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Learning Race, Learning Place

Learning Race, Learning Place: Shaping Racial Identities and Ideas in African American Childhoods

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    Learning Race, Learning Place
    Book Description:

    In an American society both increasingly diverse and increasingly segregated, the signals children receive about race are more confusing than ever. In this context, how do children negotiate and make meaning of multiple and conflicting messages to develop their own ideas about race?Learning Race, Learning Placeengages this question using in-depth interviews with an economically diverse group of African American children and their mothers.

    Through these rich narratives, Erin N. Winkler seeks to reorient the way we look at how children develop their ideas about race through the introduction of a new framework-comprehensive racial learning-that shows the importance of considering this process from children's points of view and listening to their interpretations of their experiences, which are often quite different from what the adults around them expect or intend. At the children's prompting, Winkler examines the roles of multiple actors and influences, including gender, skin tone, colorblind rhetoric, peers, family, media, school, and, especially, place. She brings to the fore the complex and understudied power of place, positing that while children's racial identities and experiences are shaped by a national construction of race, they are also specific to a particular place that exerts both direct and indirect influence on their racial identities and ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5431-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Comprehensive Racial Learning, Grounded in Place
    (pp. 1-28)

    “Show me the smart child. Why is he the smart child?” “Show me the dumb child. Why is he the dumb child?” “Show me the nice child.” “Show me the mean child.” So went the questions posed to black and white children in the recent, widely discussed series on CNN.¹ The series recalled Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1940s doll studies, used to argue against racial segregation in the landmark 1954Brown v. Board of Educationdecision. The children in CNN’s 2010 study were asked to answer the questions by pointing to one of five cartoon children, identical except for their...

  6. 2 Rhetoric versus Reality: Ambivalence about Race and Racism
    (pp. 29-51)

    Mahogany, an engaging fifteen-year-old eighth-grader, exudes both toughness and tenderness as she talks about her experiences growing up in Detroit. While she says the adults in her life would describe her as “loud,” “having an attitude,” and “greedy,” she is patiently entertaining her young niece, whom she has the responsibility of babysitting during our interview. Mahogany gently shows the toddler how to pat on a keyboard quietly enough to avoid interference with the audio taping of our interview while sharing with me that her eldest sister was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Detroit less than a year prior. Mahogany...

  7. 3 Racialized Place: Comprehensive Racial Learning through Travel
    (pp. 52-76)

    This chapter begins to reveal the ways place emerges as influential in children’s comprehensive racial learning. Remember that by place, I mean not only the location and geography, but the material environment (buildings, vacant spaces, public spaces, and so on), the social character and cultural milieu, the history, the racial demographics, the economic identity, and the civic leadership, character, and control (Gieryn, 2000; Paulsen 2004). People, then, are both creators and products of place (Wilkins 2007, 106); they “are both shaped by [it], and challenge [it]” (McKittrick 2006, xvi). Here I am considering place, as Thomas Gieryn suggests, as “not...

  8. 4 Place Matters: Shaping Mothers’ Messages
    (pp. 77-100)

    While the last chapter looked at how place directly and actively teaches children about race, this chapter theorizes the indirect role of place in children’s comprehensive racial learning. Specifically, I will argue that place influences what mothers choose to teach their children about race and racism. First, by comparing the racial socialization message of the mothers in this study with a smaller pilot sample of parents in the San Francisco Bay Area, I will argue that the Detroit mothers send fewer direct verbal messages about black history, leadership, creative expression, beauty, and more, not because they do not find such...

  9. 5 Competing with Society: Responsive Racial Socialization
    (pp. 101-146)

    Michelle laughs freely when sharing stories about her thirteen-year-old daughter, Elina, and her ten-year-old son, Carlos, often beginning, “Now,thisis so funny.” Her pride in her children is clear as she shares details about their talents, interests, and personalities. “They just tickle me sometimes,” she says, smiling. However, she becomes very serious when the topic turns to her deep concerns about how racism may impact her children’s lives. Although she expresses uncertainty about when and how it is best to talk to Elina and Carlos about racism, she is unequivocal about her responsibility to do so. “As a parent,”...

  10. 6 Black Is Black? Gender, Skin Tone, and Comprehensive Racial Learning
    (pp. 147-177)

    Despite important exceptions (T. L. Brown et al. 2010; McHale et al. 2006; A. Thomas and King 2007), few studies systematically explore the impact of African American children’s gender and skin tone on their ideas about race or their parents’ racial socialization messages (Hughes et al. 2008; Lesane-Brown 2006; Stevenson et al. 2005; T. Williams and Davidson 2009). Research on racial identity among multiracial adults, as well as the racial socialization practiced by their families, does a much more thorough job of exploring the impact of skin tone and gender on each process (Funderburg 1994; O’Donoghue 2005; Rockquemore and Laszloffy...

  11. 7 Conclusion: “I Learn Being Black from Everywhere I Go”
    (pp. 178-182)

    There is a debate among scholars over which sources of information (sometimes called “socializing agents”) are most powerful in how children learn about race. The literature falls into two broad camps: those who believe the family is the most critical agent of socialization and those who argue that forces outside the family have more influence. Authors in the first camp claim that the family is primary because it decides “what to filter out, [and] what to promote” (Boykin and Ellison 1995, 124). However, scholars in the second camp argue that socialization about race is controlled by forces outside of the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 183-184)
    (pp. 185-206)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 207-212)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-214)