They Know What They Want: Generation Mixed Goes to School Listening Party

By Meshell Sturgis
CCDE Research Assistant, Department of Communication

On November 29th an intergenerational crowd gathered in Kane Hall for the CCDE’s first Listening Party of the academic year. Led by Dr. Ralina Joseph and Dr. Allison Biscoe-Smith, participants were led through a series of short audio clips comprised from interviews for the Generation Mixed Goes to School Project. Their research asks “what does it mean for teachers, students, and families to truly see mixed-race children in all aspects of their educational experience, and to foster mixed-race conscious spaces, as “generation mixed” goes to school? With skillfully compiled and organized audio clips by Communication & Difference Research Group doctoral student, Anjuli Brekke, and using a short comic outlining the themes of the interviews by doctoral student Meshell Sturgis, Joseph and Briscoe fostered group radical listening that evening.

Listening with radical presence and the intent to take anti-racist action, the group witnessed teens and tweens discuss their experiences of identity and racism in the classroom setting. The interviews reveal that mixed race students feel singled out, troubled by the pressures to identify in particular ways, and that their learning is closely linked to their identity. When the discussion was opened up to the whole group, the students took turns affirming the various things they heard their peers expressed.

The general sentiment that surfaced was that the curriculum is erroneous, harmful, and not enough. Beyond students demonstrating their capabilities for self-advocacy and self-education, Joseph and Briscoe-Smith drew attention the inequity of hiring practices for K-12 educators. Yet perhaps, one youth said it best, “You don’t have to be Black in order to teach some Black kids…you just have to have some connections with them, share some connections.” Although much of the comments surfaced from the interviews spoke to the particularities of being mixed, most of what was brought up seemed to apply to any student of color.

Overall, the biggest realization is that these students possess complex understandings of race, they are experiencing racism in the classroom, and they know what they want. For solutions to racialized inequality in the classroom, Dr. Joseph and Dr. Briscoe-Smith are radically listening to the youth and centering their ideas and suggestions as part of their anti-racist action.

Be sure to check out the next Listening Party on March 13th, 2019, 5:30-7:30, Kane 225, University of Washington campus.

And to the students: tell ‘em what you want, what you really really want because you know what you want and they want to know what you want.

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