Uncovering identity negotiation stories of multi-marginalized students: debunking racist and heterosexist hegemonies and developing socially just schools

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rydell Harrison (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Carl Lashley

Abstract: Despite federal, state, and local school efforts to quell bullying, anti-bullying efforts fall short and student reports of bullying continue to increase. Students representing marginalized identity groups are subject to multiple forms of discrimination and seek solidarity with similarly marginalized peers in order to counter feelings of alienation and isolation. For multi-marginalized students, the likeliness of alienation and isolation increase, oppression is compounded, and the challenges of identity negotiations increase. At the intersection of multi-marginalized identities, there is an increased prevalence of social homelessness--a term used to describe a student who upon first glance should be wholly accepted in one or more social categories; however, because of his or her competing identities, the individual is unable to fully participate in the life of the social group without hiding a part of his/her identity. Although educational research around this topic recognizes how the stratification that exists in the larger society plays a significant role in how students manage their minority identities in schools, little qualitative research has been undertaken to investigate the complexities of identity gaps when individuals are multi-marginalized. Further, educational leaders tasked with creating bully-free schools that are safe and socially just for multi-marginalized students are without a theoretical lens to facilitate their understanding of their students' lived experience or engage in critical discourse on debunking the racist and heterosexist hegemonies that exist in schools. Consequently, the purpose of this qualitative study was to understand and make sense of how multi-marginalized students negotiate their identities, and to provide educators with a heuristic theory that informs their approach to school leadership. Utilizing constructivist grounded theory as a conceptual framework, I sought to unpack the k-12 stories of multi-marginalized individuals with bifurcated identities, and to generate substantive theory regarding social homelessness. Through semi-structured interviews with 14 African American men who identify as same-gender-loving (SGL), I collected data on (a) how African American SGL males negotiated their multi-marginalized identities in k-12 educational spaces; and (b) what impact--if any--their identity negotiation had on the relationships they built with other students, particularly students who belonged to only one of their marginalized identity groups. The initial data and field notes were analyzed using a grounded theory coding paradigm to explore causal relationships and significant patterns. The substantive theory that emerged from the study is grounded in the participants' experiences and depicts social homelessness as the central phenomenon among participants. This theory cites three causal conditions to social homelessness: alienation, shame, and lack of acceptance from peers. It also highlights four ways students respond to being socially homeless: over-achieving, seeking peer validation, becoming invisible and privileging identities. Because this study was intended to heuristically support the work of principals, the most important aspect of the theory of social homelessness is the notion that adult intervention has the potential to change outcomes for socially homeless students. Although these findings suggest the need for further research on multi-marginalized identity negotiation, the substantive theory of social homelessness that emerged from the study can serve as a heuristic lens useful to educational leaders as they construct socially just climates in their schools.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Bullying, Identity Negotiation, Intersectionality, School Climate
African American students $x Social conditions
Gay students $x Social conditions
Identity (Psychology) $x Social aspects
Group identity
Bullying in schools $x Prevention
Educational leadership $x Moral and ethical aspects
School administrators $x In-service training
School environment

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