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Race and Gender Intersectionality and Education  

Venus E. Evans-Winters

When recognizing the cultural political agency of Black women and girls from diverse racial and ethnic, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds and geographical locations, it is argued that intersectionality is a contributing factor in the mitigation of educational inequality. Intersectionality as an analytical framework helps education researchers, policymakers, and practitioners better understand how race and gender intersect to derive varying amounts of penalty and privilege. Race, class, and gender are emblematic of the three systems of oppression that most profoundly shape Black girls at the personal, community, and social structural levels of institutions. These three systems interlock to penalize some students in schools while privileging other students. The intent of theoretically framing and analyzing educational problems and issues from an intersectional perspective is to better comprehend how race and gender overlap to shape (a) educational policy and discourse, (b) relationships in schools, and (c) students’ identities and experiences in educational contexts. With Black girls at the center of analysis, educational theorists and activists may be able to better understand how politics of domination are organized along other axes such as ethnicity, language, sexuality, age, citizenship status, and religion within and across school sites. Intersectionality as a theoretical framework is informed by a variety of standpoint theories and emancipatory projects, including Afrocentrism, Black feminism and womanism, critical race theory, queer theory, radical Marxism, critical pedagogy, and grassroots’ organizing efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and other women of color throughout US history and across the diaspora.

Article

Centering Young Black Women’s and Girls’ Voices in STEM Participation in the United States  

Kara Mitchell, Carla Wellborn, and Chezare Warren

There has been growing scholarly interest in Black girls’ and young women’s matriculation across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. This interest is fueled by the STEM field’s maintenance of a largely White and male culture, despite the passage of Title IX laws in the 1970s. This exploration of Black women’s and girls’ STEM participation has been incredibly important for extending what is known about this group. Less discernible from the extant literature is Black women’s and girls’ first-person sensemaking about the moments, people, incidents, and environments that determine not just their participation but also their persistence into and through higher education to complete a STEM undergraduate degree. The language of trajectories implicates life course, growth, and development in ability over time with age and experience. The various environments influencing young Black women’s and girls’ learning about STEM, and their decisions about how or if to participate in STEM, are informed by constantly evolving understandings of their intersectional race–gender identity. This identity is changing over time as they grow older and come into contact with various STEM learning opportunities, people, and places. Young Black women and girls are keenly aware of race–gender limitations imposed on them by dominant cultural norms, institutional agents, and experiences with institutional policy and practice. Such perspectives are shaping how they come to view themselves aside from STEM and the decisions they make at each point on the STEM pipeline specific to their desire to own a STEM identity despite their subject position as a race–gender minoritized person in STEM subjects and majors.

Article

Urban Teaching and Black Girls’ Pedagogies  

Menah Pratt-Clarke, Andrea N. Baldwin, and Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown

To discuss and understand urban teaching and Black girls’ pedagogies, the fundamental premise is that Black girls are not monolithic, but complex and nonhomogenous. Black girlhood studies recognize that, because of their intersectional race, class, and gender status, Black girls have different experiences than Black boys and White girls. Core themes in Black girlhood include self-identity and socialization; beauty and self-expression; popular culture, hip hop, and stereotypes; violence; systemic discipline in schools; and resiliency and survival. Responding to the unique experiences of Black girls, Black women educators developed and adopted a pedagogy that focuses on and centers Black girls and Black girlhood in all their complexity. Using a strengths-based approach, Black girls’ pedagogy is built on a Black feminist and womanist framework that recognizes the need for culturally informed curriculum and classroom experiences, more Black women educators, and a commitment to an ethics of care.

