Racialized Space: Framing Latino and Latina Experience in Public Schools
by Heidi Lasley Barajas & Amy Ronnkvist - 2007
Background: Educational research shows differences in experience, access, and outcomes across racial groups with some groups advantaged and others disadvantaged. One of the concepts used to explain racial differences, racialization, is a taken-for-granted term that is yet to be fully defined in the context of the school. We differentiate the term from racism and show how the organizational space of a school is racialized. Taking a cue from feminist research on gendered organizational space (Acker, 1989; Pierce, 1995) and research on white space (Feagin, 1996; Lipsitz, 1998), we define space as physical space and the implicit and explicit dialogue, processes, and practices that define relationships between structures and agents. Thus, space includes not only physical space but also the meanings and ideologies that mediate the relationship between social structures and agents.
Purpose of Study: We suggest that school spaces are racialized; that is, taken-for-granted notions of race mediate the relationship between the school and the actors that comprise it. Furthermore, we consider how racialization determines power in these relationships, and ultimately, how that power determines how policy is practiced in a school space.
Research Design: Our data comes from a qualitative case study focused on evaluating what factors influenced Latino college students’ success. Data was collected over a two year period through a mentor program at a large U.S. research university and includes both fieldwork and interview data.
Findings: We found that racialization occurred in school organizational spaces that invested in whiteness as a purportedly neutral category. In actuality, relationships and practices often delineated along racialized lines, distinguishing what it means to be white in such a space, and what it means not to be white in that space.
Conclusions: Conceptualizing school organizational spaces as a racialized white space allows us to examine and understand differences in the school along racial lines outside the limitations of individual prejudice or color-blind approaches—recognizing race is not the problem. The problem is being willing to recognize what we are doing, and then creating relationships that support a socially just educational organization.
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