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Race Ethnicity and Education Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2005, pp. 69–91 Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth Tara J. Yosso* University of California, USA Race 10.1080/1361332052000341006 CREE080105.sgm 1361-3324 Original Taylor 8102005 TaraYosso 00000March Ethnicity & and Article Francis (print)/1470-109X Francis 2005 andGroup Ltd Education Ltd (online) This article conceptualizes community cultural wealth as a critical race theory (CRT) challenge to traditional interpretations of cultural capital. CRT shifts the research lens away from a deficit view of Communities of Color as places full of cultural poverty disadvantages, and instead focuses on and learns from the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Various forms of capital nurtured through cultural wealth include aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital. These forms of capital draw on the knowledges Students of Color bring with them from their homes and communities into the classroom. This CRT approach to education involves a commitment to develop schools that acknowledge the multiple strengths of Communities of Color in order to serve a larger purpose of struggle toward social and racial justice. Introduction Theory, then, is a set of knowledges. Some of these knowledges have been kept from us— entry into some professions and academia denied us. Because we are not allowed to enter discourse, because we are often disqualified and excluded from it, because what passes for theory these days is forbidden territory for us, it is vital that we occupy theorizing space, that we not allow white men and women solely to occupy it. By bringing in our own approaches and methodologies, we transform that theorizing space. (Anzaldúa, 1990, p. xxv, emphasis in original) In the epigraph above, Gloria Anzaldúa (1990) calls on People of Color to transform the process of theorizing. This call is about epistemology—the study of sources of knowledge. Scholars such as Gloria Ladson-Billings (2000) and Dolores Delgado Bernal (1998, 2002) have asked: whose knowledge counts and whose knowledge is discounted? Throughout US history, race and racism have shaped this *Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. Email: ISSN 1361-3324 (print)/ISSN 1470-109X (online)/05/010069–23 © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/1361332052000341006 70 T. J. Yosso epistemological debate (Scheurich & Young, 1997; Lopez & Parker, 2003). Indeed, it has been over a century since DuBois (1903, 1989) predicted that racism would continue to emerge as one of the United States’ key social problems. Racism overtly shaped US social institutions at the beginning of the twentieth century and continues, although more subtly, to impact US institutions of socialization in the beginning of the twenty-first century. Researchers, practitioners and students are still searching for the necessary tools to effectively analyze and challenge the impact of race and racism in US society. In addressing the debate over knowledge within the context of social inequality, Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) argued that the knowledges of the upper and middle classes are considered capital valuable to a hierarchical society. If one is not born into a family whose knowledge is already deemed valuable, one could then access the knowledges of the middle and upper class and the potential for social mobility through formal schooling. Bourdieu’s theoretical insight about how a hierarchical society reproduces itself has often been interpreted as a way to explain why the academic and social outcomes of People of Color are significantly lower than the outcomes of Whites. The assumption follows that People of Color ‘lack’ the social and cultural capital required for social mobility. As a result, schools most often work from this assumption in structuring ways to help ‘disadvantaged’ students whose race and class background has left them lacking necessary knowledge, social skills, abilities and cultural capital (see Valenzuela, 1999). This interpretation demonstrates Anzaldúa’s point: ‘If we have been gagged and disempowered by theories, we can also be loosened and empowered by theories’ (Anzaldúa, 1990, p. xxvi). Indeed, if some knowledges have been used to silence, marginalize and render People of Color invisible, then ‘Outsider’ knowledges (Hill Collins, 1986), mestiza knowledges (Anzaldúa, 1987) and transgressive knowledges (hooks, 1994) can value the presence and voices of People of Color, and can reenvision the margins as places empowered by transformative resistance (hooks, 1990; Delgado Bernal, 1997; Solórzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001). Critical race theory (CRT) listens to DuBois’ racial insight and offers a response to Anzaldúa’s theoretical challenge. CRT is a framework that can be used to theorize, examine