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The Skin They’re In 1

The Skin They’re In

An In-Depth Analysis of African American


Students from Irving Independent School District

By

Dr. Mack T. Hines III


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“Many of Irving ISD’s African American Students


can eloquently explain and exude pride in
Black America’s history of overcoming struggles for
racial equality. But they have yet to experience the
evidence needed to come over to believing that they
are racially equal human beings.”
Dr. Mack T. Hines III
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Table of Contents
Section Topic Page
i. Executive Summary 4

ii. Introduction 10
I. The Skin They’re In-Student Findings 12
The Skin They’re In
II. Disciplined and Undisciplined African American Students 53
III. The Skin They’re In-Teacher Findings 64
IV. Implications 79
V. Summary/Conclusions 89
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Executive Summary

The purpose of report is to provide findings from my investigation of African

American students’ schooling experiences in Irving Independent School District.

Specifically, I sought to investigate African American students’ perceptions, beliefs, and

attitudes about their enrollment in secondary schools in Irving Independent School

District. I also investigated Irving Independent School District’s teachers’ perceptions,

views, attitudes, and concerns about African American students.

I conducted 44 focused group sessions with 143 African American students from

4 high schools and 7 middle schools. The students were group in accordance to African

American students who did not have behavioral issues in school and African American

students who had behavioral issues in schools. The outcomes from the discussions were

as follows:

1. African American students took pride in their race and possessed a clear understanding
being Black in America. However, they believed that Caucasian American people enjoy
privileges that are not available to African American people. In effect, they believe that
the Caucasian American people are the standards of economical, political, and industrial
advantages in society, particularly Irving, Texas.

2. African American students indicated that they experience the following forms of
racism and discrimination in schools:

A. Student to Student Racism-Some students spoke about racial tension with


Caucasian American students and Hispanic American students. The
students and students from other ethnicities often exchanged racial jokes
with each other. However, at a certain point, African American students
and the other students began to use racial jokes to demean each other.

B. Teacher to Student Racism-Many of the students perceived that teachers


treated African American students different in comparison to
Caucasian American students, as well as Hispanic American students (on
a few campuses). Majority of the racial tensions revolved around
African American students and Caucasian American teachers.
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3. Some African American students possessed a clear understanding of the meaning


of racism. Some African American students did not have a true understanding of
the meaning of racism.

4. Perceptions of racism appeared to have a more negative impact on African


American students with behavior problems than African American students who
did not have behavior problems in school.

As a follow up to the student activities, I also interacted with 198 teachers from 4

high schools and 7 middle schools. First, I used a survey to collect information about the

teachers. Through the use of the survey, I identified factors that contributed the most to

their identities as individuals and teachers. I found that occupation and education were

the strongest influences on the teachers’ identities as people. Social class and race held

the least influence on the teachers’ identities as people. The overall rankings for teacher

identity development showed that occupation and education held the strongest influences

on the teachers’ identities as teachers. Social class and marital status held the least

influence on the teachers’ identities as teachers.

I also found that for Caucasian American teachers, occupation and education was

the strongest influences on their identities as people. Race was the least significant

influence on their identities as people. For African American teachers, education and race

were the strongest influences on their identities as people. Parenthood was the least

significant influence on their identities as people. As people, Hispanic American teachers

appeared to be mostly influenced by education and occupation. The least significant

influence for these teachers was gender.

Occupation and education appeared to be the strongest influences on how all of

the teachers viewed their identities as teachers. Whereas parenthood was the least

significant influence on Hispanic American teachers’ teacher identities, marital status


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appeared to bear little to no importance on the teacher identities of Caucasian American

teachers and African American teachers.

In addition to establishing correlations between teaching and identity, I analyzed

the racial differences for the teachers’ beliefs regarding other teachers’ high expectations

for African American students. My findings showed that Caucasian American teachers

and Hispanic American teachers believed that other teachers held high expectations for

African American students. African American teachers, however, only somewhat

believed that other teachers held high expectations for African American students. Other

comparable findings were that a statistically significant difference existed between the

teachers’ recognition of the racial differences among students. African American teachers

were slightly more likely than Caucasian American teachers and Hispanic American

teachers to see the racial differences among students.

In addition to surveying teachers, I also engaged them in focus group discussions

about African American students. Ms. Dianna Hopper would facilitate the discussions by

informing teachers of my purpose for working with Irving Independent School District. I

would then ask teachers to identity any specific academic characteristics and behavioral

characteristics about their African American student population.

On many campuses, some of teacher responses could be characterized as:

1. Beliefs in that African American students were bright individuals with the potential to
become successful individuals.

2. Concerns about African American students’ lack of commitment or focus on


academics. According to the teachers, some African American students either failed or
refused to apply themselves in the classroom.

3. Anxiety regarding African American students’ tendency to show defiant and


disrespectful behavior towards the authority of adults, particularly Caucasian American
teachers.
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Yet many of the responses to my inquiry varied by campus, group dynamics and

race. On some campuses, either all or majority of the teachers gave open and honest

accounts of their perceptions about African American students. On other campuses, either

all or majority of the teachers defined African American students as the same as other

students.

Within some campuses, some focused group participants were more revealing

about their perceptions of African American students than participants from other

focused groups. In most instances, race influenced the responses from focused group

participants’ perceptions of African American students. Specifically, with the exception

of one African American teacher, the African American teachers were able to discuss

specific academic characteristics and behavioral characteristics of African American

students. Along those same lines, Hispanic teachers, for the most part, could describe

their perceptions of the unique academic and behavioral characteristics of African

American students.

Considerable variation existed within Caucasian American teachers. Whereas

some Caucasian American teachers were willing to discuss the characteristics of African

American students, some of these teachers were resistant to partaking in this activity.

However, during some parts of the focused group discussions, I did talk with

these and African American teachers and Hispanic American teachers about accusations

of racism. Many of the Caucasian American teachers wanted to gain a better

understanding of African American students’ rationale for making and how to address

accusations of being racist teachers.


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In response, I would suggest that the teachers ask African American students to

define racism. The teachers should then engage the students in discussing their

definitions of racism and the extent to which the teachers’ actions were indicative of

racism. They should then insist that these students refrain from accusing them of being

racist. Although the Caucasian American teachers, as well as other teachers from the

focused group, were responsive to these suggestions, I am unsure of the extent to which

they translated into strategies for their classrooms.

Notwithstanding, the findings from this investigation implicate the need for

a racially relevant approach to addressing the needs of African American students.

The most important stakeholders in this process are parents, teachers, and principals.

I am proposing that African American parents apply a race-conscious approach towards

raising African American children. That is, parents must teach their children how to use

the positive and negative racial implications of being an African American to develop a

strong academic identity.

Teachers must play a critical role in the development of a strong African

American student academic identity by self assessing their racial worldview. Specifically,

teachers must examine how race has impacted their lives and views of people from other

cultures and ethnicities. They must investigate how race influenced them during their

formative years, preservice years, and inservice years.

Principals must set the agenda for empowering African American students. They

can best accomplish this goal by facilitating African American students’ full inclusion

into the school community. To accomplish this goal, principals must engage in activities

that include but are not limited to:


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• Guiding teachers’ commitment to forming meaningful academic and nonacademic


relationships with African American students.

• Soliciting parental support in strongly encouraging African American students to


enroll in advanced classes.

• Empowering guidance counselors to facilitate African American students’ ability


to affirm their racial identity in ethnically relevant school “spaces.”

• Forming ad hoc committees to investigate the connection between Black racial


identity development and achievement among African American students,
especially students with behavioral issues in school.

• Engaging all school personnel in race-based discussions on how to prevent the


structural and classroom perpetuation of racial inequities in schools.

• Translating school wide race-based discussions into new and improved academic
and social practices for creating equitable learning experiences for African
American students.

These strategies will arouse and sustain strong relationships between African

American homes and schools. The strategies would also create a home-to-school and

school-to-home support system that acknowledges, embraces, and addresses the race,

culture, and heritage of African American students in Irving Independent School District.
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ii. Introduction

One of the most pressing issues in schools today is African American students.

Much research has focused on the educational trajectory of African American students.

The findings continue to show that African American students lag behind Caucasian

American students, Hispanic American students, and Asian Americans in academic

achievement. In addition, the findings continually reveal that African American students

are twice as likely to be suspended and expelled from school as students from other

ethnic groups.

These findings implicate the importance of investigating possible causes of

African American students’ unsuccessful school experiences. Thus, the purpose

of this report is to present the findings from my investigation into African American

students’ schooling experiences in Irving Independent School District. Hence the

Title “The Skin They’re In: An In-Depth Analysis of African American Students

from Irving Independent School District.”

Using student voice as a guide, I provide insightful and realistic findings about

African American students’ perceptions regarding their feelings about being a Black

student in Irving Independent School District’s secondary schools. This report is divided

into four sections. The first section-“The Skin They’re In: African American Student

Findings”-denotes African American students’ perceptions of being apart of the African

American race and how these feelings are manifested in their daily school experiences.

The second section- “The Skin They’re In: Comparing Disciplined & Undisciplined

African American Students”-provides findings regarding the differences in perceptions of

race, racism, and school between African American students without behavioral problems
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and African American students with behavioral problems in Irving Independent School

District schools. The third section-“The Skin They’re In: Teacher Findings”-provides

insight about teachers’ perceptions of African American students. In this section, I

provide quantitative and qualitative data that illuminate the determinants of teachers’

approaches to working with African American students.

The final sections provide implications for how parents, teachers, and principals

can enhance their commitment to empowering African American students in Irving

Independent School District. Overall, the findings from this report should serve as a

foundation for understanding and teaching to the academic and behavioral needs of

African American students in Irving Independent School District.


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I. The Skin They’re In


Student Findings

I conducted 44 focused group sessions with 143 African American students from 4

high schools and 7 middle schools. The students were divided into two groups: African

American students who did not have behavioral issues in school and African American

students who had behavioral issues in schools.

I began each session by introducing myself to the students. I would then explain

my purpose for meeting with them. I would also provide the students with the option to

remain in the session or leave the session if they did not want to participate in the

activities. After exchanging pleasantries with the students, I would then ask the students

to give their names and share at least one positive thing about themselves.

Some students struggled with describing a positive characteristic about

themselves. In these instances, I would describe a positive characteristic about these

students. The students were then able to use my feedback to describe other positive

characteristics about themselves.

Afterwards, I would engage the students in a series of activities and discussions

about race. The purpose of these activities was to gain insight on the students’ internal

purview and external purview about race. For the purposes of this report, I define internal

purview as personal feelings and perceptions about being apart of the African American

race. External purview is the perceptions of and feelings about other people’s views of

the African American race. What follows is a description of findings from the activities

and discussions related to these purviews.


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Internal purview

I engaged the African American students in a few activities to determine their

perceptions of being Black. I provided the students with two writing prompts. The first

writing prompt was entitled “Being Black.” The second prompt was entitled “Black is

Beautiful.” Both prompts were used to determine how African American students

constructed their meanings of being apart of the African American race.

The students wrote a variety of responses to the “Being Black” prompt. Some

responses highlighted feelings of uniqueness and pride about being Black. For example,

an African American male wrote, “Being Black is having an amazing culture and

background that only Black people can have. We do things that no one else does. It’s just

the way we take care and support each other.” Another African American male indicated

that, “Being Black is about being strong-minded, open hearted, and tough. Ready for the

fight-not afraid to take that chance.”

Other African American students equated their blackness to overcoming struggle

that is resultant of being apart of the Black race. Their responses further showed that

African Americans, as a whole, have and will continue to overcome this struggle because

of their race. For example, an African American female defined the notion of “Being

Black” as a “Strong Struggle.” The student wrote, “I would say a ‘Strong Struggle’. Your

family and everybody else fights together no matter what, even when the world is turned

against you. Don’t give up, because I believe things get better at the end.”
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Other representative writings for this theme are as follows:

“Being Black is a rollercoaster-we have our ups and downs but either way we know how

to make it. We know how to be strong.”

“My mother says that no one wants a dummy and even though racist and prejudice isn’t

gone so much, we as a people will always have it harder than the little snakes. For me, I

like to set standards that can’t be broken and I work to achieve my success.”

Along those same lines, one African American student described the “struggle” in

the context of race. Specifically, this student purported that the “struggle” represented the

differences between being Black and White in America. She wrote, “As a society, being

Black is hard in this world. When you stack your life up to a White person, we start out

on a lower level in society and we work twice as hard to get on top next to a White man.

This world we live in isn’t made to fit a Black man, but being Black allows me to work

harder than any other person.”

A few African American students denoted that “Being Black” warranted the need

to be a true representation of the African American race. For example, consider the

following African American female’s reflection: “I’ve seen the differences in other races

when it comes to this community (Irving). It is my job and duty to be the best that I can

be and add a positive representation of my race. My genes naturally add to my talent and

abilities.” Another student (African American male) indicated that “Being Black is being

apart of a group who truly stands out on their own in respect, pride, and self esteem.”

