information, also known as “high stakes” information, to be successful in obtaining a college degree (p. 542). An example of this finding can be seen when a guidance counselor holds a belief that all students shouldn’t go to college because there would be no car mechanics, landscapers, or housekeepers in society, further suggesting that these positions are of value to those who’ve obtained a higher-economic status as validation for the argument (Liou, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Cooper, 2009).

The findings of the article discovered that the Latina/o students analyzed within the study found alternative ways to seek high stakes information to fulfill their collegial dreams through social, familial, navigational, and linguistic information networks (e.g. building relationships with fellow church members and pastoral staff for guidance and encouragement to keep aspirations intact). This is in comparison to White students who are given a wealth of information such as ACT/SAT supplies, information on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment courses, and pre-professional materials (health professions and legal professions) because there is a general belief that they should reasonably be able to attend, and succeed in college.

The negation in delivering high stakes information is, in fact, a micro-inequity because the teacher-educator makes an assumption that students of color, especially those with undereducated parents, shouldn’t be expected to attend college, and thus, denies the student high-stakes information to prepare and succeed in a collegial environment. This act is largely different than overt discrimination, because it is a very small message that is sent to the student throughout their schooling that suggests they have no place in higher education. Unfortunately, some students will succumb to this aggression choosing menial employment positions which perpetuates poverty within their community, while others will use this experience to fuel their aspirations leaning on those information networks mentioned previously.

Information networks are crucial parts of cultural capital, especially for minority students (Yosso, 2005). Where a White student will contact a tutor or guidance counselor for information or advice, minority students may choose to talk to a family member or church parishioner for support. Various experiences and identities contribute the overall cultural wealth and capital of the community. As teacher-educators, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to build and draw upon the identities of our own and those of our students to maintain cultural relevance within our practice.


Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 1-23.

Liou, D. D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the promise of community cultural wealth to sustaining latina/o students’ college going information networks. American Educational Studies Association, 534-555.

Thomas, M. H., Aletheiani, D. R., Carlson, D. L., & Ewbank, A. D. (2014). Keeping up the good fight: The said and unsaid in Flors v. Arizona. Policy Futures in Education, 12(2), 242-261.

Wegner, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization Articles, 7(2), 225-246.

Yosso, T. J. (n.d.). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006

And the Oscar goes to…

My school provides its students with iPads upon their first day of school. The computers are prevalent throughout all of their classes. Books are read using iBooks. Homework and tests are done online. We even utilize Blackboard, which is strangely ironic for me because as I take these electives this summer and as I take this course as well, you’d like I’d have a better grip on all the online content. That’s probably a whole different post, however.

At my school, one of the outcomes of our students having iPads is that teachers assign SO MANY movie projects. I’m guilt of this as well, but guilty is probably the wrong word because I do see value in the projects I assign. That having been said, other teachers find value in their projects as well, and by the time a young man graduates from Brophy, it’s almost like he should be up for an Oscar or something with all the movies he’s made.


Baustita et al (2013) wrote about the value in this as well in “Participatory action research and city youth: methodology insights from the council of youth research.” I found this article heartening because it validated much of what I believe in terms of the reflective projects or the PowerPoints presentations that are referenced. Bautista et al (2013) wrote, “Documentary filmmaking allows students to use multimodal and multivocal elements to an even greater degree than with the PowerPoint presentations. The video format provides a space to meld both visual and auditory stimuli while offering a rich platform for the incorporation of a stakeholder voice” (p. 17). I see value in teaching my students paragraph writing and sentence structure, but I love my reflective movie projects. Students cannot leave my class without reflecting upon their lives, their gifts, what makes them special, and how lucky they are. I do realize that this reflection makes my students consistently aware of self when sometimes they don’t want to be. My students do reflect on race in my classroom, but it’s never my attempt to force my students into something they are not comfortable with. Dunbar (2008) wrote about this in “Critical race theory and indigenous methodologies.” He wrote, “Issues of race have been the backdrop in all my lived experiences. That includes occasions when I was acutely aware that my race was an issue and instances when it was no so obvious” (p. 89). The numbers are still most at Brophy in terms of the amount of White students, but Hispanic student enrollment climbs every year. My White students, I’m guessing, do not live their lives considering their whiteness on a daily basis. From Dunbar, I see that my Hispanic students (and my students of other races and ethnicities) probably do. I think that this is both a shame and a privilege for these students – most challenges in life can be turned positive if you try. Yes, my Hispanic students deal with issues of race as a “backdrop” to their lives each and every day at predominately White Brophy, but I think that can be looked upon as a really good thing. I hope that I can foster a pride in this fact in my classroom, especially with some of my reflective projects. I also hope that the tone I set in my classroom allows my Hispanic students to feel valued and that they feel I value their race and their culture. It’s never been my desire to put students on the spot with regards to race, but this brings me back to Howard. I do not want to bury race in my classroom culture. I’d like to confront it and ultimately to celebrate it.