and challenge the ways race and racism implicitly and explicitly impact on social structures, practices and discourses. Below, I discuss the ways CRT centers Outsider, mestiza, transgressive knowledges. After outlining the theoretical framework of CRT, I critique the assumption that Students of Color come to the classroom with cultural deficiencies. Utilizing a CRT lens, I challenge traditional interpretations of Bourdieuean cultural capital theory (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) and introduce an alternative concept called community cultural wealth. Then, I outline at least six forms of capital that comprise community cultural wealth and most often go unacknowledged or unrecognized. In examining some of the under-utilized assets Students of Color bring with them from their homes and communities into the classroom, this article notes the potential of community cultural wealth to transform the process of schooling. Cultural capital and critical race theory 71 Critical race theory in education CRT draws from and extends a broad literature base of critical theory in law, sociology, history, ethnic studies and women’s studies. Kimberlé Crenshaw (2002) explains that in the late 1980s, various legal scholars felt limited by work that separated critical theory from conversations about race and racism. Alongside other ‘Outsider’ scholars (Hill Collins, 1986) Crenshaw (2002) was ‘looking for both a critical space in which race was foregrounded and a race space where critical themes were central’ (p. 19). Mari Matsuda (1991) defined that CRT space as: … the work of progressive legal scholars of color who are attempting to develop a jurisprudence that accounts for the role of racism in American law and that work toward the elimination of racism as part of a larger goal of eliminating all forms of subordination. (p. 1331) In previous work, I describe a genealogy of CRT that links the themes and patterns of legal scholarship with the social science literature (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001). Figure 1 addresses some of this intellectual history.1 In its post-1987 form, CRT emerged from criticisms of the Critical Legal Studies (CLS) movement. CLS scholars questioned the role of the traditional legal system in legitimizing oppressive social structures. With this insightful analysis, CLS scholarship emphasized critique of the liberal legal tradition as opposed to offering strategies for change. Scholars such as Derrick Bell and Alan Freeman asserted that one reason why the CLS critique of the law could not offer strategies for social transformation was because it failed to incorporate race and racism into the analysis (Delgado, 1995a; Ladson-Billings, 1998). Not listening to the lived experiences and histories of those oppressed by institutionalized racism limited CLS scholarship. This argument had also been taking place in social science and history circles, specifically in ethnic and women’s studies scholarship. Figure 1. An intellectual genealogy of critical race theory Figure 1. An intellectual genealogy of critical race theory 72 T. J. Yosso Critical race theorists began to pull away from CLS because the critical legal framework restricted their ability to analyze racial injustice (Delgado, 1988; Crenshaw et al., 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Crenshaw, 2002). Initially, CRT scholarship focused its critique on the slow pace and unrealized promise of Civil Rights legislation. As a result, many of the critiques launched were articulated in Black vs White terms. Women and People of Color who felt their gendered, classed, sexual, immigrant and language experiences and histories were being silenced, challenged this tendency toward a Black/White binary. They stressed that oppression in the law and society could not be fully understood in terms of only Black and White. Certainly, African Americans have experienced a unique and horrendous history of racism and other forms of subordination in the US. Other People of Color have their own histories that likewise have been shaped by racism and the intersecting forms of subordination (Espinoza & Harris, 1998). By offering a two-dimensional discourse, the Black/White binary limits understandings of the multiple ways in which African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Chicanas/os, and Latinas/os continue to experience, respond to, and resist racism and other forms of oppression. For example, Latina/o critical race (LatCrit) theory extends critical race discussions to address the layers of racialized subordination that comprise Chicana/o, Latina/o experiences (Arriola, 1997, 1998; Stefancic, 1998). LatCrit scholars assert that racism, sexism and classism are experienced amidst other layers of subordination based on immigration status, sexuality, culture, language, phenotype, accent and surname (Montoya, 1994; Johnson, 1999). Indeed, the traditional paradigm for understanding