Notes on: Notes on: Vincent, C., Ball, S., Rollock, N., Gillborn, D.  (2012). The Educational Strategies of the Black Middle Classes. Chapter 2 in  M. Richter and S. Andresen (eds.), The Politicization of Parenthood, 139
Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research 5, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-2972-8_11 © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Dave Harris

[another one from the ESRC study. This article tells us that nearly half the black Caribbean men in Britain have a partner from a different ethnic group — 48% and the figure for Black Caribbean women is 34%. NB although they refer to the service class, they actually use the National Statistics Socio- Economic Classifications eight point scale, the top two categories. They don't seem to explain where the Bourdieu bits came from]

They start with Crenshaw on intersectionality and black working class women and note that race and class are themselves multi dimensional. They prefer an even more complex definition which includes '"economic, political, cultural, psychic, subjective and experiential"' dimensions [attributable to Brar and Phoenix 2004] (140). They stress fluidity and the importance of locale, situations, spaces and times. It has been criticised as a hazy and open-ended concept [by Davies 2008] and also of offering a reified and essentialist view. It has also been accused of a superficial approach. Youdell bases it on Butler and  the crosscutting modalities of life, a constellation of discourses and identity categories which affect subjectivization [she apparently prefers the term constellation and sees it as varying in terms of interactions].

They start with Lareau on the importance of social class how it affects family networks and interactions with various institutional representatives. Apparently, she claims this is more important than race [Horvat, Weininger & Lareau 2003], but she worked with black and white families differentiated by class. Their study focuses entirely on BMC and their question is not which is more important, but how they both interact, together with gender. They also want to consider the notion of '"family habitus"' citing the forthcoming piece  Vincent, C. et al. (2012, forthcoming) Being strategic, being watchful, being determined: Black
middle class parents and schooling. British Journal of Sociology of Education [I now have both of those -- see notes]

BMC parents identify both challenges and strategies. Challenges included low expectations, racism personal and institutional, encountering stereotypes involving lack of interest or knowledge, Teen resistance and the peer group effect. There is a lot of work on disproportionate exclusion and low ranking involving social class, but an extra dimension is provided by race, so that even BMC students attain fewer GCSE qualifications than WMC — 61.6% compared to 72.7%. Low teacher expectations have 'long been documented' (143) [with an old reference -- Coard]. The parents in their sample had sometimes been placed in lower teaching groups, lower tiers for exams and being told by teachers not to aspire too high in terms of their careers [illustrated with a quote], and all saw low teacher expectations as a potential risk. [They cite Gillborn's article for further reference, so they are presumably citing 15 parents?].

As a response they developed '"managed trust" of the school, involving monitoring and surveillance of child and school. WMC do this too but BMC have an added dimension involving discrimination. They try to proactively develop relationships involving email, meetings, 'drawing the teachers attention' to matters, using a deliberately polite phrase. Sometimes it is a deliberate strategy based on their own experience with underachieving children. They try to develop 'a dialogue of equals' (144), polite conversation drawing on 'class-based and embodied resources of confidence and knowledge' [later explicitly seen as a kind of cultural and educational capital?]. Examples are given including one suggesting more multicultural material, or attempting to demonstrate a professional and cooperative stance at a parents' meeting, not being threatening but also wanting to stand up for their son. These is seen as  'class resources'.

They had often faced 'crude and overt racism during their childhoods' from peers and teachers, but their children faced less of it. There is one at a private school who was the target of crude overt racism, including name-calling, and he did not want to ignore it or pretend he was white, but he did suffer. The school was unwilling to tackle the issue of racism and tried to locate the problem with the child, suggesting learning difficulties although tests revealed none and eventually 'focusing on the child's apparent self presentation… "Bling culture"' (145) there was an underlying assumption that all black families are working class and therefore display disreputable, and  showed disruptive behaviour and vulgarity, this makes them 'other'. The parent found herself 'forced onto the terrain of the head's arguments, seeking to defend her son from the symbolic violence of stereotyping. The physical violence of the abuse is ignored by the head'. The parent withdrew the child.

Most worried about more subtle kinds of racism, 'in other words institutionalised', as in the Lawrence enquiry. Gillborn says that this originates in respected forces in society and is therefore not condemned publicly, and it focuses on consequences of actions rather than intent. 'If the consequences of racist and institutional racism is present regardless of individuals' intentions' (146) in one example kids were selected for a Gifted and Talented program, but they seem to have chosen only white kids for it: when this was pointed out to the head teacher, it seemed that they had just not noticed.

Complaints about race and racism however were difficult because 'it caused white power holders to become defensive', and it was often shut down. Better to address it as a problem, including talking to the children. It was common to repeat the view that you have to be 10 times or a hundred times better than a white person, and to discuss what was and was not racism. There was often discussion with children about media coverage of black people. Some black parents were also concerned that racism 'does not become an excuse' for underachievement by their kids.

Parents were often misrepresented or stereotyped. Black women 'felt they were facing caricatured and racist assumptions that they lack knowledge, articulation and calm' (147) which mirrors American research. They were often assumed to be lone mothers. Black men were often 'perceived as a potential physical threat', especially reported by a man who lived in a part of England with few visible minorities, who felt he had to work quite hard to put people at ease. Generally, they felt it 'necessary to have a number of public faces tailored to particular situations', often drawing on class resources 'plentiful supplies of appropriate economic, social, and cultural capital… The image they presented through their dress and their voice (accent and vocabulary in particular);… Knowledge of the education system… Confidence and assurance [speaking] within a "conversational" mode… A dialogue of equals' (147 – 8). The parents were confident in engaging with teachers, felt they were entitled to do so and were confident to take unresolved issues higher up.

Economic capital can offer access to high status culture through enrichment activities, especially music, or tutoring. Social capital can lead to links with other black professional successful families [not white ones?] Cultural capital can 'encompass a wide range of attributes, attitudes and even possessions'. There is an emphasis on speaking properly, being articulate, being polite but assertive. The deployment of these capitals is often effective but not always as the experience in the private school showed [she was outgunned?]

Teenage children often offered resistance to help offered by their parents, including control of out-of-school activities, what Lareau calls '"concerted cultivation"' (149). Extracurricular activities are important in the USA 'for creating high status cultural knowledge, skill in a range of areas, and a number of interpersonal and personal attributes (the ability to work with others, focus, self-discipline, et cetera) ', for both black and white. Some encouraged membership designed to develop self-esteem and pride as a black person.

There was also fear of negative influences of peers and this led them to consider the social mix [see other paper], on ethnic and social class grounds. There were efforts to persuade children to choose the right friends, as with the WMC.

So there was evidence of work to defend children and themselves from racism stereotyping and low expectations, and to resist misinterpretations. Strategies drew on social cultural and economic resources 'commonly associated with the middle classes' (150). Educational experiences and social experiences of children were organised, and so were encounters with the school. This could be seen as a successful '"remaking of racial meaning in day-to-day life"', assertive and knowledgeable counters to dominant White stereotypes, but they required considerable labour and this could be seen as showing the 'continuing significance of race and racism, despite the advantages of their class position'. The overall conclusion is that social class resources if carefully deployed can 'help to mediate racism to some extent' but 'racial inequality still mark and shape the lives of these families'[pretty safe conclusion. The working class background also displays the hidden injuries of class?]