Dear Mr. Kozol. . . . Four African American Women Scholars and the Re-authoring of Savage Inequalities
by Raquel Farmer-Hinton, Joi D. Lewis, Lori D. Patton & Ishwanzya D. Rivers - 2013
Background: In 1991, Savage Inequalities quickly became the most riveting assessment of the inequalities in U.S. public schools. When Kozol visited East St. Louis for his book, the authors of this paper lived and attended schools there. As Kozolís readers in their respective graduate and undergraduate classes, the authors found it difficult to merge his outsider views with their insider experiences because their backgrounds included many unnamed human and structural resources, valuable beyond a dominant and patriarchal framework.
Objective: The objective of this paper is to resituate Jonathan Kozolís Savage Inequalities by critiquing Kozolís caricaturization of East St. Louis and its schools as places where students and community members lack communal agency and resources. Through the lens of each form of capital from Yossoís (2005) Community Cultural Wealth Model, the authors show how their stories reflected access to various forms of capital as K-12 students in East St. Louis.
Research Design: The methodological framework for this study is narrative inquiry. The authors storied their East St. Louis experiences by generating a narrative protocol and using the protocol to share their backgrounds, historical and contemporary understandings of East St. Louis, and each authorís educational and professional trajectories. Once the narratives were completed, the authors shared and analyzed the narrative texts to identify patterns and emergent themes.
Findings: The narratives revealed how families, teachers, community centers, churches, and extracurricular programs were sources of familial, aspirational, resistant, navigational, and social capital. The narratives also provided clarity on the power and dignity of ďunnamedĒ family and community structures, even though these forms of capital are rarely explored in the dominant literature.
Conclusion: The narratives complicate Kozolís interpretation and prompt readers to look at East St. Louis (and other urban communities) with a more paradoxical frame. This study is important for future educators who read Savage Inequalities and misunderstand urban students and families as subjects who need to be saved. Educators and potential educators require a much more complicated view of urban school districts and school children since scholarship can often provide a one-sided picture of inadequacy and despair. The authors contend that although East St. Louis indeed faces critical challenges fueled by racism and classism, the authors re-storied Kozolís narrative to expose the very rich source of community cultural capital that exists in East St. Louis and other urban centers very much like it.
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