US race relations is often a Black/White binary, which limits discussions about race and racism to terms of African American and White experiences (Valdes, 1997, 1998). Like Manning Marable (1992), who defines racism as ‘a system of ignorance, exploitation and power used to oppress African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Americans, American Indians, and other people on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, and color’ (p. 5), CRT scholarship has benefited from scholarship addressing racism at its intersections with other forms of subordination (Crenshaw, 1989, 1993). Over the years, the CRT family tree has expanded to incorporate the racialized experiences of women, Latinas/os, Native Americans and Asian Americans (see Figure 1). For example, LatCrit, TribalCrit and AsianCrit are branches of CRT, evidencing Chicana/o, Latina/o, Native American and Asian American communities’ ongoing search for a framework that addresses racism and its accompanying oppressions beyond the Black/White binary (Ikemoto, 1992; Chang, 1993, 1998; Chon, 1996; Delgado, 1997; Williams, 1997; Brayboy, 2001, 2002). Women of Color have also challenged CRT to address feminist critiques of racism and classism through FemCrit theory (Caldwell, 1995; Wing, 1997, 2000). In addition, White scholars have expanded CRT with WhiteCrit, by ‘looking behind the mirror’ to expose White privilege and challenge racism (Delgado & Stefancic, 1997). CRT’s branches are not mutually exclusive or in contention with one another. Naming, theorizing and mobilizing from the intersections of racism, need not initiate Cultural capital and critical race theory 73 some sort of oppression sweepstakes—a competition to measure one form of oppression against another. As Cherrie Moraga (1983) writes, The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression. The danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression purely from a theoretical base. Without an emotional, heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, non-hierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place. (pp. 52–53) Indeed, racism and its intersections with other forms of subordination shape the experiences of People of Color very differently than Whites (Bell, 1986; 1998; Essed, 1991; Baca Zinn, 1989). Still, the popular discourse in the US, as well as the academic discourse, continues to be limited by the Black/White binary. CRT adds to efforts to continue to expand this dialogue to recognize the ways in which our struggles for social justice are limited by discourses that omit and thereby silence the multiple experiences of People of Color (Ellison, 1990). As a student of Chicana/o Studies, the theoretical models informing my work included the Internal Colonial model (Bonilla & Girling, 1973; Blauner, 2001), Marxism (Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Barrera, 1979), Chicana and Black feminisms (Anzaldúa, 1987; hooks, 1990; Zavella, 1991; Hurtado, 1996; Hill Collins, 1998, 2000; Saldivar-Hull, 2000) and cultural nationalism (Asante, 1987). Even with all of their strengths, each of these frameworks had certain blindspots that limited my ability to examine racism. Now, as a professor of Chicana/o Studies, my work is informed by the hindsight of CRT and its genealogical branches. To document and analyze the educational access, persistence and graduation of underrepresented students, I draw on my interdisciplinary training and those theoretical models whose popularity may have waned since the 1960s and 1970s, but whose commitment to speaking truth to power continues to address contemporary social realities. For the field of education, Daniel Solórzano (1997, 1998) identified five tenets of CRT that can and should inform theory, research, pedagogy, curriculum and policy:2 (1) the intercentricity of race and racism; (2) the challenge to dominant ideology; (3) the commitment to social justice; (4) the centrality of experiential knowledge; and (5) the utilization of interdisciplinary approaches. 1. The intercentricity of race and racism with other forms of subordination. CRT starts from the premise that race and racism are central, endemic, permanent and a fundamental part of defining and explaining how US society functions (Bell, 1992; Russell, 1992). CRT acknowledges the inextricable layers of racialized subordination based on gender, class, immigration status, surname, phenotype, accent and sexuality (Crenshaw, 1989, 1993; Valdes et al., 2002). 2. The challenge to dominant ideology. CRT challenges White privilege and refutes the claims that educational institutions make toward objectivity, meritocracy, colorblindness, race neutrality and equal opportunity. CRT challenges notions of ‘neutral’ research or ‘objective’ researchers and exposes deficit-informed research that silences, ignores and distorts epistemologies of People of Color (Delgado Bernal, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 2000). CRT argues that these traditional claims 74 T. J. Yosso act as a camouflage for the self-interest, power, and privilege of dominant groups in US society (Bell, 1987; Calmore, 1992; Solórzano, 1997). 