Demystifying Cultural Theories and Practices: Locating Black Immigrant Experiences in Teacher Education Research

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					                                                                                                                                  Higher Education

                 Demystifying Cultural Theories and Practices
           Locating Black Immigrant Experiences in Teacher Education Research

                                                   Janet Tolulope Awokoya & Christine Clark

                  Introduction                            none of them comprehensively capture                 because of the connections that have de-
                                                          the	 intragroup	 differences	 and	 identity	         veloped between these youth and the false,
	    The	 number	 of	 immigrants	 of	 color	
                                                          processes	 that	 affect	 Black	 immigrant	           highly destructive, socially constructed
residing	in	the	United	States	reached	13.5	
                                                          youth	in	social	and	educational	settings.            view of “Black American ‘culture.’” Thus,
million	in	March	2005,	the	highest	in	U.	
                                                          	     This	 article	 will	 address	 this	 gap	 in	   it	is	of	utmost	importance	to	keep	in	mind	
S.	history	(Camarota,	2005).	By	2010	the	
                                                          the literature in three ways: (1) it will            the absolute falseness of this view of Black
number	 of	 Black	 immigrants	 and	 their	
                                                          discuss	 the	 extent	 to	 which	 these	 three	       American culture in seeking effective solu-
children is estimated to reach five mil-
                                                          theories	 do	 contribute	 understanding	 of	         tions for improving the academic success of
lion, and will represent twelve percent of
                                                          the	sociocultural	experiences	of	Black	im-           all	Black	students	(Black	immigrant	and	
the	Black	population	in	the	United	States	
                                                          migrant	youth	in	U.	S.	schools;	(2)	it	will	         Black American alike) in the United States
(Rong	 &	 Brown,	 2001,	 2002	 a	 &	 b).	 To	
                                                          identify	 and	 problematize	 the	 shortcom-          (Perry	et	al.,	2003).
date,	the	majority	of	Black	immigrants	in	
                                                          ings in these three theories vis-à-vis Black
the	United	States	are	from	Trinidad	and	
                                                          immigrant students; and, finally, (3) it will                   Problem Statement
Tobago,	 Grenada,	 Haiti,	 and	 Jamaica,	
                                                          suggest possibilities for the advancement
but	 substantial	 numbers	 of	 immigrants	                                                                     	     Black	 immigrants	 are	 concentrating	
                                                          of	 a	 more	 detailed	 and	 otherwise	 robust	
also come from various African countries,                                                                      in	 central	 cities	 throughout	 the	 United	
                                                          theory	that	more	adequately	describes	the	
including	 Ethiopia,	 Ghana,	 Nigeria,	 and	                                                                   States. New York, Atlanta, Newark, Jersey
                                                          sociocultural	 experiences	 of	 Black	 immi-
South Africa (Rong & Brown, 2001, 2002                                                                         City, Detroit, and Houston have some of
                                                          grant	youth	and	supports	their	educational	
a & b). As a result of these demographic                                                                       the	largest	numbers	of	Black	immigrants,	
trends, educational researchers have                                                                           who are diverse not only in terms of
                                                          	     It	is	important	to	note	at	the	outset	of	
increased	 their	 focus	 on	 how	 Black	 im-                                                                   national origin, but by ethnic affiliation,
                                                          this	work	that	U.	S.-based	racism	has	im-
migrant	 youth	 fare	 once	 in	 the	 United	                                                                   cultural	tradition,	and	generational	status	
                                                          bedded	in	the	psyche	of	most	people	in	the	
States. This scholarly attention is varied,                                                                    (Camarota,	 2005;	 Foner,	 2001;	 Rong	 &	
                                                          world images and associated definitions
emanating	from	three	primary	conceptual	                                                                       Brown, 2001, 2002 a & b). As this popula-
                                                          of “Black American ‘culture’” that are, at
perspectives: Cultural Ecological Theory,                                                                      tion continues to grow, its children have
                                                          once, not Black, not Black American, and
Culture-Centered	 Theory,	 and	 Critical	                                                                      begun to experience American schools in
                                                          not	culture,	much	less	anything	akin	to	an	
Race	Theory.	                                                                                                  an	array	of	uniquely	challenging	ways.
                                                          accurate	depiction	and/or	description	of	all	
	    Cultural	Ecological	Theory	(CET)	ex-                                                                            While mainstream sociological theo-
                                                          that	is	the	richness	of	what	is	truly	Black	
plores	how	culture,	identity,	and	societal	                                                                    ries have striven to capture the social and
                                                          American culture, and the history from
forces	impact	the	educational	outcomes	of	                                                                     economic	 experiences	 of	 these	 children	
                                                          which	 it	 emerged	 and	 in	 relationship	 to	
minority	groups.	Culture-Centered	Theory	                                                                      (Portes & Zhou, 1993; Waters, 1999), very
                                                          which it continues to grow and develop in
(CCT)	examines	the	use	of	students’	cul-                                                                       little	is	known	about	their	day	to	day	expe-
                                                          myriad	important	ways.
tural	backgrounds	as	a	point	of	reference	                                                                     riences	in	academic	settings,	because	stud-
                                                                The degree to which Black American
for	preparing	those	students	academically	                                                                     ies	focusing	on	these	types	of	experiences	
                                                          culture (along with Black Americans them-
and	 socially.	Critical	 Race	 Theory	(CRT)	                                                                   often	 statistically	 group	 these	 children	
                                                          selves) has been reduced to the inferior and
explores	the	sociopolitical	consequences	of	                                                                   with African-American children on the
                                                          violent imagery perpetuated by corporate
race	in	educational	settings	from	a	progres-                                                                   basis of “race” and the data compiled is
                                                          mass culture in service to the almighty dol-
sive legal perspective. While these theories                                                                   rarely	 disaggregated	 on	 the	 basis	 of	 any	
                                                          lar	is	nothing	short	of	genocidal,	and	yet,	
are promising in providing insight into the                                                                    other	 social	 identity	 dimension	 (Harry	
                                                          through	the	utter	resiliency	of	the	Black	
experiences	 of	 Black	 immigrant	 youth,	                                                                     &	Klingner,	2006).	The	blanket	grouping	
                                                          American spirit, the true culture of Black
                                                                                                               of	 these	 populations	 creates	 within	 both	
                                                          Americans persists in profoundly robust
                                                                                                               theoretical	 and	 practical	 challenges	 for	
    Janet Tolulope Awokoya is a doctoral candidate        manne
Description: [...] gender-related expectations and the "masculinist bias" in many African and Caribbean nations are lost in the discussions these theories put forth. [...] research must examine the social and economic positions of Black immigrants in their native countries, focusing on differences that emerge on the bases of national origin, as well as national origin vis--vis ethnic identity and gender norms, and then link this research to that seeking explanations of Black immigrant experiences within the United States.
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