With regards to “Black is Beautiful”, students provided diverse responses to

describing the aesthetic aspects of being an African American person. For these students,
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the “Beauty of Blackness” was centered on three themes: Strength, Pride, and

Authenticity. Better stated, being Black means that you have the strength to withstand

societal pressures that are placed on African American people. You also maintain a

strong sense of pride in being apart of the African American race. Finally, you remain

true to ensuring that your behavior and actions are a true indication of the African

American race. Listed below are sample student descriptions for each of these themes.

Strength

“Because we are strong individuals that has overcome so many things. I believe we are

stronger than any other race.”

“The reason Black is beautiful is because we’re smart, we’re strong and we’re work for

things and plus we came in all different types of skin.”

“Because it’s a strong race and not easily broken by people that try to bring us down.”

Pride

“It means don’t know other color has any stronger meaning that the word Black.”

“Is someone who is not ashamed of his /her race and has a big heart for other people

and especially God.”

“I think it means that you should be proud to be Black.”

Authenticity

“It means as a Black person, to keep being Black, not ghetto Black.”

“It means that you’re black (of course) and that you don’t really care about what people

think of you.”
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During my discussion of these statements with some of the students, other

students made statements to further emphasize the beautiful aspects of being an African

American person. For example, at the conclusion of this activity with a group of African

American students at one of the middle schools, An African American girl said, “For me,

Black is beautiful because physically we have the dark brown, light brown, the rich

chocolate brown that looks amazing, and our features are so beautiful.” (Other students in

the group begin to beam with pride). “Mentally we are beautiful because we have to work

hard and by working hard we accomplish many things. We never give up and we are

strong hearted and that makes Black beautiful. Black is strong, and powerful. That is

what make it so gorgeous is that fact that Black people have become strong.”

Another African American student (male) then emphatically added, “I think the fact that

we came from a history of cleaning and following behind other people’s footsteps and

now today have shown others that our color is not going to stop us from achieving what

we want. We have went from following others to making a stand and leading others.”

To further extend my understanding of African American students’ views of

Blackness, I conducted an activity entitled “A Person vs. a Black Person” with students

on several campuses. The purpose of this activity was to determine if and when the

students wanted to be identified as either being a Black person or just a person. Some

students indicated that they wanted to be recognized for being an African American

person. Other students discussed the importance of being seen as just a person.
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For example, an African American female student began the conversation by

stating, “I want to be seen as an African American, because some people have the

thought that Black people can’t be successful and smart and I want to change that.”

Another African American female student expressed a different view. She said,

“I’m proud of my race, but I’m not defined by my color.” Similarly, an African American

male stated, “I want to be looked at as a whole not just classified in one race but a

whole.” On some campuses, I found that African American students wanted to be

recognized as both African Americans and just people. For these students, the recognition

of either category was contingent upon the situation.

When hearing the latter response, I asked a few additional questions of the

students. I asked the students if and when they desired to be recognized as just a person at

school. The students’ responses reflected two situations. Some students wanted to be

recognized only as a person when their teachers were conducting whole class activities

with students. As an example, an African American female student said, “When teachers

make decisions for students as a whole, I want to be apart of a whole, not a subsection

with my friends.”

Numerous African American students repeatedly indicated that they wanted to be

seen as just a person when they were in their Honors or AP classes. The reason is that

these students were usually either one or apart of a few African American students in

these classes. For instance, An African American female said, “It is so important to be

recognized as just a person when I am the only African American in Honors because I’m

usually the only African American in the situation.” Another African American female

student expressed similar feelings. This student also emphasized the importance of being
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a person in these classes when class discussions focused on African American people.

She said, “When we have discussions about Black people or bad things about my

people.”

After holding this discussion with the students, I asked the students to explain

when they would like to be recognized as an African American person at school. The

students indicated that they would like to be recognized in accordance to their race when

they accomplished school related goals or the school is having a cultural celebration for

students.

As an example, An African American male student indicated “For me, it’s mostly

when an African American receives recognition for the positive things that occur at

school.” During a group discussion at the middle school, another African American male

student related, “When I am taking a test, I want to go in the African American

percentage to give credit to my heritage.” With regard to culture, an African American

female commented, “When we inquire about heritage and backgrounds during the

celebration of events, I want my Blackness to be seen.”

To provide a comparative analysis to the first discussion, I would often ask the

students to explain when they were actually recognized as a person and African

American person at school. All of the students indicated that they were often recognized

as just a person with their friends. But the students believed that they were often

categorized by race in the classroom.

Representative comments regarding this belief are as follows:

“I find that I’m mostly seen as a Black student in my AP classes. I’ve learned to tolerate

it, but it bothers me.”


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“During my AP classes, and it’s really awkward.”

“When I am the only African American in my classes. This makes me feel awkward and

lonely, also picked on by the teacher-not intentionally though.”

To bring closure to the student discussions about being apart of the African

American race, I would ask some of the students to write about the most beautiful Black

person in this world. I would engage other groups of students in a discussion on how they

would enhance the lives of African American people. These topics were used to

determine the students’ views of other people from the African American race.

On all of the campuses, I found that the students’ responses regarding beautiful

African American people were categorized by gender. That is, most of the African

American boys identified African American celebrities as being the most African

American people in the world. The African American girls, on the other hand, mostly

believe that their mothers or another family member was the most beautiful person in the

world.

With the exception of two African American males, African American boys

mostly cited African American female entertainers-specifically, Beyonce Knowles-as the

most beautiful person in the world. The boys chose this entertainer because of her

physical attributes.

An African American male wrote, “The most beautiful Black person in the world

is Beyonce. The reason is that she is superfine.” Another African American male student

explained, “Beyonce is just so fine, she is the best looking African American in the

world.” One African American male described the internal and external attributes of

Beyonce’s beauty. This student wrote, “The most beautiful Black person in the world
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is…Beyonce. She is more than her racy, risqué costumes. Beyonce is physically

attractive, yet her philanthropy makes her beautiful. She is so humble when speaking and

that is the ways things should be.”

Along those same lines, two African American males indicated that their mothers

were the most Black people in the world. They also chose their mothers because of

characteristics instead of physical beauty. One male wrote, “My mom is the most

beautiful Black person in the world, because she just makes things work out for my

family and me.” The other male explained, “My mom is the best and most beautiful

Black person in the world, because she just always knows what to do and when to do it.”

The African American females’ decision to equate their mothers to beauty was

mostly indicative of internal attributes and characteristics. Listed below are examples of

these explanations:

“The most beautiful Black person in the world is my mother because she has taught me

everything she knows and she has mad the right choices in life that sets me up to make

the right choices in life.”

“The most beautiful person in the world is my mom because she always does what needs

to get done, no matter what happens.”

“The most beautiful Black person in the world is my mother. She encourages me in a lot

of ways and is a great influence in my life.”

Like the African American males, one African American girl indicated that an

African American female celebrity was the most beautiful African American person in

the world. Unlike her male counterparts, this student cited the characteristics and

accomplishments as the reasons for this celebrity’s beauty.


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The student wrote, “The most beautiful Black person in the world is Oprah

Winfrey, because she is the true image of African Americans fitting into the “all White”

community. I mean she’s one of the richest women in the world. She has her own

network and TV. show. A lot of White people don’t have that. They have the TV shows,

but not the networks.” This comment strongly suggests that this student defines a

beautiful African American person as an individual who simultaneously assimilates to

and transcends the expectations of White standards, norms, and achievements.

With regards to the discussion on enhancing African American life, the students

indicated that they would use a variety of approaches to towards helping other African

American people. All of the approaches focused on societal uplift. The follow section

provides the forms of uplift that would be used to other African American people to

achieve fulfilled lives.

Academic Uplift
“If I could do one thing to help African Americans I would give them an environment at
school and at home to where they can actually relate.”
“Help them get good educations for future careers.”
“I would create more opportunities for African Americans to go to college.”
“I would give them more help in school.”
“Help them to graduate from high school and college.”*
Social Uplift
“I would stop racism, because its’ still going on” *
“Give those who truly need another chance another chance.”
“Create better living conditions for African Americans.”
“Stop them from killing and robbing people.”
“Stop them from resorting to becoming gang members because they don’t have family.”
“I would help African Americans by talking to them about confidence, to encourage them
to do the right thing.”
“Help African Americans get out of the hood.”
“Decrease teen pregnancy, aids, and drug use.”
Economic Uplift
“Give more African Americans jobs.”*
“Open more Black colleges for African Americans.”
“Don’t make college tuition so expensive, because people can’t pay it all.”
“Stop them having to go to drastic measures to feed their families.”
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Religious Uplift
“Speak more about God.”
“Let it be known that faith holds the future.”

*Mentioned by Students From Every Campus

External Purview

As mentioned the external purview described African American students’ views

about other people’s perceptions of the African American race. I would usually

facilitate these discussions with conversations about racism. The first part of the

discussion focused on how students defined racism. The second part of the discussion

focused on if students experienced racism.

Prior to discussing racism, I would often ask students to write a definition of

racism. I often found that students gave race-conscious descriptions and race-centric

of racism descriptions. Race-conscious descriptions denoted that racism is when a

people experience some form of discrimination because of their race. Race-centric

descriptions were more focused on discrimination against African American people.

These descriptions focused solely on highlighting African American people as being

the victims of discrimination. The chart below provides a description of these

categories of racism.
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Descriptions of Racism

School Race-Conscious Race Centric

“I define racism as when some is constant is “When White people don’t treat us the same
constantly making harsh comments, jokers, or way as they treat themselves. Like they have
Middle simply being rude to a certain race.” power over us, or like we’re their dogs and they
train to train us.”
School
“Racism is when people from a different race “Racism is when White people or Mexican say
Comments often hate or despise a certain race and that words or do some actions that are done for hate
causes problems to break out and tension to and disliking Black people.”
form.”

“Being treated poorly or put down because of “When Blacks are discriminated against for no
your race. Harsher punishment or stricter reason.”
guidelines for different races.”
“Racism is when somebody has a prejudice
“Racism to me is White people against Black.”
nature towards a person due to their race. It can
High
also be towards and object or idea.”
“Racism to me is not being able to let a person
School have a full chance at something just because of
“When you are unfairly judged or mistreated
the color of their skin. For shutting someone out
because of the color of your skin, or who your
Comments just cause their ‘black’.”
ancestors were”
“When people don’t like Black people because
“Racism is discrimination towards a group based
of the color of their skin.”
on personal bias or hatred towards their race.
A separation of people or cultures based on the
bias of others not the same as their own.”
The Skin They’re In 24

Many of the African American students reported that they experienced some of

racism in their lives. On African female student indicated that when she a little girl, she

accompanied her paternal grandmother to the store to buy some sugar. According to her,

as they walked passed a White man’s house, the man walked onto his lawn and

confronted them. The man said, “Get away from my lawn, you nigger.” The man also

threatened to shoot the girl and her grandmother. As a result, they both ran back to their

home.

As another example, An African American female discussed her experiences with

racism during an out-of-town trip with her mother. According to this student, she and her

mother were assisting her maternal grandfather with installing monitors into truck stop

areas. When she and her mother walked into one of the truck stops, a White man said, “I

didn’t know that they allow mutts into the building.” Confused, she looked to see how

her mother would respond to the situation. Before her mother could respond to the man,

he pointed at both of them and said, “Get out, mutts!” The students said that she was hurt

by the incident.

As a follow-up to this discussion, I decided to investigate the extent to which

these students believed that racism would affect their lives in the future. I prefaced this

idea by first asking the students to inform me of their future career pursuits. The answers

to this inquiry ranged from doctors and lawyers to engineers and athletes. After receiving

this answer, I posed the following question to the students, “Do you believe that you will

have more of a difficult time with achieving your career goals because of your race or

your gender?” A few African American females indicated that gender or race and gender.

But most of the students indicated that race would present challenges to them as they
The Skin They’re In 25

worked towards achieving their career goals. As we continued to discuss race from this

perspective, I learned that their beliefs about race and racism were influenced by four

factors: Home, Community, Media, and School.

Home-“My Mom and The White Lady”

Many students talked about how their parents have and continue to prepare them

for overcoming racism. Their parents prepare them through direct and indirect

communication. Direct communication is when African American parents or other family

members explicitly inform African American students about how racism impacts African

American communities. Indirect communication is when the African American students

observe their parents’ experiences with racism. According to many of these students,

they’ve learned how racism impacts their parents’ job situations.

For example, using direct communication, one African American male’s mother

continually talks to him about how being Black may prevent him from getting a job. In

responding to a writing prompt regarding home influence, an African American female

wrote, “At home, we talk about equal opportunity a lot. How Blacks don’t have the same

privileges as Whites. How certain jobs are designed only for White people.” Along those

same lines, An African American female stated, “At home usually my parents or mostly

my dad talks about how when you’re Black that things don’t come easy. That I have to

work hard for everything I get.”