3. The commitment to social justice. CRT is committed to social justice and offers a liberatory or transformative response to racial, gender and class oppression (Matsuda, 1991). Such a social justice research agenda exposes the ‘interestconvergence’ (Bell, 1987) of civil rights ‘gains’ in education and works toward the elimination of racism, sexism and poverty, as well as the empowerment of People of Color and other subordinated groups (Freire, 1970, 1973; Solórzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001). 4. The centrality of experiential knowledge. CRT recognizes that the experiential knowledge of People of Color is legitimate, appropriate, and critical to understanding, analyzing and teaching about racial subordination (Delgado Bernal, 2002). CRT draws explicitly on the lived experiences of People of Color by including such methods as storytelling, family histories, biographies, scenarios, parables, cuentos, testimonios, chronicles and narratives (Bell, 1987, 1992, 1996; Delgado, 1989, 1993, 1995a, b, 1996; Espinoza, 1990; Olivas, 1990; Montoya, 1994; Carrasco, 1996; Solórzano & Yosso, 2000, 2001, 2002a; Solórzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001; Delgado Bernal & Villalpando, 2002; Villalpando, 2003). 5. The transdisciplinary perspective. CRT goes beyond disciplinary boundaries to analyze race and racism within both historical and contemporary contexts, drawing on scholarship from ethnic studies, women’s studies, sociology, history, law, psychology, film, theatre and other fields (Delgado, 1984, 1992; Olivas, 1990; Gotanda, 1991; Harris, 1994; Garcia, 1995; Gutiérrez-Jones, 2001). These five themes are not new in and of themselves, but collectively they represent a challenge to the existing modes of scholarship. Informed by scholars who continue to expand the literature and scope of discussions of race and racism, I define CRT in education as a theoretical and analytical framework that challenges the ways race and racism impact educational structures, practices, and discourses. CRT is conceived as a social justice project that works toward the liberatory potential of schooling (hooks, 1994; Freire, 1970, 1973). This acknowledges the contradictory nature of education, wherein schools most often oppress and marginalize while they maintain the potential to emancipate and empower. Indeed, CRT in education refutes dominant ideology and White privilege while validating and centering the experiences of People of Color. CRT utilizes transdisciplinary approaches to link theory with practice, scholarship with teaching, and the academy with the community (see LatCrit Primer, 1999; Solórzano & Yosso, 2001). Many in the academy and in community organizing, activism, and service who look to challenge social inequality will most likely recognize the tenets of CRT as part of what, why and how they do the work they do. CRT addresses the social construct of race by examining the ideology of racism. CRT finds that racism is often well disguised in the rhetoric of shared ‘normative’ values and ‘neutral’ social scientific principles and practices (Matsuda et al., 1993). However, when the ideology of racism is examined and racist injuries are named, victims of racism can often find Cultural capital and critical race theory 75 their voice. Those injured by racism and other forms of oppression discover that they are not alone and moreover are part of a legacy of resistance to racism and the layers of racialized oppression. They become empowered participants, hearing their own stories and the stories of others, listening to how the arguments against them are framed and learning to make the arguments to defend themselves. Challenging racism, revealing cultural wealth CRT’s five tenets provide a helpful guiding lens that can inform research in Communities of Color. Looking through a CRT lens means critiquing deficit theorizing and data that may be limited by its omission of the voices of People of Color. Such deficitinformed research often ‘sees’ deprivation in Communities of Color. Indeed, one of the most prevalent forms of contemporary racism in US schools is deficit thinking. Deficit thinking takes the position that minority students and families are at fault for poor academic performance because: (a) students enter school without the normative cultural knowledge and skills; and (b) parents neither value nor support their child’s education. These racialized assumptions about Communities of Color most often leads schools to default to the banking method of education critiqued by Paulo Freire (1973). As a result, schooling efforts usually aim to fill up supposedly passive students with forms of cul ...
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