In the UK, the educational failure of Black and Ethnic Minority young people, is largely blamed not on systemic racism, but on a lack of ‘role models’. Multiple initiatives exist to diversify the teaching workforce justified on the basis of the need to provide more role models to inspire young people. These initiatives contain naïve assumptions of culture matching, and gender matching. They simplify the relationships between teachers and students to ones of mimicry and ignore the experiences of the teachers involved. A new study by Patricia Alexander (pictured), focuses on teachers’ experiences. In this post I summarise what she found when she spoke to Black and Ethnic Minority teachers who identify as role models.
Posts Tagged ‘race’
I began my academic journey in 2000 as an undergraduate student at an elite Russell Group university. I was lucky enough to have a great journey through my undergraduate years. However once I decided to carry on and complete a postgraduate degree I began to feel ‘out of place’. As I began my PhD I felt further and further isolated as the only ethnic minority student doing a PhD in the Geography department, and certainly the only person in my department at the time exploring the issues of race and ethnicity. In this post I discuss my own position within the wider context of race in academia.
When I turned on Twitter last Friday, my feed was filled with tweets reacting, usually with anger, often with humour, to the news that Rachel Dolezal had been exposed by her parents as a white woman passing as African American.
As details emerged, that she had attended Howard University, one of the US’s historically-black colleges, that she was president of her local chapter of the NAACP, that she was listed as a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, the Twittersphere exploded. As I scrolled through these, I noticed how many tweets mentioned Beyoncé. In this post I reflect on what this tells us about race, gender and celebrity.
When is it okay to be racist?
Who is it okay to be racist towards?
I am a confident Black woman, 22 years old. I have blonde braids in my hair. I have an eye for men and I’m proud of my beautiful physique… I’m sitting on a tube. All of a sudden people start getting up across the carriage and before I know it the majority of passengers get up and start singing racist chants. A parent in front of me smears his white baby’s face with chocolate and puts a sponge on his head to imitate my blonde Afro (but this is child abuse). I do nothing. I try to stay calm and continue playing on my iphone, trying hard to look down at my mobile screen, and concentrate on the game I was playing. Sickening abuse is hurled, passengers start singing ‘monkey’ chants and more than a 100 inflatable bananas are waved around by passengers in front of me. The consequence? I am fined £8,200 by TFL staff for reacting by using a ‘vulgar hand gesture’ as I get off the tube.
Can you imagine that? In this blog post, Aisha draws on data collected from the case studies to ask us to consider what counts as racism….
We’ve been struck by news this week that Pharrell Williams – successful music producer, singer and collaborator – has asserted his belief in ‘the New Black’. In an interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Williams stated that he represented a different kind of black identity:
The “new black” doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “new black” dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.
In this post Kim troubles Pharrell’s move, arguing that it denies the ongoing realities of racism.
This is the third of a series of posts exploring what the young people in our group interviews had to say about key global celebrities. Here Heather looks at the talk about singer and actor Beyoncé. Elsewhere on the website you can read what our participants had to say about Bill Gates and about Will Smith. If you’re interested in how we analysed our data to arrive at this account then follow this link, here I focus on how and why it appeared to be compulsory to like, even love, Beyoncé.
Well, 2014 has well and truly started and there’s no let up for the team with lots of analysis being undertaken in the coming months. Last year we finished all our school data collection and began coding and analysing the data from the group interviews, and we’ve now moved on to looking at the individual interviews with our participants which explore in greater depth their own aspirations and imagined futures. These interviews were fascinating to conduct and now to return to. We’ll be posting blogs about those individual interviews soon, but we thought we’d start the year by reflecting further on some of the initial analysis we’ve conducted on our group interview data. In these group interviews, we focused on exploring young people’s views on celebrity culture: the celebrities they liked, disliked, and how these evaluations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ celebrities were made. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, while many of our 12 case study celebrities generated relatively mixed views among our participants, one celebrity in particular was universally liked, if not loved: Will Smith, variously located as an inspirational role model, a dream father, an entertaining friend and ‘cool guy’. In this blog post Kim explores some of the patterns and themes in young people’s talk about Will in those group interviews and begins to question what these might reveal about young people’s collective sense making in relation to aspiration, success and race.
After an intense first year on the project, data collection is now complete. As Heather has discussed elsewhere, we’ve started the initial analysis on some of the group interview data by developing a set of thematic codes to cut into the data which spoke to the research aims and questions, as well as unexpected themes and concerns that came up in young people’s talk about celebrity culture (for example: ‘routes to fame’ and different ‘genres’ of celebrity). Having coded the transcripts, we’ve started to take on individual sub-codes and develop summaries of their content, making initial observations about the patterns and themes within these. While this only represents the beginning of our analysis, this process of immersing ourselves in the data has allowed us to get a handle on some interesting patterns in how celebrity culture relates to young people’s classed and gendered aspirations. In this blog post, Kim discusses some of the themes and patterns that emerged from one of her coding summaries: young people’s talk about celebrities associated with ‘technology and enterprise’.
In another post, I’ve described how we’re analysing the group interview data by using broad codes such as social class and origin stories and then looking for patterns within these. This is producing loads of fascinating lines of analysis. In this post I look at just one of these that’s come out of my work on the code for gender. Alongside looking at performances of masculinities and femininities in celebrity talk and tracking cross-gender identification, this code contains data on how women and girls are constructed by young people in their engagements with celebrity culture. Depressingly, the dominant associations are with disgust – at feminine bodies and feminine tastes. We have written about this disgust in our discussion of Tampon Girl and the Kardashians, here I focus on a more positive pattern of talk around ‘independent’ women.
The team have now started collecting data on our 12 case study celebrities. Over the next six months we will be collecting data from an array of sources – including Twitter, Facebook and national newspapers – as we track the media representations of our case study celebs and discourses of aspiration within these. We will also be analysing other supplementary texts that appear to be central to their celebrity image and ‘back story’ including their autobiographies, documentaries, and their TV shows, films or music. As Heather recently reported, these additional sources are wide and varied – culminating in a rather bizarre but completely legitimate Amazon order from Brunel University. In this post, Kim makes some emerging observations from the case study data collection, and remakes on the inescapability of one celebrity in particular.