Through indirect observations, some African American students witnessed their

parents being shortchanged in the workforce because of their race. For example, an

African American female wrote “Like a week ago, my mom has been training a White

lady to fill her position, because my mother was about to get a promotion. My mom is
The Skin They’re In 26

very experienced, and does as an excellent job at what she does. She forecloses on

people’s homes. Well I guess since the lady was White, they thought she’d be a better

look for the managing position of the company. So they gave the job to her, and almost

laid my mom off.”

On another secondary campus, an African American female student responded to

this discussion with the following story: “We don’t have a man in our house, therefore

my mother needed to go out and find a job. My mother had been training for this job for

quite some time now and thought she would get it-no problem. She went to the interview

for the job and while there was a White woman was applying for the same job. My

mother knew that she had more experience than the other woman. After they both

interviewed and went home to wait for their calls saying who got it. My mother got the

call saying that she would make a fine addition to any staff, but we are going to decline

your application.”

When the student read this story to the group, an African American male

immediately told a story about how racism impact his dad in the context of the justice

system. The student said, “My dad and his friend were doing what they did and ended up

getting arrested by the cops. So my dad went to escape with his friend. They ran different

ways and both of the cops chased after my dad but not the White person. The cops beat

my dad and sent him to jail for 4.5 years, and they still never found the White Person.”
The Skin They’re In 27

Notwithstanding, many African American students indicated that their parents

have taught them to not let racism prevent them from becoming successful individuals.

Examples of this resiliency are as follows:

“At home, my mom raised me to never let anyone tell me I can’t because of my skin color

or what she’s been through.”-African American Female

“My mom has always told that a lot Black people get the bad end of a situation because

of being black, I can still be anything that I want to be.”-African American Male

“My T Lady (mom) always told me that it’s up to me to make a difference and just know

that everybody’s not going to want to help you because you are black. So I got to take a

chance and go for it by myself.”-African American Male

“My mother always told me that most people don’t wanna see you be successful in life

because you are Black and that as soon as I graduate, things gone be harder for me. But

I can’t let that stop me and I must prove those people wrong every time.”-African

American Female.

“My mother told us that it’s already hard me being an African American. So we already

have strikes against us-So the only way to keep from getting any more strikes is by being

the best that I can be.”-African American Female


The Skin They’re In 28

Community-“Whites Run The Show”

In addition to discussing the community aspects of race with African American

students, I conducted a few activities to determine how the community influenced their

perceptions of racial differences in America. On most of the campuses, I conducted the

activity “Who gets the job” with students. In this activity, I provide the students with the

following scenario for review:

Who Gets The Job

A company advertises vacancies for two positions. The first position is for a salesperson.
The second position is for a sales manager. The company preferred that candidates for
both the salesperson position and sales manager position to be at least 25 years old and
have 4 years worth of work experience. Applicants for the sales management position
were required to have a 4 year college degree.
Posted images of an A
Some Campuses, I did not

5 people apply for and received interviews for both jobs.

The candidates are as follows:

A. An African American man who has a 4 year college degree in business


management and 7 years worth of driving experience.

B. A Hispanic woman who has a 4 year college degree in pre-medicine and 8


years worth of driving experience.

C. An Asian Woman who has a 4 year college degree in science education and 9
years worth of driving experience.

D. A Caucasian American woman who has a 4 year college degree in history and
5 years worth of driving experience.

E. A Hispanic man who has a 4 year college degree in computer science and 6
years worth of driving experience.
The Skin They’re In 29

After providing students with time to review the vignette, I posted pictures of a

Hispanic woman, Caucasian American woman, African American man, Hispanic man,

and Asian woman on poster board for students to view. I also reviewed the bottom

portion with them. I asked them to determine who would (not should) be the first person

to be offered the salesperson position. I then proceeded with the following remarks: “If

the first person rejected the job offer, who would be the second person to be offered the

salesperson position? If the second person rejected the job offer, who would be the third

person to be offered the salesperson position? If the third person rejected the job offer,

who would be the fourth person to be offered the salesperson position? If the fourth

person rejected the job offer, who would be the last person to be offered the salesperson

position?” I then asked the students to use the same logic to determine who would be the

first, second, third, fourth, and fifth person to be offered the sales manager position. The

students were then instructed to record their answers and reasons in the “Who Gets The

Job?” diagram below.

Who Gets The Job?

Salesperson Sales Manager


Person Reason Person Reason
1 1

2 2

3 3

4 4

5 5
The Skin They’re In 30

The findings for the salesperson position showed that the most commonly chosen

applicants were selected because of credentials and race. With regards to credentials, the

most commonly chosen people to receive the initial offer were the African American

male and the Asian woman. Some students chose the African American male because of

his educational degree. Sample comments about the African American man included but

are not limited to:

“He is a man, and he has a degree in business management.”

“Because he has a degree in business management.”

“Because he went to college and study business management.”

“Because he knows more about business management.”

“Because his college degree makes him the best suited for this job.”

Some students chose the Asian woman because of here work experience. For

example, one student wrote, “ It’s simple-the Asian woman has the most work

experience, and should, therefore, be offered the job.” As another example, a student

related, “The Asian woman has the most job experience.”

The most commonly chosen racially influenced applicants were the Hispanic man

and Hispanic woman and Caucasian American woman. The students chose the Hispanic

applicants because of their work ethic and bilingualism. The students chose the

Caucasian American woman because of perceiving her race as representation power,

trust, leadership, and authority.

A student who chose the Hispanic man wrote, “ Hispanic men are just hard

workers and I know that they would work hard at this position.” Along those same lines,
The Skin They’re In 31

a student chose the Hispanic man because “they probably feel he is good with cars.”

Another student chose the Hispanic woman, describing her as being “bilingual”.

Students used very direct communication to explain their rationale for explaining

why the Caucasian American woman would be the first person to be offered the sales

person position. Some of the most common written descriptions were “She is White”,

“Her race”, “White woman”, and “Race”. Other students provided more in-depth

reasoning for justifying their beliefs in why race would influence the Caucasian woman’s

selection for the salesperson position. One student wrote, “People most likely will choose

a White woman with a degree and experience.” Another student expressed the same

sentiment in the following way: “Typically Caucasians are offered jobs first because of

their ‘knowledge’”. As another example, a student wrote, “I believe this job is looking for

a woman, and I believe the White woman will be trusted the most.” Another similar

comment was “People believe White women are more personable.”

The students’ choices for the last person to be offered the job were based on race,

race and gender, and credentials. Listed below are some examples for each of these

themes.

Race

“Because he is a Black man.”

“The African American mane would be the last person because typically Blacks are

looked down upon because of how some act and because some of Black students aren’t

as knowledged as Whites.”

“Black man-stereotypically, Black men aren’t as intelligent and personable.”

“Not typical for Asian women to sell cars.”


The Skin They’re In 32

Race & Gender

“I have notice that companies often look past Hispanic women.”

“Because she is a woman and Hispanic. And women aren’t really wanted in the work

field and she is a minority.”

“Most likely because she is a woman and Asian.”

Credentials

“The Hispanic woman wouldn’t be offered the job because she has a degree in pre-

medicine.”

“The Caucasian American woman because just knowing about history doesn’t really

know about sales.”

“The Asian woman has good experience but for more about a science job.”

“The Caucasian American woman-History has nothing to do with sales person position.”

“The Caucasian American woman-least experience.”

“The Caucasian American woman-because she has a 4 year degree in history.”

“The White woman because of low experience in driving.”

Some of the responses for the sales management position were based on

credentials. For example, several students indicated that the African American male

would be offered the position because of his degree in business management. In addition,

a few other students chose the Asian woman because of her work experience. Along

those same lines, several students believed that because of their lack of work experience,

The Caucaisan American woman and Asian woman would be the last people to be

offered the sales management position.


The Skin They’re In 33

However, majority of the responses for the sales management position were based

on race. Most of the students indicated that the Caucasian American woman would be the

first person to be offered the sales manager position. In addition, they strongly believed

that the African American man would be the last person to be offered the sales manager

position.

The students believed that the Caucasian American woman would be given the

sales management position, because Caucasian American people are perceived as being

privileged to hold positions of power, authority, and influence in society. According to

these students, Caucasian American people appear to represent the ideal images of

trustworthiness, responsibility, and respect in the community.

For example, a student wrote, “The White woman would get the job because she

would appear to be most capable to many people, even though she is under qualified.”

Another student wrote, “They would probably feel that the White woman is the most

responsible person for the management position.” Other representative comments are as

follows:

“She is Caucasian, trusty looking.”

“White woman because she would appear smarter, more qualified, and more capable.”

“A Caucasian Woman-is association with wealth, power, and responsibility.”

“She probably looks like she would be more responsible and a well rounded person.”

“The Caucasian woman-they are gonna feel that she is more reliable and responsible.

They probably feel that she is more qualified for the job just because she is White (her

looks).”
The Skin They’re In 34

“I put the White woman first because most Caucasian people are always the first to get a

job.”

“The White woman because Caucasians are offered the job first because of their

knowledge.”

Conversely, the students believed that the African American male would be the

last person to be offered the sale management position because of the African American

male’s image. Specifically, the students believe that African American males have a very

negative image in society. Because of this image, they will receive fewer opportunities to

achieve a successful career.

One student wrote, “The Black man would be the last person to be offered the job.

Black men have the hardest time getting jobs because of the negative stereotypes that

they carry.” Another student explained, “The Black man because they probably would

think that he is an ex-prisoner and irresponsible. And they he is racist and stuff.”

Along those same lines, another student responded to this prompt by writing that “men

who are Black sometimes are looked at as threatening and unapproachable.”

Similarly, several students related the African American male’s image to their belief in

that a negative stereotypical image exists for all African American people.

Sample comments include but are not limited to:

“I put the African American man because a lot of times people think African Americans

aren’t good enough for a job.”

“The Black man because African Americans are perceived as not really wanting to do

anything with their lives.”


The Skin They’re In 35

“The Black man because society believes that all Black people are ghetto and not as

knowledged as White people are. They look down on us. They want to see ‘how we’re

going to mess up this time.’”

A few students indicated that the African American man would not be initially

offered the management position, because they don’t fit the image of management in

society. For example, a student wrote, “I don’t think that these positions are normally

held for non Whites.” Another student wrote, “African American men don’t get

management positions.”

After allowing the students to read their answers to each other, I discussed the

responses with the students. I asked the students to explain why they mostly chose the

Caucasian American woman for the management position. On one of the campuses, an

African American student summarized her peers’ thoughts and comments regarding this

activity with the comment “Whites run the show.” More specifically, she stated, “Look

Mr. Mack, It’s like this-Whites run the show. They are usually the most educated and

most liked. And they are gonna always get the first and best opportunities to be in charge

and do things like handle the money and the people. They are also gonna be most likely

to own businesses.” As I looked around the room, I could see that the all of the students

were in agreement with the students’ beliefs.

On one campus, however, two African American students provided a different

response regarding the first choice for the sales manager position. An African American

male and African American female indicated that the African American man would be

the first person to be offered the sales management position. In addition, the Caucasian

American female would be the last person to be offered the position. Like other students,
The Skin They’re In 36

they based their reasoning on race instead of credentials. But unlike the other students,

the racial aspects of their reasoning suggested that the positions would be given to these

candidates because of negative stereotypes.

The African American female stated, “I really think that they would choose the

African American man because he would not let nobody get away with not paying their

payment on time.” She continued, “The White woman would be the last person to be

offered the job because she’s White and they would probably try to cheat her out of a

deal.” The African American male stated, “Yeah, I think that definitely the Black man

would get the Sales manager job because he would know how to take care of business

and he would not let customers try to run over him and talk him out of a decision.”

According to this student, the Caucasian American woman “wouldn’t be taken seriously

because she would probably not know about business and would be disrespected daily.”

In addition to “Who Gets the Job,” I engaged students groups in a few additional

activities to determine their perceptions of race and community. At one of the high school

campuses, I conducted an activity entitled “Is That You” with a group of high achieving

African American students.

To start the activity, I provided all of the students with 10 note cards. I then

showed PowerPoint of slides of words that represented characteristics and attributes

about people. The words were energetic, assertive, nice, smart, attractive, 2 parents, nice,

successful, expressive, assertive, athletic, professional, determined, smart, hyper,

talkative, mean, 1-parent, and loud. As I showed a power points slide for the words, the

students copied the words that represented them. I then divided the students into three

groups: Race, Gender, and Social Class. I then directed the students to identify all of the
The Skin They’re In 37

common words for their groups. Afterwards, using community experiences as a guide,

the students assigned the words to specific racial, gender, and social class categories.

The chart below depicts the students’ placement of the words in accordance to race,

gender, and social class.