Bautista, Mark A., Bertrand, Melanie, Morrell, Ernest, Scorza, D’Artagnan, Matthews, Corey.

(2013). Participatory action research and city youth: methodology insights from the council of youth research. Teachers College Record, 115, 1-23.

Dunbar, Christopher Jr. (2008). Critical race theory and indigenous methodologies. Handbook    of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Los Angeles: Sage, 85-99.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Self Reflection

According to Tyrone Howard (2003), “the formation of a culturally relevant teaching paradigm becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, without critical reflection. The nature of critical reflection can be an arduous task because it forces the individual to ask challenging questions that pertain to one’s construction of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds” (p. 198). As an academic advisor, I am often the very first person a new student meets upon being accepted to the university. Therefore, I am constantly mindful of how my past experiences, expectations, and biases can be passed on to my students which can result in a positive or negative first impression of the university on the part of my students.

This article was particularly poignant in that it identified a problem of practice and posed a relevant solution that can implemented in a variety of educational settings. The issue is that teacher-educators lack self-reflection in determining how their biases affect their pedagogy. The article posed the question, “what does race have to do with teaching?” Teachers generally build curriculum based on theory and desired learning objectives rarely considering the cultural and ethnic background of their students. While viewing students as learners, regardless of their cultural experience, is one way of leveling the playing field between students, it omits the tendency of students to relate principles to their own experiences. To remedy this problem of practice, Howard (2003) presents the notion of cultural reflection in which teacher-educators become culturally relevant by reflecting on their own experiences and biases in order to see how their position in the learning process affects the student in a positive or negative way.

Howard (2003) proposes a solution to the question at hand by suggesting that teacher-educators engage in a self-reflective process to examine their own biases and how their pedagogy and classroom environment are impacted by those biases. I agree with Howard’s point that the process of cultural reflection poses a challenge for teacher-educators because it forces them to question their own construction and ideas of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Facing the arduous and possibly painful process of reflection in which the educator must identify the complexities of teaching students who are from backgrounds different from their own. Howard (2003) suggests the process is often painful because it forces the educator to recognize their views on cultural differences were instilled by family members who may have impressed their prejudiced views on the educator, which innately impacts the learning process in the classroom, especially for ethnic minorities.

Cultural reflection also requires that teacher-educators take personal accountancy for their own pedagogy and teaching methods (Ladson-Billings, 1995). While the district or university may mandate certain curricula and learning objectives in the classroom, educators must take personal action to ensure the academic and social competence of their students remains intact. This notion can prove to be challenging as it calls educators to find a balance between the student’s home life and school environment, however, doing so will produce students who are successful academically, are culturally competent, and socially equitable (Ladson-Billings, 1995).

As an African American, I greatly understand the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy in the learning environment. When I was in first grade my teacher sent me home with a homework assignment. The following week we would be studying the 1950’s in class. The teacher asked us and our parents to conduct some research about the decade, and come dressed in the fashion of the day to share with our classmates. The purpose of the exercise was for us to reflect on the “good times” of the decade and pay homage to the happenings of the era. Needless to say, my mother, who was a child during the ‘50s was extremely angry with this assignment, for the era was anything but “good times” for people of color. Sadly, the assignment objectives were completely lost on me as the cultural difference between my teacher and myself (family) were at odds. While the intent was not necessarily one of malice, the learning objectives were not socially, nor culturally relevant to me. Howard’s notion of cultural reflection could have been applied to this example resulting in greater impact for the classroom environment.


Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagody: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.