Speaking of Race explores the linguistic practices of African American children in an after school program in Washington, DC. Drawing on ethnographic research, Jennifer B. Delfino illustrates how students’ linguistic practices are often perceived as barriers to learning and achievement and provides an in-depth look at how students challenge this perception by using language to transform the meaning of race in relation to ideas about academic success. In providing insight into the institutionalized processes by which African American children are seen and heard as “problem students,” this book helps scholars and practitioners better support marginalized pupils in their efforts to achieve racial transformation and educational justice in schools.
Jennifer B. Delfino is assistant professor in the Department of Academic Literacy and Linguistics at Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York.
Chapter 1: “I Have a(n American) Dream”: Race, Schooling, and Achievement in The Nation’s Capital
Chapter 2: Talking “Like a Race”: Language and Identity in Southeast
Chapter 3: “He-Said-She-Said (Do This)”: Directives, Marking, and the Resemiotization of Authoritative Discourse
Chapter 4: “You about to get cooked!”: Joning and Raciolinguistic Chronotopes of Policing and Survival
Chapter 5: “You Don’t Know How to Read!”: Racializing Discourses About Literacy
Chapter 6: Race, Literacy, and Power: Learning From Children About Educational Justice
In Speaking of Race, Jennifer Delfino offers a critical exploration of how Black children in Washington, DC are understood and understand themselves relative to racial and linguistic ideologies. Considering neoliberal education reforms that adversely affect minoritized populations in urban schools, Delfino expertly combines ethnography and discourse analysis to trace how preadolescent students in after-school programs assemble forms of Black personhood and language for social and academic transformation. In this highly reflexive inquiry filled with clear and elegant prose, Delfino draws together the fields of linguistics, anthropology, and education to produce a nuanced study—both timely and necessary—of Black childhood in the US.
Delfino’s book is a challenging and important first, an ethnographic treatment of language, race, identity formation, and agency among African American pre-teens and thirteen-year-olds in the deeply impoverished area of Southeast Washington, DC. Delfino traces their words and actions in after-school programs and in the community to demonstrate their awareness of how language is an integral part of their racialization and how these young students contest and counter the manner in which white-supremacist ideologies attempt to construe and discipline them. An essential work for those interested in African American life and schooling.
Speaking of Race carries forward the illustrious tradition of linguistic ethnographies of race, language, and identity in schooling contexts, while making numerous innovative insights in "raciolinguistics" and "culturally sustaining pedagogies" by paying particular attention to how African American children not only enact language and race but transform these processes to disrupt, or at least temporarily redirect, the dominant white gaze--and to challenge uncritical, conformist, assimilationist models of language pedagogy. A must-read for graduate students across these fields, and for anyone hoping to better understand the inextricable linkages between language, race, and power in the U.S.