Student Depictions of Community’s Perceptions of Characteristics Regarding


Racial, Gender, and Social Class Classification

Race Gender Social Class


White Black Male Female Rich Poor
Successful* Athletic Athletic* Average Energetic* Determined*

2-Parents Energetic* Smart* Determined* Assertive*

Smart* Assertive* Energetic Nice* Nice*

Professional* Mean Hyper Successful* Smart*

Talkative Loud Mean* Talkative Attractive*

Hyper Aggressive Assertive* 2 Parents

Average Successful*

1-Parent Expressive*

Attractive* Athletic

Professional
*Common characteristic among all of the members of the group
The Skin They’re In 38

After allowing the student groups to explain the words for each category, I asked

the students to explain the extent to how the categories affected their lives. The students

indicated that race has had the most significant influence on their lives. The reason is that

they experienced how their communities assigned these characteristics to them.

I then asked the students if they believed that they have any advantages and

disadvantages to being an African American person. All of the students explained that

they do have both advantages and disadvantages because of their skin color.

All of the African American females indicated that their significant advantage to being

Black in school and the community was they were treated better than Black males. One

of the African American females said, “I must admit that the only advantage for me is

that I am still treated better than Black males.” Another African American female said,

“True that. We still get more opportunities than Black male students.” Another African

American female said, “But most important, we are at an advantage because we get to

show that Black females are smart and not just the ‘typical’ black girl.”

On the other hand, the African females indicated that they are disadvantaged

because of how they are portrayed by others, especially in comparison Caucasian

American females. One of the African American females lamented, “I hate the fact the

people in the community and at school treat us inferior to White females.” Another

African American female denoted that she was “tired of always having to be seen as

second to White girls in school and the community.”

The other African females indicated that they experience the negative images that

are associated with being African American and female in society. One of the females

stated, “I feel that I am at a big disadvantage in the community because I am Black.” She
The Skin They’re In 39

continued, “And from what I can see and feel, Black and female means aggressive and

dumb to a lot of people.” Another African American female expressed similar views

about being African American. She said, “I feel you on that one, girl. It’s just amazing

how we, as Black females, are always stereotyped to be stupid, dumb, or rude.”

When I asked the African American males to discuss their advantages, I received

very few responses. In fact, one of the African American males stated, “What if you can’t

think of an advantage, because I really can’t see in advantage to looking like me in this

community.” Another African American male then replied, “You know we are at an

advantage when it comes to sports. We are seen as being very athletic.” In response to

this comment, an African American male said, “Yeah, I know all about it, because the

only reason that people truly like me is because of my basketball skills” (The rest of the

students laugh at his comment.)

The African American males seemed to be more passionate about sharing their

views regarding the disadvantage of being an African American person in society. One of

the African American males opened this discussion by stating, “I know that I’m gonna

always have to worry about being pulled over by the po po (police) because I am a black

male.” Another African American male lamented, “Yeah and don’t forget about how we

are judged in society because of our race.” In concluding the discussion, an African

American male said, “In so many ways at school and the community, I just think that

people just expect me to perform less because I’m Black.” He continued, “And that’s

something that we as Blacks and Black males will have to continue to deal with.”

In holding discussions with students from other campuses, I found that the

community had a similar impact on their perceptions of race. Many of the discussions
The Skin They’re In 40

centered on racial profiling. Many of the students believed that they experience racial

profiling in different community venues.

From one African American male student’s point of view, African Americans are

profiled as thugs and criminals. This student said, “In the community, you are thought of

as a thief.” He further lamented, “You walk into a store and you are being followed by a

White man because that’s all they think we do.” This student further explained that this

type of profiling also prevents African Americans from being hired to manage

convenience stores.

Another African American male remarked, “When me and my friends are in a

‘slab’ (old car), we are seen as doing something illegal. And like clockwork, the police

stops us for no real reason-other than being Black.” Similarly, an African American

female added, “Yo, in the community, I have noticed how store owners look at you like

you don’t have enough money to shop there.”

On several campuses, I asked students to provide written descriptions of

community experiences with race. One African American girl responded to this request

with the following story:

Four of my guy friends and I all went across the street from my house into an apartment
complex. A little White girl walked around the corner and seen us sitting there, so she
stops. She starts to walk again, but along the wall of the apartment building. After being
gone for a while, she came back and we were all still sitting there. Again she walks along
the wall, back the same ways she came. Two minutes later, I’m not sure if the lady comes
outside. She tells use that we need to leave, because the children can’t come outside and
play because we are there, and we are not welcome. We told her that we are not doing
anything. But she said we still needed to leave because we weren’t welcomed there.
The Skin They’re In 41

Media-“Betrayal Portrayals”

The African American students were very critical of the media’s perpetuation of

racism. For most of these students, the media portrayed African Americans as being

inferior to Caucasian American people. An African American male indicated that the

media “portrays us as bad people because of our background and the history in which we

come from.” An African American female said, “Just look at how on TV and in

magazines, there is mostly White people and little Blacks. I mean there are not a lot of

Blacks on TV-only if it is a Black film.” Another African American male talked about

media differences in portraying African American athletes and Caucasian American

athletes. He said, “Really the lessons that I’ve learned come from the media. Because if

you think about it-when the world found out that Michael Phelps was using marijuana,

nothing happened to him.” The student continued, “He even kept his spot in the

Olympics. But Barry Bonds, he didn’t use a heavy dosage of steroids. Yet yall know what

happened to him-he got taken out of the hall of fame and gets fired.”

An African American female talked about how the media treats President Barack

Obama. She said, “You know Fox News never calls the First Black President President

Obama. They just say Obama. Now if that’s not racism, I don’t know what is.”

On one of the high school campuses, the African American students talked about

the Henry Louis Gates ordeal. Because the students could not remember his name, they

referred to him as the “Black Professor”. They seemed to believe that he was arrested

because of his race. They also perceived that the media portrayed the professor as being

the person who violated the law instead of the police officer. In summarizing his
The Skin They’re In 42

thoughts, one student wrote, “If that was a White professor, none of this would have

happened.”

School-“Race is an Issue”

School interactions were one of the most influential factors on the African

American students’ views of race. The students defined the racial aspects of their school

experiences in accordance to student-to-student interactions and students-to teacher-

interactions. In this section, I will describe the findings from the writing activities and

group discussions with these students.

Student to Student interactions

The African American students believed that race influenced Caucasian American

students’ and Hispanic American students’ interactions with them. For example, one

group of African American students described how the All-White student council used

their power and influence to control the outcomes of the “Senior Superlatives” awards.

One student said, “I feel like the student council made it to where the White seniors won

the awards that were about being smart and intelligent and the Black students won the

athletic awards and awards that were about having a sense of humor.”

This group of students also discussed their perceptions of how the Caucasian

American students seemed to control all of the major organizations on campus. One

student said, “It’s very hard for a Black student to be heard in these organizations. I think

that this is because the White students are in control and they want and get to make thing

to happen in ways to benefit them.”


The Skin They’re In 43

On another campus, students described race relations with students through

intentional separatism between ethnic groups. In responding to a writing prompt

regarding this topic, a student wrote, “When I go to lunch, I can see how changes come

between your race; like when you hang around your friends in class that’s different color

of your skin, every thing is cool. But when we get to lunch, we are made to feel that we

must separate. You go with your race and I go with mine. I want to hang out with the

friends I know from different colors, because this shouldn’t change you. But I don’t think

that Mexicans or Whites want to be that way with us.”

Another student wrote, “When they (Caucasian Americans and Hispanic

Americans) are in their own race, they like to act like themselves and they’re comfortable

with their actions, but when they’re with another race, they seem lost and try to fit in. I

feel they are not being true to themselves, because a lot of times, I find that they never

really wanted to be around us (African Americans). Trying to fit in only makes it worse.

An African American girl described how she experienced racial rejection when

trying to express interest in Caucasian American boys and Hispanic American boys. She

wrote, “I’ll have good, passionate, smart conversations with a guy. Think I am actually

getting to know them. And most of the time, they see that I’m different than the typical

‘Black girl.’ But even if I know them better than any other girl or make them laugh

nonstop, it’s never good enough. All they look at is my skin color and say “Oh what will

everybody say.” They don’t even wanna take that chance. It just sucks some times,

because even thought they don’t say it to your face, you know they are thinking it.”

On some campuses, the students indicated that they and Caucasian American

students and Hispanic American students do make racial jokes about each other.
The Skin They’re In 44

However, many of these students did not feel good about these experiences. During a

focused group discussion with students, An African American girl said, “Yeah we joke

with Whites and Mexicans. But I don’t think that they know what we go through. So they

make jokes or say other little things thinking that it won’t affect us when it actually

does.”

When I asked for a further explanation, an African American male said, “One of

the ongoing jokes on this campus is ‘Guess which race won’t have a father’s day?’”

I then said, “Well, who?” The student then replied, “African Americans-because a lot of

times, our dads are not there with or for us.”

Another African American female then added, “Yeah, and I know we are joking-but that

takes it a little too far and I don’t like it.”

Overall, the African American students from all of the groups perceived that

Caucasian American students were the “Standard” for their schools. That is, Caucasian

American students were viewed as being the best group of students on their campuses.

Furthermore, I noticed that when campuses mostly consisted of Hispanic American

students, Hispanic American students were considered to be the second best group of

students on the campus. When campuses consisted mostly of an even mixture of students,

either African American students or Hispanic American students were considered to be

the second best student group.`


The Skin They’re In 45

Student to Teacher Interactions

On all of the campuses, the African American students perceived that they

experienced racism with their teachers. In a few cases, the African American students

related racism to their experiences with Hispanic American teachers. In most cases, the

students consistently perceived that they experienced racism with Caucasian American

teachers.

I often facilitated these discussions by asking students to provide me with

examples of how they perceived that Caucasian American teachers-and Hispanic

American teachers, in a few cases-were racist towards them. Students from each campus

were able to write about and explain their rationale for believing that they experienced

racism with these teachers. On one campus, African American students talked about

teachers’ differential treatment of students in accordance to race. An African American

female said, “I feel like Black people always getting put down when it comes to dress

code.” She continued, “They are ready to send us to ISS when they have a problem with

our style of dress. But if a White girl has a tight dress on, it’s okay for them. I just feel we

should all be equal, but we’re not.”

In another group discussion with students from the same campus, An African girl

shared similar feelings about racial discrimination. She wrote, “When a crowd of Black

people get together, we act like monkeys. But still, I feel that everybody act like

something. At this school, Black students are always looked at as being ghetto and loud

and I hate the fact the we always get blamed for something and other students (Caucasian

Americans and Hispanic Americans) don’t get blamed for nothing. It’s to me because we

are Black-that’s why. We are Black.”


The Skin They’re In 46

On another campus an African American male wrote, “This teacher calls me boy

sometimes. The reason I think she calls me that is because my behavior and probably the

fact that I’m Black. When another student (White) boy does something, she doesn’t call

him boy. Probably because he has good behavior but that’s what I think.”

Another African American male from this campus echoed similar sentiments.

This student said, “You know, Mr. Mack, sometimes the teachers at this school try make

us (African American students) feel like crap.” He continued, “When a Black person

talks, we have to be quiet-they just declare out that we are too loud. But when other

people (Caucasian American students and Hispanic American students) talk, they don’t

say nothing. They let those students be as loud as they can be.”

An African American female student added, “Yeah, and these teachers think they

can get an attitude with us for questioning them.” She continued, “But as soon as we say

something back, they ready to send the Black students to the office.”

Finally, in summarizing his feelings, an African American male discussed his

perceptions of African American students being singled out when they are in large

groups. This student said, “You know at lunch, the Blacks will sit together, just as the

Whites and Mexicans do, too.” The student further related, “All of us will get a little loud

at times. And I can see how we (African American students) do often get a little louder

than the other groups. If we are loud, the teachers are ready to separate us. But when the

other races get a little loud, the teachers don’t say nothing. I feel that they need to tell

them to be quiet, too. This hurts me to see that I’m different because I have a different

color of skin. I just want the world to be equal because If I was White, I would be treated
The Skin They’re In 47

the same as Whites. But I wanna be Black-and still treated equal, especially in the

lunchroom.”

Many African American students believed that teachers showed racism because of

having high expectations for Caucasian American and Hispanic American students and

low expectations for them.

Sample comments are as follows:

“It’s like White teachers seem like they don’t expect much from me and other Black

students.”

“My White math teacher always listens to other students’ questions, and when I ask a

question, she acts like she can’t hear me.”

“Dr. Mack, at this school, it seems like some White teachers don’t really want to see

African American students to walk across the stage or walk anywhere with their

classes.”

“Sometimes, I get the feeling that A lot of White teachers (another student injects “a few

Hispanic teachers, too) think that it is rare for us (African American students) to do good

in school but normal for White students to be smart in school.”

