Flipping the Script: Analyzing Youth Talk about Race and Racism
by Angela E. Castagno

This article discusses a study conducted by Rosemarie A. Roberts, assistant professor of education at Connecticut College; Lee A. Bell, professor, and Barbara Silver-Horowitz, director of education at Barnard College at Columbia University; and Brett Murphy, humanities teach in the Bronx. These individuals are interested in examining how youth view race/racism while participating in a high school curriculum that emphasizes racism, stereotypes, and prejudices. Students were asked to contribute in pre-curriculum and post-curriculum discussions and also to discuss their encounters with racism through the use of four story types: stock stories, concealed stories, resistance stories, and counter stories.

Researchers recorded and video-taped class discussions and interviews with students and teachers. The names of the students and the school were changed for privacy reasons and the videos were used only for research purposes among the researchers. The researchers analyzed the type of language and racial jokes used. The researchers also wanted to analyze the students’ experiences in a society that says it is “color-blind,” but surely it is not.

Riverside High was composed of 58% black students, 40% Hispanic, and 2% of other races. There was an even number of males and females and all of the students in this study were of color, except for one who was a white student. There were a total of 20 classroom observations, 3 pre-curriculum interviews, and 2 post-curriculum interviews.

After reviewing the interviews and discussions, the research concluded that the students preferred to study more about the struggle of minorities today rather than slavery in history. The students felt important by being able to discuss their own problems and situations that are faced every day. The researchers state, “Significantly, our study shows that students yearn for spaces and curricula that provide the context and history within which they can ground their experiences and analysis.” The researchers, and teachers of the students, also feel that the students will return to their norm of using degrading words such as “nigga” and making racial jokes once they leave the classroom and are around their peers. The students do not deny this; they simply state that this is how they deal with prejudice— making jokes helps to deal with the severity of the situation. Many students have now realized that others around them do not agree with the jokes or derogatory words that are used. These students have told the researchers that they will limit their usage of these jokes and words except with people that they trust, such as friends and family members.



This article demonstrates many elements from what we have learned in class.  For example, many students express feelings of being in the out-group.  They feel as if they are often stared at in public and that they do not have as many material items as white Americans.  Some of the students state that stereotyping others occurs frequently in and out of the school setting.  Stereotypes are a way that one group of people belittles another.  Many students expressed that they would like to apply historical events, such as slavery, to racial events which they presently face.  From this, students would learn how past events shape the minds of people today.  There would be a better understanding of how stereotypes have been passed through the generations and why the word "nigga" is just as oppressive as the word "nigger."  Racism would better be understood and ways to cope with racism could be taught.  It would also allow for students to realize the prejudices that they have for others and ways to diminish these thoughts.