The “New Racism” of K–12 Schools: Centering Critical Research on Racism

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While organizing efforts by movements such as Black Lives Matter and responses to the hate-filled policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump are heightening public discourse of racism, much less attention is paid to mechanisms of racial oppression in the field of education. Instead, conceptualizations that allude to racial difference but are disconnected from structural analyses continue to prevail in K–12 education research. In this chapter, our goal is to challenge racism-neutral and racism-evasive approaches to studying racial disparities by centering current research that makes visible the normalized facets of racism in K–12 schools. After narrowing over 4,000 articles that study racial inequity in education research, we reviewed a total of 186 U.S.-focused research studies in a K–12 school context that examine racism. As we categorized the literature, we built on a theory of the “new racism”—a more covert and hidden racism than that of the past—and grouped the articles into two main sections: (1) research that brings to light racism’s permanence and significance in the lives of students of Color through manifestations of what we conceptualize as (a) evaded racism, (b) “antiracist” racism, and (c) everyday racism and (2) research focused on confronting racism through racial literacy and the resistance of communities of Color. In our conclusion, we articulate suggestions for future directions in education research that include a more direct acknowledgement of racism as we attend to the experiences and needs of K–12 students of Color.

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