Some of the most telling examples of expectations based teacher-student racism

were created through written responses to prompts. For example, an African American

female student wrote, “I feel like when Black students ask for directions to be explained,

these teachers dumb down to us and try to act like we’re mentally slow. Like they expect

us to be stupid or something. Like we don’t understand English.”

A high achieving African American female student described her perceptions of

how a teacher’s expectations of her changed when she was in a classroom with mostly
The Skin They’re In 48

Caucasian American students. This student wrote, “When I was in a class with mainly

Black kids, this White teacher acted towards me like I was and didn’t understand. She

acted like nothing I did was ever positive. Like she expected me to fail her class. But

when the next semester came around and I was put in a class where I was the only Black

student, her whole body language and the way she talked to me change. She actually

expected more from me, she treated me normal and like I was White.”

Elsewhere, some African American students’ perceptions of teacher-induced

racism focused on teacher generalizations of negative school behaviors to them because

of their skin color. These students believed that when one African American student

makes a mistake, many teachers assume that this behavior is a reflection and indicative of

all African American students. Listed below are written examples of this theme.

Getting a Chance

The reason I think that Black students should get a chance to express themselves is
because that if you are Black, then teachers and students will think that we are trouble
makers. When I say trouble makers, I mean like if you are in class one day and you’ve
been to the office multiple times and someone in your class has had a fight or something,
the teacher will automatically think that you did because you’re always in trouble or
because they know you have a bad mouth on you and you’re Black.

Stepped Over

I feel that Black people don’t get treated as fair as others-Which means (Whites)
(Mexicans) etc..because when one Black person mess up or do anything bad, they
(teachers) think all do that. That’s not right. I think before you judge anybody, you should
talk to them and get to know them first. People these days just think since Blacks use to
get beaten on and slaves and KKK! They think they can bring it back. Blacks are just like
everyone else, and I am tired of Mexicans, Whites, and anybody else treating us like dirt.
It’s not cool! I want to fix this situation!
The Skin They’re In 49

What to Expect

When people look at me, they automatically expect me to be a bully and talk “ghetto”,
because I’m black. Other races at this school expect me to be dumb and come from the
“hood” or something because I’m Black. When students at this school find out that I’m in
all honors and GT classes, they’re shocked and mark me as a “nerd”! People at this
school are very stereotypical and believe anything they see or hear about Black people on
TV or magazines. I’m definitely NOT what people expect me to be.
*The student in this sample is equating people to teachers and students.

Why Use It?

The teachers don’t treat me right. They treat the other students better than the Blacks.
They just doubt us anyway because of our race. I don’t use my knowledge because why
would I waste my time being respectful and good for nothing while the teacher keeps
nagging at me and getting onto me but not getting onto the Whites and some of the
Hispanic kids.

The findings from the teacher-to-student perceptions of racism suggested that

many of the African American students perceived that they mostly experienced racism

when interacting with some Caucasian American teachers. As a result, I decided to pose

additional questions to further investigate this issue. Specifically, I wanted to see if the

students a) believed that most of their Caucasian American teachers showed racism

towards them; or b) perceived that some of the accusations of racism were based mostly

on the students.

To facilitate this investigation, I asked the students if they could describe a

situation in which a Caucasian American teacher was rightly or wrongly accused of being

a racist. Mixed results emerged from most of the campuses and student groups. Some

students perceived that many of their African American students’ rightly accused

Caucasian American teachers of showing racism towards them. For example, on one of

the campuses, An African American girl stated, “Of course, I can give you an example of
The Skin They’re In 50

a White teacher being racist towards African American students.” She continued, “A lot

of times, White teachers will let White students and some Mexicans do something, but

when we (African American students) ask to do the same thing, they say no.”

I then asked the student to give me examples of the privileges that are denied to

African American students. The student replied, “You know, like going to the restroom,

going to the office for things, and getting up to sharpen pencils or talk to another student.

The minute we asked to do those things, it’s like ‘no, just sit down!’”

As another example, two African American males discussed their perceptions of

experiencing racism with their Caucasian American teachers. One of the African

American males started the discussion with the following statement: “Real talk (To be

honest with you), a lot White teachers don’t really care for African American students.”

In response, I asked, “Why would you say this about your Caucasian American

teachers?”

The African American male then replied, “You can just tell!” He continued, “It’s

like one time I needed help with my work and I asked the teacher to come and help me.

The teacher then go blast me out (embarrass me) by saying, ‘Didn’t I just teach you this?’

But as soon as a little White girl raises her hand, she tells the girl to come up to her desk.

Now what’s that about?”

The other African American male then added, “Word (That’s the truth)! Black

students don’t get the same treatment as White students, especially from White teachers.

A lot of the White teachers are just not fair to their Black students.”

Some students, however, believed that many African American students

wrongfully accused Caucasian American teachers of being racist towards African


The Skin They’re In 51

American students. In effect, these students use race to deter Caucasian American

teachers from addressing their inappropriate behavior.

For instance, during a focused group discussion, an African American female

student said, “On this campus, there are some times when White teachers do show

favoritism to White students.” She further stated, “But most of the times, my White

teachers aren’t being racist at all. I think that many of the African American students who

get in trouble are belligerent to begin with and are just saying ‘you’re being racist’

because the teacher didn’t do what they wanted.”

An African American male from this group then stated, “Yeah-I am not going to

say that all of the White teachers are racist. But yall got to admit that a lot of them do

treat students differently because of race.”

An African American female then replied, “Yeah, and a lot of time it's us that get

treated wrong. Like just today, my teacher got mad at this Black boy out of the whole

group, and the whole group was talking. And the group also had Mexicans and Whites in

it, too.”

An African American female retorted, “Yeah, but we got to admit that some of us

don’t come at them right. Like when they ask some of us to sit down or follow simple

directions, we do use race to make a big deal out of what they’re asking us to do. And I

think that a lot of times, White teachers do get scared, so they just drop it instead of

actually addressing the issue with these students.”

I then said, “So do you think that this makes the Caucasian American teacher actually

seem like a racist?” All the students emphatically and simultaneously replied, “Yeah!”
The Skin They’re In 52

During my interaction of with students from other campuses, I found that their

responses to Caucasian American teacher racism were defined through the themes “It’s

really like that” and “It’s not really like that”. The first theme denoted African American

students’ reflections on how they Caucasian American teachers were racist towards them.

The second theme described African American students’ perceptions of their African

American peers’ incorrect assumptions of experiencing racism with teachers, especially

Caucasian American teachers. Listed below are the written responses regarding this

theme.

“It’s really like that” “It’s not really like that”

“Teachers will let certain people do things “If a student is doing something wrong like yelling
and not the others. But they will talk, look, or playing around the teacher yells at them. And
and treat you (African American students) they get mad like you racist, when it wasn’t really
differently.” African American Male like that.” African American Female

“Like a teacher telling a Black student to sit “When a teacher yells at you and she had a reason
when a White student is allowed to stay to that’s not being racist.”
standing or do other things to.” African American Male
African American Female

“When they let a White kid do something, “When a teacher may discipline a student and
they don’t do nothing. But when a Black kid maybe deal with another student a different way.
do it, they gone make them go to the office.” The other student may say she is being racist.
African American Female Because he is a different race.”
African American Male.

“A lot times they (African American


Students) feel as though the teachers allow “Like if you call out racism to a teacher telling you
White kids to do certain things, but when they to sit when everybody else is sitting to.”
turn around to do the exact same thing they African American Female
get in trouble. Or maybe they feel as though
the teacher is constantly picking on them or
only does mean things to them.”
African American Male

II. The Skin They’re In


The Skin They’re In 53

Disciplined and Undisciplined African American Students

The findings from the previous section showed that many African American

students expressed similar views about their schooling experiences in Irving Independent

School District. However, I did find that some differences did exist between the students

in accordance to behavioral issues. I measured behavioral issues in accordance to

discipline referral forms. Students were classified as having behavioral issues if they had

numerous discipline referrals. Students who did not have any discipline referral forms

were not classified as having behavioral issues.

The findings from my analysis showed that there were differences between

African American students with behavioral issues and African American students who

did not have behavioral issues in schools. To that end, the purpose of this section is to

describe the academic, behavioral, and racial differences between these groups of

students.

Academics

I used grades to gain insight into the academic differences between African

American students with and without behavioral issues. Specifically, I investigated

possible numerical grade differences between the groups’ performance in mathematics,

science, English, and social studies. The findings from this investigation showed

statistically significant differences existed between the two groups’ performances in these

subjects. The statistical significance denotes that the differences were indicative of the

students instead of by chance. In other words, a similar group of students with similar

school experiences would earn the same averages in these core subjects. The table below

depicts these differences.


The Skin They’re In 54

Academic Performance Differences in Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies

Grades
Subject Student
Cycle 4 Cycle 5 Cycle 6 End of Semester
Group

Behavioral
67.5 69 63.7 66.6
Problems
Mathematics
No
Behavioral 84.4 84 82.1 83.5
Problems

Behavioral
68.5 74 75.7 71.9
Problems
Science
No
Behavioral 90.1 89.8 90.1 89.9
Problems

Behavioral
79.4 75.5 68.9 74.5
Problems
English
No
Behavioral 83.7 85.9 87.7 85.6
Problems

Behavioral
78.3 79.4 76.1 77.9
Problems
Social
Studies
No
Behavioral 93 91.5 91 91.5
Problems

Behavioral
The Skin They’re In 55

I started every group session by administering a questionnaire to the students. The

questionnaire consisted of six vignettes related to discipline issues between a student and

teacher. The vignettes focused on teacher tone and teacher directives. The tone vignettes

measured students’ responses to teachers who displayed a forceful or negative tone

towards a student. The teacher directive vignettes focused on students’ approaches to

responding to the specific directives to teachers. The choices for each vignette ranged

from 1-Least desirable response from a student to 5-Most desirable response from a

student.

I instructed the students to read and choose a response that would best reflect their

way of responding to the situation. The students were also directed to provide a brief

written explanation of their chosen choices for each vignette. The chart below provides a

description of the vignettes.

Behavioral Vignettes
The Skin They’re In 56

Vignette Choices Category

5 Speak up immediately or apologize and then


1. A teacher asks a student to answer a speak up immediately. Tone
math question. The student answers the 1 Tell the teacher to move on to another student.
teacher, but the teacher could barely hear 4 Speak up using the same angry tone of voice
the student. As a result, in an angry tone, that was used by the teacher.
the teacher says, “Speak up now or I’m 2 Speak up after telling the teacher that I did not
moving on to someone else.” In this appreciate the tone of voice that was used to talk
situation, what would you do? to me.
3 Say nothing.

Situation 2 2 Sit down and/or retell my point of view to the Directive


2. A student enters class a few minutes teacher.
after the late bell. The teacher then asks 4 Go tell the hall monitor about the decision.
the student for a late pass. The student 5 Leave the class and return once I had a pass
informs the teacher that the hall monitor from the hall monitor.
told him/her to go to class and that he/she 3 Tell the teacher to refrain from to talking to
would contact the teacher. The teacher him/her in that way and then go to get a pass
then says, “That’s not good enough. I from the hall monitor.
want a pass from you or you can’t come 1 Tell the teacher to not talk to me in that way.
in here.” In this situation, what would
you do?

3. One of a teacher’s rules is that during Tone


group work, students must have the 5 “Yes mam/sir, I am sorry about this.”
teacher’s permission to move away from 4 “I know the rule, I just forgot.”
their desk or group. During a group project, 2 “I’m going, but you don’t need to yell at me.”
a student leaves his/her desk to talk with 3 “True, but it’s just one reason that I need to
the teacher at the teacher’s desk. As soon talk to you.”
as the teacher notices the student, the 1 “Don’t yell at me!”
teacher says (in a harsh tone), “You know
my rules about leaving your seat. So get
back to your desk right now.” In this
situation, what would you do?

4. A teacher directs students to pay 5 Apologize for my behavior and then pay Tone
attention to a demonstration on how to attention to me.
dissect a frog. During the demonstration, 4 I would not apologize for my behavior. But I
the teacher notices that two students, who would pay attention to the teacher.
are seated beside each other, are using 2 Suck my teeth or make some type of noise to
their tools to dissect the frog. The teacher express my feelings about the situation.
then rushes to the students’ desks, takes 3 Ask the teacher if it was necessary to take the
the frogs and utensils, and throws the materials, as well as throw the frog into the trash can.
frogs into the trash can. The teacher then 1 Tell the teacher that he/she didn’t need to take
walks back to the front of the classroom the items away from me and then throw the frog
to complete the demonstration. In this into the trash can.
situation, what would you do?
5. As the teacher writes notes on the 1 Tell the teacher that he/she was wrong, Directive
board, student turns around and asks if because I was not talking.
another student for a pencil. The teacher 5 Say nothing and drop the issue.
The Skin They’re In 57

then turns and tells the student who was 4 Point out to the teacher that the student in front
not talking to stop talking. The student of me was talking.
then informs the teacher that he/she was 2 Get upset for being accused of doing
not talking. The teacher then says, “You something that I did not do.
were talking, because I heard you.” In 3 Say nothing but approach the teacher at the
this situation, what would you do? end of class to clear my name.