Article

Special Education and Gender in the United States  

Nickie Coomer and Chelsea Stinson

Historically, Western hegemonic order has been established through cultivating and legitimating social categories of difference. Schools, among other institutions, reinforce difference through marking ability, race, and gender to signify which bodies are productive, deficient, or dangerous and therefore in need of control. This process of differentiation and control is evident in the social, political, and education contexts of disabled youth whose race, gender, and sexuality are read, controlled, and resisted through policy and pedagogy. Through the processes of hypervisiblity, pathologization, and underserving of Black girls in schools, and especially within special education, this animates the nexus of gender, race, and disability. Parallels are drawn to paradigms of the female body and femininity, where difference is constructed as inferior to the normative male body. Similarly, special education policy, practice, and literature conceptualize disability as subtractive difference, wherein what is considered a “deficit” relies on a subtractive interpretation of a normative body or a normative way of being. In this regard, disability, gender—and, crucially, race—are often thought of as a negative departure from a normalized embodiment. In special education, such normalized, essentialist approaches to gender, race, and disability contribute to the disproportionate overidentification of some social identities and the underidentification of others, most often along raced and gendered lines. Importantly, disabling processes are institutionalized in education through the mechanism of special education, which not only serves as an instructional and academic response to a student’s disability but also acts as an institutional process that determines a student as disabled. The determination of a student having a disability is mediated through law, policy, and interpersonal interaction between school professionals and parents and caregivers. Disproportionate identification has been the focus of research, and studies show that overidentification occurs most often in disability categories that are considered “subjective”: for instance, specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. Such identification has an impact on students’ learning; opportunities to interact with their peers in general education settings; access to high quality, challenging curriculum; and opportunities to engage critical thinking in educational activities that go beyond direct instruction. Disabling processes in schools related to the intersection of disability, gender, and race, in particular, are mediated by the local, cultural interactions of school personnel and are evident in the ways in which Black girls, in particular, are disabled in school.

Article

Black Girls and Mathematics Learning  

Crystal Morton, Danielle Tate McMillan, and Winterbourne Harrison-Jones

Though the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls are gaining more visibility in the literature, there is still a paucity of research around Black girls’ mathematics learning experiences. Black girls face unique challenges as learners in K–12 educational spaces because of their marginalized racial and gender identities. The interplay of race and racism unfolds in complex ways in Black girls’ learning experiences. This interplay hinders their development as mathematics learners and limits their access to transformative learning. As early as elementary school, Black girls are labeled as having limited mathematics knowledge and are often disproportionately placed in “lower level classrooms” devoid of any rigorous and transformative learning experiences. Teachers spend more time socially correcting Black girls rather than building on their brilliance. Even though Black girls value mathematics more and have higher confidence in mathematics than their White counterparts, they are still held to lower expectations by their teachers and are less likely to complete an advanced mathematics course. Nationally and globally, mathematics serves as an academic gatekeeper into every avenue of the labor market and higher education opportunities. Thus, the lack of opportunities Black girls have to engage in rigorous and transformative mathematics potentially locks them out of higher education opportunities and STEM-based careers. The mathematics learning experiences of Black girls move beyond challenges in K–12 spaces to limiting life choices and individual and community progress. To improve the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls, we must understand their unique learning experiences more fully.

Article

Rethinking Spaces of Confinement Through Black Girl Embodiment  

Dominique C. Hill

Carcerality in educational settings tends to focus on the school-to-prison pipeline and other ways that bodies differentially marked by race, gender, and, more recently, sexuality and ability are punished and tracked into the juvenile justice system. The ongoing chain between marginalized bodies and criminality is evident in rates of incarceration based on race and gender specifically. Black lesbian feminist organizing of the late 20th century called attention to the relationship between social identities and carcerality. Expanding on this work, Black feminist scholarship argues that Black womxn and girls are inherently valuable and that liberation is necessary for autonomy. Scholarship, however, illustrates how freedom for Black womxn and girls are directly mediated by systems of race, gender, sexuality, class, as well as by the discourses created to maintain order through institutions such as schools and prisons. Building on the preceding connections between social identities and confinement, Black girls’ specific encounters with high-stakes policies, such as zero-tolerance, and school discipline reveal new textures and distinct qualities of carcerality that expand education’s understanding of carceral spaces and experiences. In a society that presumes Black girls need no protection because their Blackness is feared while their femininity remains unrealized, Black girls’ bodily deliberations and embodied choices are acts of resistance and self-definition.