“There’s not many people who are willing to stand up these days”: Race Counternarratives in Middle Childhood

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Children come to understand race within a historically-established racial hierarchy, but they have the agency to accommodate or resist this establishment as they form their own racial identities. Previous research identified distinct narrative types that either reinforce existing societal structures (Master Narratives) or disrupt them (Alternative Narratives). The Counternarrative (CN) is the most assertive Alternative Narrative where children reference the structural consequences of race, and explicitly name and challenge racism in their own lives. This analysis drew from a larger longitudinal interview study (N= 105) to examine the content of race CNs. Thirty-two children (4th to 8th grade) told CNs. Interviews were coded for references to race as individual (self), interpersonal, and structural (historical, political), revealing that CN children discussed race on the individual (29%) and interpersonal levels (26%), but mostly on the structural level (45%). Comparatively, non-CN Children spoke mostly about race at the individual level (42%), and less on an interpersonal (28%) and structural level (30%). Change in CNs from Year 1 to Year 3 showed that 24 of the 32 CN children moved from other narrative types; only 8 told CNs consistently. Analysis revealed that racial encounters were pivotal to this shift, increasing by 40% overall and by 85% among children who moved to CN. These results underscore children’s positive agency to injustice, which is critical for deconstructing racial hierarchy, and suggests that concrete racial experiences may catalyze this resistance.

Last modified
  • 06/03/2019
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