2 Ask the teacher why I should move and use the response Directive
6. A student walks into a classroom a few to determine if I will move to the other seat.
minutes after the tardy bell. The student 5 Move
then takes his/her seat. The teacher turns 4 Get up and move while simultaneously asking the
to the student and says, “Good morning, I teacher why he/she wanted me to move to another seat.
want you to sit in this seat today.” The 3 Move to the other seat and at the end of class,
teacher then directs the student to the approach the teacher to seek an explanation for
other seat. In this situation, what would why I had to move to the other seat.
you do? 1 Refuse to move.

The findings from the questionnaire showed that differences existed between the

responses between students with behavioral issues and students without behavioral issues.

Statistical significance appeared for the tone vignettes, which are vignettes 1, 3, and 4.
The Skin They’re In 58

These findings suggest that the differences in the two groups’ responses to these vignettes

were not resultant of chance. Rather, these findings suggest that African American

students with similar characteristics and schooling experiences would provide similar

responses to these behavioral situations. In addition, the responses to the directive

vignettes are more than likely indicative of chance instead of specific behavioral patterns

among these students. Overall, the students with no behavioral issues indicated that they

would provide a more desirable response to the situations than students with behavioral

issues (See Table Below).

Behavioral Mean Score Differences in Vignette Responses


Student *Vignette 1 Vignette 2 *Vignette 3 *Vignette 4 Vignette 5 Vignette 6
Group Tone Directive Tone Tone Directive Directive

Behavioral
*3.23 3.90 *2.55 *3.21 2.71 3.63
Problems
No
Behavioral *3.69 4.09 *3.62 *3.69 3.09 3.84
Problems
*Statistical Significance Between Differences

I used the written descriptions to further analyze the differences in responses between

students without behavioral issues and students with behavioral issues. In conducting this analysis,
The Skin They’re In 59

I found that the major difference was in how the two groups of students viewed teacher authority.

These differences were more evident in the vignettes regarding the teacher’s tone.

The vignettes regarding teacher tone revealed that most students with behavioral issues

seemed focus on the need, when applicable, to challenge the teacher’s authority. Evidence of this

belief could be seen in how these students believed that their response to a teacher should be

indicative of how the teacher approached them. Most of the students with no behavioral issues

seemed to respond to the teacher tone vignettes with the need for complying with authority.

Although these students believe that the teacher’s tone was an inappropriate gesture, they seemed

more likely to respond to the teacher in accordance to authority.

The responses to teacher directive did not show distinct patterns between the responses

for the two groups of students. Instead, both students with behavioral issues and students without

behavioral issues seemed to give a similar number of least desirable and most desirable responses

to the teacher directive vignettes. The table below presents sample comments regarding the

vignettes from each student group.

Behavioral Differences in Vignette Responses

Vignette Student Group Categories


Students with Behavioral Issues Students with no Behavioral Issues
The Skin They’re In 60

Sample Comments Sample Comments

“I would yell back because she yelled at me.” “I don’t feel the need to argue with the teacher,
and I want an “A” in conduct.”
“Because since she was disrespectful, I’m a
be disrespectful back.” “I’d speak up quickly so the teacher would know
that I know the question.”
*One
“Because if she treats me that way then I am
Tone
too.” “I feel that there is no need to have an angry tone
or get upset.”
“A teacher shouldn’t talk to a student like
that.” “I don’t like confrontation and yelling back would
make the situation worse.”
“Because I treat people the way that they treat
me.”
Sample Comments Sample Comments

“Teachers shouldn’t talk in that tone of voice “Because a pass would be physical evidence that
to a student when doing nothing wrong.” I’m telling the truth.”

“Because I need a pass.” “If I came in on time, I wouldn’t have that


Two problem.”
Directive “I would be mad because the teacher would
think that I am lying. “Because I wasn’t going to get in trouble if I have
a pass.”
Because it would be a better way the teacher
could believe me.”

Sample Comments Sample Comments

“I chose 3 because if I needed to talk to talk to


a teacher, I would get up instead of having an “Because if a student needs to talk to you then
unanswered question.” they need to talk to you, because it may be
important.”
*Three “Even though I broke the rule the teacher still
Tone could have said go back to your seat in a nice “I forgot the rule and can return to my seat and
way.” raise my hand.”

“I picked number 2 because I would tell the “I chose to apologize because it is a rule that has
teacher about his her self and then go back to been set for me and I did not follow it.”
my seat.”
The Skin They’re In 61

Sample Comments Sample Comments

“Because he/she could have just took it away, “Because, I wasn’t paying attention, and it was
but they didn’t have to throw it away. They only fair that I apologize.”
could have gave me a warning.”
“I wouldn’t apologize or anything, but perhaps
*Four “I would ask if it was necessary because she paying attention would earn back my privileges.”
Tone know she didn’t have to do that.”
“There would be no reason to apologize, but I
“She didn’t need to be taking things from me would definitely pay attention to not miss
like that.” anything.”

Sample Comments Sample Comments

“I picked this because I’m not going to sit “I would tell her choice 1 because I knew that I
back and not tell the teacher what really wasn’t talking.”
happened. Also, because if I wasn’t talking,
then I’m just going to point that out right then “I wasn’t talking, so why should I take all of the
Five and there.” blame.”
Directive
“Yes. Because I wasn’t talking, I don’t care if “Because if you stay after class, and tell her, then
her yelling was an accident or not.” she wouldn’t be more upset with you.”

Sample Comments Sample Comments

“I didn’t do anything, so why should I have to “I would need a reason.”


move.”
Six
“I would want to know why she would want to
Directive
“Because I would need to know why I have to move me.”
move to another seat.”

*Statistical Significance with Distinct Response Patterns for Student Groups


The Skin They’re In 62

Race

One of the most significance differences between African American students with

and without behavioral issues was race. These differences can be defined through two

terms: Black Racialization and Black Racistization. I define Black racialization as having

a race-conscious view of race. That is, African American people with race-conscious

views of race understand how race and racism have impacted the lives of African

American people. However, they do not relate every hardship or misfortune to their race

or racism. In most cases, when these individuals do experience race-related obstacles and

racism-induced barriers, they transform these setbacks into opportunities to still pursue

and achieve their goals and dreams.

Black racistization is the tendency to have a race-centric view of race. Like

African American people with race-conscious views, African American people with race-

centric views understand that race and racism have had long-term effects on the lives of

African American people. Unlike their counterparts, these individuals are more likely to

relate most of their issues in life to race and racism. In addition, when these individuals

do encounter race-related obstacles and barriers, they are more likely to use these issues

as reasons for not continuing their quest to become successful individuals.

Based on my discussions with African American students, I found that most of the

students without behavioral issues viewed their lives and schooling experiences from a

Black Racialization perspective. The students with behavioral issues seemed to define

their lives and schooling experiences from a Black Racistization view. The chart below

provides further analysis of the differences between the racial foundation of these groups

of students.
The Skin They’re In 63

Differences

Students With No Behavior Problems


Black Racistization
Black Racialization

More likely to define racism as the mistreatment of


More likely to define racism as the mistreatment of Black people because of their skin color. In many
people because of their skin color. instances, their definition of racism directly
implicated White people as being the perpetrators of
racial mistreatment.

Are committed to using inequities and experiences with Are not as committed to using inequities and
racism and discrimination as motivation to succeed in experiences with racism and discrimination as
society. motivation to be successful in society.

These students perceived that many White teachers and Perceptions of racism and discrimination in school
a few Hispanic American teachers treated African seemed to demotivate students. These students seem
American students different from White students, as to use racism to define any negative interaction
well as Hispanic American students. At the same time, between themselves and White teachers, as well as
they also concluded that many teachers’ interactions Hispanic teachers.
with African American students were an outgrowth of
African American students’ behavior instead of the
color of their skin. Notwithstanding, these students
remained motivated to succeed in school.

Believed that in spite of observations of racism on their Perceive that because of racism, they will receive
campus, they could still receive fair treatment from neither fair treatment nor equal access to success
White teachers, as well as Hispanic teachers. For these from White teachers, as well as Hispanic
students, appropriate behavior can influence teachers to American teachers.
treat them in accordance to their performance instead of
just race.

III. The Skin They’re In


The Skin They’re In 64

Teacher Findings

The purpose of this section is provide the outcomes of 33 focused group

discussions with 198 teachers from 4 high schools and 7 middle schools. In the first part

of this section, I discuss my findings for the quantitative aspects of my work the teachers.

The second part of this sections describes my findings from the qualitative aspects of my

work with the teachers.

Quantitative Portion

Prior to starting the discussions with the teachers, I administered a survey to them.

I used the survey to gather background information about the teachers. The survey also

gathered information about the teachers’ views of themselves and African American

students. The survey results showed that this group of consisted of 145 (73%) Caucasian

American teachers, 34 (17%) African American teachers, and 19 (10%) Hispanic

American teachers. The gender makeup for this group of teachers was 59 (30%) males

and 139 (70%) females. This group’s range for years of Irving teaching experience and

overall teaching experience was from 1 year to 37 years. While these teachers had an

overall average of 9.4 years of teaching experience, they showed an average of 6.6 years

of teaching experience in Irving Independent School District.

The teacher view aspects of the survey asked teachers to rate the factors that

contributed the most to their identities as individuals and teachers. The factors were age,

social class (SES), occupation, education level, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, and

parenthood. The overall rankings showed that occupation and education were the

strongest influences on the teachers’ identities as people. Social class and race held the
The Skin They’re In 65

least influence on the teachers’ identities as people. The table below provides a full

description of these findings.

Ranked Scores for Factor Influences on Teachers’ Identity as A Person


Factor Score (Mean Score)
Occupation 4.04
Education 3.93
Gender 3.63
Age 3.36
Parenthood 3.19
Marital Status 3.18
Social Class (SES) 3.08
Race/Ethnicity 2.97

The overall rankings for teacher identity development showed that occupation and

education held the strongest influences on the teachers’ identities as teachers. Social class

and marital status held the least influence on the teachers’ identities as teachers. The table

below provides a full description of these findings.

Ranked Scores for Factor Influences on Teachers’ Identity as a Teacher


Factor Score (Mean Score)
Occupation 4.39
Education 4.34
Age 3.38
Gender 3.26
Parenthood 3.00
Race/ethnicity 2.81
Social Class (SES) 2.76
Marital Status 2.20

In addition to overall rankings, I also conducted a racial analysis of the rankings.

That is, I investigated the extent to which these factors contributed to the development of

Caucasian American teachers, African American teachers, and Hispanic American


The Skin They’re In 66

teachers. For Caucasian American teachers, Occupation and education was the strongest

influences on their identities as people. Race was the least significant influence on their

identities as people. For African American teachers, education and race were the

strongest influences on their identities as people. Parenthood was the least significant

influence on their identities as people. As people, Hispanic American teachers appeared

to be mostly influenced by education and occupation. The least significant influence for

these teachers was gender.

Occupation and education appeared to be the strongest influences on how all of

the teachers viewed their identities as teachers. Whereas parenthood was the least

significant influence on Hispanic American teachers’ teacher identities, marital status

appeared to bear little to no importance on the teacher identities of Caucasian American

teachers and African American teachers. The table below provides a full description of

these findings.

Racial Analysis of Factor Influences on Teachers’ Identities as People and Teachers


Rank As a Person As a Teacher
CA AA HA CA AA HA
*1 Occupation Education Education Occupation Education Occupation
*2 Education Race Occupation Education Occupation Education
3 Gender Occupation Age Age Race Race
4 Parenthood Gender Socioeconomic Gender Gender Age
Status
5 Age Age Race Parenthood Socioeconomic Gender
Status
6 Marital Status Socioeconomic Gender Socioeconomic Age Socioeconomic
Status Status Status
7 Socioeconomic Marital Marital Status Race Parenthood Marital Status
Status Status
*8 Race Parenthood Parenthood Marital Status Marital Status Parenthood
The Skin They’re In 67

I conducted a comparative analysis of the teachers’ perceptions of the extent to

which age, social class (SES), occupation, education, gender, race, marital status, and

parenthood influenced the teachers’ development as individuals and teachers. With the

exception of occupation and parenthood, African American teachers’ development as

individuals seemed to be more influenced by the factors than the individual development

of Caucasian American teachers and Hispanic teachers. The widest margin of difference

appeared for race. That is, race had a more significant influence on the identity

development of African American teachers and Hispanic teachers than Caucasian

American teachers. Overall, statistical significance was found for the differences in rating

scores for age, social class, race/ethnicity, and parenthood.

