Generation Mixed Goes to School: Radically Listening to Multiracial Kids
reviewed by Linsay DeMartino - October 11, 2021
Title: Generation Mixed Goes to School: Radically Listening to Multiracial Kids
Author(s): Ralina L. Joseph and Allison Briscoe-Smith
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807765333, Pages: 192, Year: 2021
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In our space, place, and time, it is essential that we adopt more critically inclusive practices for our youth, but in order to do so we must begin listening to our school-aged children. Although a wide variety of scholarship addresses cultural responsiveness, equity-based education, and just schooling, Generation Mixed Goes to School: Radically Listening to Multiracial Kids, by Drs. Ralina L. Joseph and Allison Briscoe-Smith, respond to the life experiences of Generation Mixed families. That is, through the adoption of radical listening, a framework which serves as a crosscutting theme and acts as an interactive feature in this title, the authors authentically capture the voices and experiences of Generation Mixed families, or Generation Z: born after the 2000 Census, when mark one or more option indicating race first appeared.
Generation Mixed youth experience and are forced to navigate a monoracial world which is confused about mixed race. Hence, using radical listening,1 Generation Mixed Goes to School gathers authentic stories from Generation Mixed youth and offers innovative snapshots where their chosen racialized identities are represented accurately. According to Joseph and Briscoe-Smith, radical listening is both a research method and intervention which entails taking the mic away from those who guard it, typically White adults in positions of power, and purposefully giving it to those who are silenced, like our marginalized youth. Further, the radical listener must neither receive the information passively nor jump to action; instead, they must remain in discomfort before taking action and remain in consultation with the speaker.
Situated in Critical Mixed-Race Studies, 16 out of 18 in-depth interviews were used for this book (two of the youth were shy and whispered to their parents during this process). Unlike traditional interviews where the researcher asks a series of questions, these interviews were attended by both mixed-race youth and their trusted companions, such as siblings, parents, and caregivers, and conversational prompts were provided, like How did you learn about your racial identity? and What do you think other people think about your racial identity? Then, by radically listening to these stories of multiracial experiences, the authors provide a glimpse into the complexities of racial identity development, the friction of race, and enhancing the school climate to embrace all students with a multitude of identities.
Racial identity development is complex and closely intertwined with a sense of agency. In fact, the stories provided in this book speak to how mixed students explanations of the racial identity labels that they might offer up at various times and spaces, with different groups, provide us a window into the complexity and fluidity of racial identity for multiracial individuals. In fact, the youth in this study communicate their chosen choice(s) in their racial socialization. For example, in the book, Hiro, a 13-year-old 8th grader, explains that with his friends he states that he is Japanese to match his Asian-American friendship circle, but his interior definition is more complicated as he considers himself Okinawan, White, and American. As such, Hiro chooses his racialized identity strategically to maintain his friendship circle while maintaining a more insular but comprehensive sense of identity.
Along the same lines, the friction of race relations is apparent in this book. As opposed to agentic racial identity, Joseph and Briscoe-Smith discuss external racialization, or the imposition of racial identity, as the racialized stereotyping that mixed-race youth experience because of the implicit biases of others. In other words, if a mixed-race youth appears to be racially ambiguous, assumptions are made and acted upon without the consent of the young person and without consideration of their chosen identity. For example, Rue, a 16-year-old 11th grader who identifies as Black at school but will reveal herself as Black and White if questioned, was the only Black student sitting in the cafeteria when a White teacher asked her about dreadlocks. Not having the words to push back on the question, Rue reflects on this experience as an Othering experience, or being singled out by a White teacher because she appeared to be Black and therefore had all the answers about Black hair. Through radical listening, Joseph and Briscoe-Smith contend the teacher was further marginalizing her as the sole Black student in her classroom because he quickly made an assumption about her without creating the space to find out who she really was or how she racially identified.
Because both the complexity and fluidity of multiracial experiences are often ignored, it is imperative that schools seek to critically include the voices, minds, and bodies of their diverse students. Because racisms lead to misreading, invisibility, and hierarchies, schools can begin to heal this trauma by improving relationships which directly impact school climate. Therefore, in this book, the authors radically listen and include the voices of educators who successfully built relationships with their diverse students in an attempt to address the racial ascription, misreading, and racism in the classroom. For example, Mr. Day notes that relationships are the key...people will forget what you said, but theyll always remember how you made them feel. By strengthening relationships, schools can improve their climate by removing the smog of implicit bias and engaging their teachers in this process.
Ultimately, framed by radical listening, Generation Mixed Goes to School provides a rich narrative and serves as a powerful resource for teachers, parents, and all who care about the welfare of mixed-race youth with the insight that these youth are constantly living in the socially created confines of race while their race is always in flux for them. In turn, we must radically listen to their stories in order to build a better future for Generation Mixed and beyond.
Interrupting Privilege. (2021). Interrupting privilege, radical listening. http://ip.ccde.com.uw.edu/
Joseph, R. L., & Briscoe-Smith, A. (2021). Generation mixed goes to school: Radically listening to multiracial kids. Teachers College Press.
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