Understanding Racial Attitudes Among Students and Teachers in an Ethnically/Racially Diverse High School: An interview with Dr. Alexandra Davis

School is one environment which may help facilitate youths’ exposure to a variety of attitudes towards race and diversity, and such attitudes may impact adolescents’ educational experiences in both positive and negative ways. It is therefore vital to understand how attitudes towards race are expressed in school settings, particularly by White teachers towards youth of color. Dr. Alexandra Davis’s recent article, Understanding racial attitudes among students and teachers in a ethnically/racially diverse high school, examines the role of racial attitudes among teachers within the high school setting.

 Dr. Davis kindly answered some of our questions on her article:

1. What is the main takeaway of your article?

 This study illustrates the importance of racial attitudes in the educational experiences of youth of color. While some teachers are racially conscious and create lessons that promote critical thinking and an understanding of historical factors that impact youth of color, there are other teachers who are uncomfortable talking about race, or are racially biased in their perspectives. Students themselves often espoused color-blind racial attitudes and seemed to lack an understanding of the meaning of race in their own lives, despite witnessing and experiences racism and discrimination.

2. What questions does this paper address? Why were these questions important?

The main research question was, "How do primarily White teachers and students of color view race?" This question is foundational to understanding how identity and understandings of race impact students' educational experiences. Because there are still educational disparities in the United States, we need to better understand how White teachers are impacting youth of color, both in positive ways but also in unintentionally detrimental ways.

 3. What do you wish more people knew about this topic?

I would like people to understand that, while color-blind racial attitudes are often well intentioned, they reflect biases because they erase the meaningful experiences of people of color. We need to reframe how we think about race and how we teach youth about race.

4. What are you most excited to see in this field in the future? What questions are you particularly excited to get answers to?

I am excited to see more work on White teachers and parents, with the goal of better understanding how race is taught and how messages about race are socialized in White youth in order to work towards reducing biases and discrimination. How do color-blind and color-conscious attitudes impact the behavioral development of youth?


Author bio:

Alexandra N. Davis is an Associate Professor of Family and Child Studies at the University of New Mexico. She received her PhD from the University of Missouri in 2016. Her research focuses on the positive development of youth under conditions of marginalization and cultural and contextual stressors. She also conducts research on the role of racial attitudes in moral development of youth.



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