Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Urban African American Youth Language Choice in Voice: A Counter Narrative
by Campbell, JoDana L., Ed.D., Mills College, 2013, 185; 3554695
Abstract (Summary)

This research explores the effect that schooling has on the development of racial identity, language choices and discourse of urban African American adolescents by asking: How do urban African American youth use language to express their identities? It also asks, as a sub-question: How does schooling affect the language choices and identities of African American youth?

As part of this project, twenty-two (22) high school students from three settings—a public high school, a charter high school and a community center - were given a truncated version of the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity (MIBI), which measures the centrality of race and public and private regard. The participants also engaged in focus group interviews, as well as individual interviews. The interview questions focused on their racial identity, examined the relationships they had with each other and explored their lived experiences at school.

I used these interviews to provide data based on the epistemology that youth words, discourse and voice are paramount tools in helping us learn about youth language and voice, and I highlighted those voices as the primary source of data throughout the research. The findings showed that language choices and discourse styles exposed worldview of the youths interviewed. Most of the youth participating in the project had high private regard for their race, while, at the same time, being aware from their lived experience at school of the negative stigma associated with their ascribed racial group. The participating students created three distinct categories, reflecting their language, style of discourse, racial identity and worldview: 1) the persecuted—those youth who chose language and styles of discourse that confronted and displayed opposition to the dominant culture's real or perceived negative stigma associated with their racial identity; 2) the persevered—those youth who chose language and styles of discourse that acknowledged the existence of negative stigma, but strove to traverse the bridge between their racial identity and that of the dominant culture; and 3) the persuaded—those youth who chose language and discourse that mirrors the dominant culture even when it is in direct opposition to their ascribed race creating a desired raceless identity. The majority of the youth participants (76 percent) fit the persevered category. The percentages of participants in the other two categories were evenly represented and their worldviews were included in this research. In all cases, youth language choices are directly linked to their racial identity.

This knowledge directly contradicts the existing educational models that consolidate urban African American youth into a single category from which pedagogy and curricula is derived to increase urban African American youth's academic performance and access. I posit that because of the complexities of urban African American youth choice of voice and racial identity and the cultural divide which exists between urban African American youth and educational practitioners that it is through education practitioners self-reflection and self-evaluation of their cultural differences and biases that we can begin to bridge the divide and become better able to provide equitable education for these students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zirkel, Sabrina
Commitee: Cooks, Jamal, Donahue, David, Galguera, Tomas
School: Mills College
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern language, African American Studies, Black studies, Educational leadership
Keywords: Adolescence, African-American, Language, Language choice, Racial identity, Urban youth, Voice
Publication Number: 3554695
ISBN: 978-1-267-95080-2
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