The teacher identity development analysis revealed similar findings. With the

exception of age and occupation, the factors have a more significant influence on the

teacher identity development of African American teachers than Caucasian American

teachers and Hispanic American teachers. The widest margin of difference appeared for

race. That is, race had a more significant influence on the identity development of

African American teachers and Hispanic teachers than Caucasian American teachers.

Overall, statistical significance was found for the differences in rating scores for social

class, gender, race/ethnicity, and parenthood. The table below provides a full description

of these findings.

Rank As a Person As a Teacher


The Skin They’re In 68

CA AA HA CA AA HA

+*Age 3.26 3.76 3.36 3.37 3.47 3.63

**Social Class
2.88 3.67 3.47 2.58 3.44 2.89
(SES)

Occupation 4.03 4.05 4.05 4.38 4.26 4.73

Education 3.88 4.11 4.05 4.31 4.44 4.42

-*Gender 3.62 3.76 3.47 3.15 3.70 3.26

**Race 2.62 3.97 3.47 2.46 3.82 3.62

Marital
3.20 3.29 2.84 2.20 2.23 2.15
Status

**Parenthood 3.33 3.20 2.10 3.07 3.20 2.05

+*-Statistically significant differences for identity development as person.


-*- Statistically significant differences for identity development as teacher.
**- Statistically significant differences for identity development as person and teacher.
The Skin They’re In 69

The African American student portion of the survey measured teachers’

perceptions of if the teachers on their campuses have high expectations for African

American students. The ratings scale ranged from 1-Not True to 5-Absolutely True. The

quantitative findings showed that most of the teachers believed that it was either

somewhat true, or true or absolutely true in that teachers on that campuses held high

expectations for African American students. Overall, 68 teachers (34%) 56 Caucasian

American, 3 African American, 9 Hispanic American) absolutely believed that

teachers other teachers held high expectations for African American students. 63 teachers

(31%) 50 Caucasian American, 7 African American, 6 Hispanic American) believed

that other teachers held high expectations for African American students. 47 teachers

(24%) 32 Caucasian American, 14 African American, 1 Hispanic) somewhat believed

that teachers other teachers held high expectations for African American students. 15

teachers (8%) 6 Caucasian American, 7 African American, 2 Hispanic American) did

not really believe that other teachers held high expectations for African American

students. Finally, only 5 teachers (3%) 1 Caucasian American, 3 African American, 1

Hispanic American) did not believe that other teachers held high expectations for

African American students. The table below provides a complete description of these

findings.
The Skin They’re In 70

Racial Analysis of Teacher Beliefs Regarding Other Teachers’ High Expectations


for African American Students

Rating Race
Caucasian African Hispanic Total
American American American
Not True 1 3 1 5
Not Really True 6 7 2 15
Somewhat True 32 14 1 47
True 50 7 6 63
Absolutely True 56 3 9 68
145 34 19 198

The comparative findings showed that a statistically significant difference existed

between the teachers’ beliefs regarding other teachers’ high expectations for African

American students. Caucasian American teachers and Hispanic American teachers

believed that other teachers held high expectations for African American students.

African American teachers, however, only somewhat believed that other teachers held

high expectations for African American students.

Racial Comparison of Teacher Beliefs Regarding Other Teachers’ High


Expectations for African American Students

Race Mean Score


Caucasian American 4.06
African American 3.00
Hispanic American 4.30
The Skin They’re In 71

Another significant aspect of the survey focused on the extent to which the

teachers recognized the racial differences between students. In completing this portion of

the survey, teachers responded to one of the following choices:

1-I don’t see color, I just see kids.

2-I somewhat see color, but not as much as I see kids.

3-I see color, and I see kids.

Teacher responses also included the provision of a written explanation of their

chose choice. The findings showed that 41 teachers (21%) saw color and students. The

remaining teachers either somewhat saw color (82 teachers [41%]) or did not consider

color (75 teachers [38%]) when working with students. The table below provides a full

description of this analysis, including the racial makeup for each of the three groups of

teachers.

Teacher Recognition of Racial Differences Among Students

Rating Race
Caucasian African Hispanic Total
American American American
I Don’t See Color, I Just
59 8 8 75
See Kids
I Somewhat See Color, But
59 14 9 82
Not as Much as I see Kids
I see color and I see kids 27 12 2 41
Total 145 34 19 198
The Skin They’re In 72

The comparative findings showed that a statistically significant difference existed

between the teachers’ recognition of the racial differences among students. African

American teachers were slightly more likely than Caucasian American teachers and

Hispanic American teachers to see the racial differences among students. See the table

below.

Racial Analysis of Teacher Recognition of Racial Differences Among Students

Race Mean Score


Caucasian American 1.77
African American 2.11
Hispanic American 1.68

Qualitative Portion

To further understand teachers’ recognition of racial differences among students, I

conducted a racial analysis of teachers’ descriptions of their chosen choices. I conducted

this analysis to determine why teachers chose their choices. My findings showed that

teachers who chose “I Don’t See Color, I Just See Kids” truly believed that the student’s

race should and does not have any impact on how they perceive students. These teachers

also believed that race does not differentiate the cultural and behavioral characteristics of

African American students, Caucasian American students, and Hispanic American

students.

The teachers who chose “I Somewhat See Color, But Not as Much as I see Kids”

believed that race does have some impact on differences between African American

students, Hispanic American students, and Caucasian American students. In spite of these

differences, these teachers were still strongly committed to minimizing how the

differences impacted their perceptions and understanding of these students.


The Skin They’re In 73

Teachers who chose “I See Color, and I See Kids” expressed the belief in that

although students have similar characteristics, they can and are somewhat different in

accordance to race. These teachers seemed to also perceive that race does impact the

characteristics of African American students, Hispanic American students, and Caucasian

American students. As such, the teachers believed that to intentionally overlook the racial

makeup of students is to ignore a central aspect of their identity.

Listed below are samples of written descriptions from teachers of these three groups.
The Skin They’re In 74

Teacher Race
Caucasian American African American Hispanic American
I know that no matter the race of
“I’m not a racist. I don’t think that race has “I just see kids. Color the child, all children have good
I don’t see color, I anything to do with what students are make no difference to behaviors and bad behaviors.
just seek kids capable of doing.” me. None at all.” Their race should not be looked
upon to characterize them in a
“It doesn’t matter what color they are-I just “When I look at a group.
see them a child.” student, I only see a
future leader with I see very child as a child not a
unlimited potential.” certain color, race, or nationality.
There is no favoritism or bad
treatment to a child because they
are of a certain race or
nationality. Basically, they are all
equal in my eyes.

“In an ideal setting, #1 would apply. “I somewhat see color “I mostly see people because
However, to say that color in some because I want to be everyone has common
I see color, but not as instances isn’t noticed would be a lie and an aware of the attitudes experiences and
much as I see kids injustice to students.” and behaviors that are psychological/physiological
associated with race characteristics. But also consider
“I think people who say they don’t see and culture. race, and socioeconomic status
color are lying. That’s like saying you don’t I try to view everyone even more so, because that
notice a person’s height. There is a as a person-part of the provides background for the
difference between seeing color as a human race-before I kids.”
person’s characteristics and using a look at ethnicity.”
person’s color to make judgments about “I’m Hispanic, the majority of
them without substantiation.” “In some instances, I these students are Hispanic. That
try to understand where is something I notice, but I grew
the student is coming up with that being the case. So I
from and often race don’t notice it a whole lot. I
plays a part in that.” really see kids that need a lot of
help and that I can relate to and
talk to.”
“Like it or not, color is an important part of “It is impossible for me “Unique. Each student is
kids’ identity. Understanding that allow me to negate ethnic enriched by their color and
I see color and I see to understand the kids a whole lot better.” influences of the culture. Each student is a unique
individual without individual and getting to know
kids “I first treat all students equal, but growing consciously trying.” these qualities produces great
up where I did, I also know as a teacher that learners and teachers.”
their personalities, beliefs, behaviors are “I think because we all
also defined by their race.” have such rich cultural “I think that color is a part of
backgrounds, it is one’s identity so ignoring color is
important to recognize overlooking an important part of
the differences We a person.”
must acknowledge what
is different about all of
us and cater how we
teach to reach all of
these points.”
The Skin They’re In 75

In addition to surveying teachers, I also engaged them in focus group discussions

about African American students. Ms. Dianna Hopper would facilitate the discussions by

informing teachers of my purpose for working with Irving Independent School District. I

would then ask teachers to identity any specific academic characteristics and behavioral

characteristics about their African American student population.

On many campuses, some of teacher responses could be characterized as:

1. Beliefs in that African American students were bright individuals with the potential to
become successful individuals.

2. Concerns about African American students’ lack of commitment or focus on


academics. According to the teachers, some African American students either failed or
refused to apply themselves in the classroom.

3. Anxiety regarding African American students’ tendency to show defiant and


disrespectful behavior towards the authority of adults, particularly Caucasian American
teachers.

Yet many of the responses to my in inquiry varied by campus, group dynamics

and race. On some campuses, either all or majority of the teachers gave open and honest

accounts of their perceptions about African American students. On other campuses, either

all or majority of the teachers defined African American students as the same as other

students.

In most instances, race influenced the responses from focused group participants’

perceptions of African American students. Specifically, with the exception of one African

American teacher, the African American teachers were able to discuss specific academic

characteristics and behavioral characteristics of African American students. Along those

same lines, Hispanic teachers, for the most part, could describe their perceptions of the

unique academic and behavioral characteristics of African American students.


The Skin They’re In 76

Considerable variation existed within Caucasian American teachers. On most

campuses, some Caucasian American teachers gave open and honest accounts of their

feelings about the academic and behavioral characteristics of African American students.

These teachers also appeared to want to learn more about how to understand the racial

and cultural implications of teaching African American students.

Some Caucasian American teachers, however, were resistant to discuss African

American students as a single entity. This group of Caucasian American teachers seemed

more comfortable with defining African American students within the context of all

students. They seemed to focus more on eliminating than recognizing the unique

characteristics of their African American students. Sample comments regarding their

feelings are as follows:

“Race? For me there is no race, but human. I am fair but loving to all students.”

“There are no characteristics with just African American students. These students

are just like every other student.”

“African American students are just like every other student. I they should not be

treated any differently than other students.”

“African American students are just students-they get into trouble just like any

other student.”

I would often respond to these comments by explaining that I am not asking them

if they treat African American students better than students from other ethnic groups.

Instead, I was simply asking if they noticed any unique characteristics among their

African American students. Whereas some of the Caucasian American teachers from this

group dynamic tried to provide a few examples, most of the teachers remained adamant
The Skin They’re In 77

that no unique characteristics existed for African American students. These teachers

continued to advocate that because “All Children are the Same,” African American

students would not be looked at or treated in any way that was different from their

perceptions of other students.

However, during some parts of the focused group discussions, I did talk with

these and the other teachers about accusations of racism. Many of the Caucasian

American teachers wanted to know why African American students often accused them

of being racist towards African American students. They also asked me to provide them

with strategies for responding to African American students’ accusation of racism.

My initial response was to ask the teachers to explain how they responded to the students

in these situations. The teachers indicated that in most instances, they refuted the claims

of racism. They also expressed anger and frustration with being accused of being racist

towards African American students.

My response to this situation was to explain that many of the African American

students define their interactions with Caucasian American teachers in accordance to

racism. I would also encourage these teachers to use a three-prong approach to address

accusations of racism. First, the teachers should ask the students to define racism. The

teachers should then provide the students with their definition of racism. The teachers

should then engage the students in discussing the extent to which their actions were

indicative of racism. That is, were the teacher’s actions based on racism or a response to

the African American student’s behavior? As mentioned, the Caucasian American

teachers indicated that their responses were based on the actions of the students. As such,
The Skin They’re In 78

I informed these teachers to convey this point to African American students. They should

then insist that these students refrain from accusing them of being racist.

The Caucasian American teachers, as well as other teachers from the focused

group, were very responsive to my suggestions for addressing racism. However, I am not

sure if these teachers believed that these strategies would work with African American

students. As a result, I am unsure of the extent to which the teachers implemented these

strategies into their classrooms.

IV. Implications

The purpose of this investigation was to explore African American students’

perceptions of their schooling experiences in Irving Independent School District. This


The Skin They’re In 79

investigation produced two significant results. First, race does impact African American

students’ perceptions of themselves and their culture. Second, race does impact African

American students’ perceptions of their schooling experiences in Irving Independent

School District. Regardless of behavioral status, African American students have pride in

being apart of the African American race. However, their racialization has caused them to

perceive racial inequities in their schools.

These findings create several important implications. One of the most important

implications is commitment to using a racially relevant approach to addressing the needs

of African American students in Irving Independent School District. The most important

stakeholders in this process are parents, teachers, and principals. As such, I will provide

needs-specific implications these stakeholders of African American students in Irving

Independent School District.

Parents

Based on the findings from my investigation, I believe that African American

parents must continue to apply a race-conscious approach towards raising African

American children. I would also like to encourage and challenge African American

parents to broaden their approach to helping their children understand the full meaning of

racism.

African American parents must help their children to understand the positive and

negative racial implications of being African American in society. They must provide

them with strategies for using the positive implications to develop a strong academic

identity. That is, they must talk to their children about the importance of getting and

education. These discussions must include but not be limited to:


The Skin They’re In 80

• Talking with African American children about the African legacy of using

education to become learned individuals and well developed people.

• Reminding African American children of their duty and obligation to uphold the

African American race by becoming educated individuals.

• Training African American children to understand that getting an education is

neither a “Black Thing” or “White Thing.” Rather, getting an education is the

“Right Thing” needed to achieve their goals and dreams.

• Helping African American children to understand that respecting teachers is a

prerequisite to achieving an education. The reason is that the student’s job is to

enter schools to acquire knowledge from their teachers.

These ideas will empower African American students to develop the resilience

needed to become high achieving students. To minimize the negative implications,

parents must be vigilant in providing their children with counter narratives about race and

racism in America. The findings from my investigation clearly show that many African

American parents have begun to engage their children in serious discussions about race

and racism.

In addition, most of these discussions appear to inform the children that because

of their race, thy will experience some significant hardships in life. As such, I would like

to strongly encourage African American parents to balance this perspective by informing

their children to continually pursue excellence and achievement. In addition, African

American parents must inform their children that although race and racism have been

central to the Black experience, racism will not always be the defining factors of their life

experiences.
The Skin They’re In 81

Along those same lines, African American parents must help their children to

develop a race-conscious view of race and racism. In my investigation, I found that many

African American students defined racism as a Black-White issue. That is, racism was

defined as Caucasian American people’s tendencies to mistreat African American people.

Another perspective is that African American people were made to feel inferior to

Caucasian American people.

I believe that African American parents can broaden this thought process in two

ways. First, they can teach their children that people from all racial and ethnic

backgrounds can be perpetrators and victims of racism. Second, parents can help their

children to understand that some Caucasian American people, as well as people from

other ethnic groups, will not judge or address them in accordance to their race.

Rather, these people will judge and address them in accordance to their character,

conduct, and disposition. As such, parents must train their children on how to discern if

Caucasian American people, as well as people from other ethnic groups, are approaching

them along the lines of race or personal characteristics.

After reviewing the African American students interpretations of their parents’

socialization regarding race, I propose that African American parents and children

develop a set of criteria for determining how Caucasian American people, as well as

people from other ethnic groups, treat them. Listed below is a sample criteria for helping

African American students view people’s treatment of them.

1. What has the person said or done to me?

2. Were the actions based on my race or character, conduct, or disposition?

3. If race, how do I know my race was the defining factor?


The Skin They’re In 82

4. If character, conduct, or disposition, what must I do to elicit the desired treatment from

the person?

An African American parent-child criteria would benefit African American

children twofold. First, African American children would have a set of ideas to interpret

other people’s treatment and views of them. Second, African American children’s

responses to other people in these situations would be based on adult guidance instead of

only child like assumptions, survival tactics, and beliefs.

Overall, these parental suggestions can build African American students capacity

to operated outside of their racial worldview. That is, African American students will be

more likely to understand when and how to trust and connect with Caucasian American

people, as well as other people who have a non-African American pigmentation and

worldview. In addition, these suggestions also enhance the possibility of African

American students to feel that they can simultaneously maintain a strong grade point

average and racial identity.

Teachers

Teachers must play a critical role in empowering their African American students

to achieve and maintain a positive academic identity. First, Irving Independent School

District teachers must conduct self assessments of their racial worldview. Specifically,

they must examine how race has impacted their lives and views of people from other

cultures and ethnicities. They must investigate how race influenced them during their

formative years, preservice years, and inservice years. This step would benefit the overall

teaching development of African American teachers, Hispanic American teachers, and

Caucasian American teachers.


The Skin They’re In 83

In my opinion, Caucasian American teachers would especially benefit from the

racial self assessment. The reason is threefold. First, the findings from this investigation

showed that most of the African American students perceived that race and racism were

more of a defining factor in their interactions with Caucasian American teachers than

teacher from the other ethnic groups. Second, quantitative results revealed that more

Caucasian American teachers than African American teachers and Hispanic American

teachers indicated that race bared no influence on their identities as individuals and

teachers. Third, the outcomes of the focused group discussions continually showed that

many Caucasian American teachers rarely thought about the extent to which or rationale

for how and why race should influence human development and personal identity.

Evidence to this effect could be seen in how many of these teachers avoided the

opportunity to identify unique academic and behavioral characteristics of African

American students.

Because most of the African American teachers and Hispanic teachers had given

some level of thought to race, they were more likely to understand the extent to which

this construct impacts the racial worldview of African American students. For this

reason, I previously suggested that they continue to conduct a racial self awareness of

themselves. That way, they may then develop a better understanding of how race impacts

African American students. In addition, they are more likely to be able to make a stronger

connection with these students.

Overall, Caucasian American teachers, African American teachers, and Hispanic

American teachers must begin to discuss race among themselves. Specifically, they must

share and question each other’s feelings about and experiences with race. They must then
The Skin They’re In 84

translate these discussions into school wide understandings of how race impacts their

views of students, especially African American students. I would strongly encourage the

teachers to begin and continue these discussions throughout the school year.

These discussions should be designed to show that:

• Race is a concept to be explored instead of an issue to be ignored by people.

• Race is a representation of authentically constructed ethnic experiences. As such,

these experiences must be understood from a value-added perspective by people

from different cultures and ethnicities.

• Racial harmony can be achieved through realizing that understanding racial

differences is a prerequisite to celebrating racial unity.

Sample topics for discussion should be:

• Who am I? Deconstructing Racial Stereotypes in Homes, Schools, and

Communities

• What can I? Reconstructing Racial Awareness for Valuing The Ethnic Value of

All People.

• Where Will I? Applying a Racially Conscious Approach to Meeting the Needs of

Students Who Look Different Than Me

Teachers should use these discussions to facilitate race-based discussions in their

classrooms. The discussions should be designed to engage African American students,

Hispanic American students, and Caucasian American students in the following

discussions:

1. What is race?

2. What is racism?
The Skin They’re In 85

3. What is the difference between racial and racist?

4. How do you feel about your race?

5. How do you feel about other ethnic groups?

6. What do you want other ethnic groups to understand about your ethnic group?

7. How do you think that your school feels about people from you ethnic group?

These discussions and reflections would enhance the social development of

African American students, as well as Caucasian American students and Hispanic

American students. Specifically, these discussions would help African American students

to make a stronger connection with their teachers, particularly Caucasian American

teachers.

In effect, the recurring theme from my investigation is the African American

student belief in Caucasian American induced racism in schools. However, I do not

Caucasian American teachers are racist towards African American students. But I do

believe that the differences between these teachers’ and students’ views about race do

explain why African American students feel that many of their Caucasian American

teachers are racist towards them.

As one African American student stated, “Whites Run the Show.” In other words,

this and other African American students equate “Whiteness” with the cultural symbols

of power, privilege, advantage and dominance. Thus, when many African American

students interact with Caucasian American teachers, they may initially feel that the

power, privilege, prestige, and dominance associated with White skin color automatically

places them in a position of being short changed by these teachers.


The Skin They’re In 86

By holding explicit race-based discussions, Caucasian American teachers may or

may not be able to convince their African American students that “Whiteness” doesn’t

necessarily represent power, privilege, prestige, and dominance in society. But these

teachers can show their African American students how their “Whiteness” will be used to

promote a selfless regard for all students. In other words, the power, privilege, prestige,

and dominance associated with “Whiteness” will not and must not be used to define the

actions of every Caucasian American teacher in Irving Independent School District.

Principals

Principals will play one of the biggest, if not the biggest, roles in helping African

American students to arouse and sustain a strong academic identity in school. The reason

is that principals set the tone and provide the leadership needed to facilitate change in

schools. Thus, principals must take several steps to empower teachers to meet the needs

of African American students.

The first step is to discuss the report with teachers. These discussions should

focus on how to create a school environment that is inclusive of and accommodating to

African American students. In working with teachers, principals must also create ad hoc

committees that work to improve African American students’ standings in school. These

committees should create, expand, and revise academic and social practices that produce

equitable learning experiences for African American students.

From an academic perspective, principals and these committees must be fully

committed to developing a climate of African American student inclusion into the

academic community. For example, a committee could conduct investigations on why

only a few African American students are enrolled in honors and gifted and talented
The Skin They’re In 87

classes. They could use their findings to develop systemic ways of connecting African

American students to these classes.

Principals must also solicit parental support in strongly encouraging African

American students to enroll in these classes. For instance, an Irving Independent School

District secondary principal enrolled an African American athlete in the school’s

Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program. Upon receiving this news,

the student’s parent met with the principal to discuss the enrollment. The parent indicated

that the principal mistakenly enrolled her son in the AVID program. The principal then

informed the parent that she intentionally placed the student in the AVID program. The

main reason is that she believed that the student was able to meet program requirements

for being a high achiever. These actions inform African American students and African

American parents that the beauty of “Being Black” also includes the ability to

demonstrate intellectual success in advanced classrooms.

From a social perspective, principals must also work with guidance counselors to

create structural opportunities for African American students to affirm their racial

identity in school. Better stated, African American students need adult mentors and

sponsors who can facilitate discussions regarding the racial aspects of their schooling

experiences. These meetings and discussions should also provide opportunities for

African American students to build strong African American identities. They must also

be allowed to enact an African American identity that is appreciated, accepted, and

approved of by teachers and principals.

To sustain the effectiveness of these strategies, principals must facilitate race-

based discussions among teachers. Principals must engage teachers in reflecting on how
The Skin They’re In 88

and why African American students are different from students from other ethnic groups.

The discussions should also examine why many African American students perceive

racial inequities in their schools. In addition, principals must challenge their teachers to

examine if and how school practices may perpetuate racial inequities between African

American students and students from other ethnic groups.

Equally significant, principals must work closely with their school personnel to

create and administer race equity surveys and questionnaires to students. These

instruments should measure African American students’ perceptions of how they are

treated by teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. The instruments must also

be used to ensure that specific instructional and behavioral strategies are used to respond

to the needs of African American students. Through appropriate and consistent

application, these strategies will inform African American students that their race,

heritage, and culture are an important part of their schools.


The Skin They’re In 89

V. Summary/Conclusions

The purpose of the investigation was to examine the schooling experiences of

African American students in Irving Independent School District. Specifically, I

investigated 143 African American secondary students’ perceptions of their experiences

with being in grades 6-12 in Irving Independent School District middle schools and high

schools.

I facilitated investigation by engaging the students in discussions about

themselves as individuals and students. I found that all of the students were very proud of

their African American culture and heritage. For these students, being apart of the

African American race was one of the most important aspects of their lives.

However, many of these students did not perceive that their race and culture were

fully included in their communities and schools. From a societal perspective, the students

believed that numerous inequities existed between African American people and

Caucasian American people. According to these students, the main reason is that these

students believe that they are perceived as being inferior to Caucasian American people.

Along those same lines, the African American students perceived racial inequities

between how they and Caucasian American students and Hispanic American students are

treated in schools. The students also perceived that because of their race, they received

different and less supportive treatment from many teachers, particularly Caucasian

American teachers. These perceptions seem to be observations for African American

students without behavioral issues and obstacles for African American students with

behavioral issues in their schools.


The Skin They’re In 90

In talking with their teachers, I found that some of the teachers were more aware

of the racial aspects of their African American students than other teachers. Similarly,

more African American teachers and Hispanic American teachers were cognizant of this

development than Caucasian American teachers. In my opinion, one reason was that race

was more influential in the identity development trajectory of Hispanic American

teachers and African American teachers than Caucasian American teachers. In addition,

more Caucasian American teachers than African American teachers and Hispanic

American teachers were more resistant towards discussing the role of race in the

development of and worldviews of students, particularly African American students.

Overall, because of believing that all students are the same, most of these teachers could

not understand the need for solely focusing on identifying academic and behavioral

characteristics of African American students.

Based on these findings, I implicated that parents, teachers, and principals must

design specific strategies for enhancing the academic and racial identity of Irving

Independent School District’s African American students. African American parents

must continue to train their children on how to understand the role of race in their lives.

All teachers must develop a race-based awareness of themselves and their African

American students. Principals must facilitate this change by developing an agenda that

focuses on the identity of African American students. Specifically, principals must

empower teachers to take the necessary changes to accommodate the needs of African

American students.

Collectively, teaches, principals, and African American parents must consistently

inform African American students that school is designed for them to become
The Skin They’re In 91

intellectually superior students and human beings. These strategies will arouse and

sustain strong relationships between African American homes and schools. The strategies

would also create a home-to-school and school-to-home support system that

acknowledges, embraces, and addresses the race, culture, and heritage of African

American students in Irving Independent School District.