Critical Race Counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline
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Critical Race Counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline

Tara J. Yosso

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eBook - ePub

Critical Race Counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline

Tara J. Yosso

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About This Book

Chicanas/os are part of the youngest, largest, and fastest growing racial/ethnic 'minority' population in the United States, yet at every schooling level, they suffer the lowest educational outcomes of any racial/ethnic group. Using a 'counterstorytelling' methodology, Tara Yosso debunks racialized myths that blame the victims for these unequal educational outcomes and redirects our focus toward historical patterns of institutional neglect. She artfully interweaves empirical data and theoretical arguments with engaging narratives that expose and analyse racism as it functions to limit access and opportunity for Chicana/o students. By humanising the need to transform our educational system, Yosso offers an accessible tool for teaching and learning about the problems and possibilities present along the Chicano/a educational pipeline.

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I shed tears of anguish
as I see my children disappear
behind the shroud of mediocrity
never to look back to remember me
I am Joaquin. …
I have endured in the rugged mountains
of our country.
I have survived the toils and slavery
of the fields.
I have existed
in the barrios of the city,
in the suburbs of bigotry,
in the mines of social snobbery,
in the prisons of dejection,
in the muck of exploitation
in the fierce heat of racial hatred. …
I am the masses of my people and
I refuse to be absorbed.
I am Joaquin
The odds are great
But my spirit is strong
My faith unbreakable1
The above excerpts of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales' 1967 epic poem “I am Joaquin” are part of a Chicana/o2 counterstory. A counterstory recounts experiences of racism and resistance from the perspectives of those on society's margins.3 In the spirit of Gonzales—whose life's work expressed the same defiance and hope of his poem—this book offers Chicana/o counterstories that challenge social and racial injustice along the educational pipeline.
Gonzales' Joaquin endures a legacy of social and racial inequality.
Likewise, Chicana/o communities struggle to survive a history of institutional neglect in U.S. public schools. Abysmal statistical realities pervade today's Chicana/o educational pipeline. Fift y-six percent of Chicana/o students do not graduate high school and only 7% graduate from college. Chicanas/os suffer daunting schooling conditions throughout the educational pipeline. Most Chicana/o students attend overcrowded, racially segregated schools, which lack sufficient numbers of trained faculty, updated textbooks, and even desks.
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, Gonzales' Joaquin maintains his faith. In the same way, Chicana/o youth and their families continue to challenge an educational system that has consistently failed them. Indeed, their counterstories carry on Joaquin's legacy and demonstrate hope and possibility all along the Chicana/o educational pipeline.


Chicana/o communities have long experienced the explicit and implicit effects of racism through social institutions such as schools.4 To frame this discussion, I begin with a brief demographic overview of the Chicana/o, Latina/o community in the United States. Latinas/os5 comprise the largest and fastest growing racial/ethnic “minority” group in the United States. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, at least 35.3 million Latinas/os reside in the United States, and account for about 13% of the total U.S. population. Projections indicate Latinas/os will make up 18% of the U.S. population by 2025. People of Mexican descent—Chicanas/os—represent the youngest, the largest, and the fastest growing Latina/o population subgroup. Chicanas/os comprise an estimated 66% of the total Latina/o population. The remainder of the Latina/o population includes Central or South Americans (14%), Puerto Ricans (11%), Cubans (5%), and other Latinas/os (7%).6
Historically rooted and indigenous to the southwestern United States, Chicanas/os now represent the largest single “minority” group in almost every major metropolitan area west of the Mississippi River. In addition, Chicanas/os are moving in large numbers to major metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the East Coast, and the South. The median age of the Chicana/o population is 24 years old, and one of every two Chicanas/os under the age of 18 lives in poverty. The educational opportunities made available to these young Chicanas/os will yield societal repercussions as major cities across the nation exhibit demographic patterns already evident in California and the Southwest. To address some of these contemporary contexts, I begin with a critical examination of the Chicana/o educational pipeline at the turn of the 21st century (figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1. The Chicana/o Educational Pipeline7
The pipeline represents a system of connecting educational institutions. Schooling structures, practices, and discourses facilitate the flow of knowledge, skills, and students along the educational pipeline. However, at any given point in the pipeline—no matter how one measures educational outcomes—Chicanas/os do not perform as well as Whites and attain less than other racial or ethnic groups in the United States.8 Figure 1.1 demonstrates these very serious leaks in the Chicana/o educational pipeline.9 Utilizing 2000 U.S. Census data and information from the National Center for Educational Statistics, we begin with 100 Chicana and Chicano students at the elementary level, noting that 56 drop out of high school and 44 continue on to graduate. Of the 44 who graduate from high school, about 26 continue on toward some form of postsecondary education. Of those 26, approximately 17 enroll in community colleges and nine enroll at 4-year institutions. Of those 17 in community colleges, only one will transfer to a 4-year institution. Of the nine Chicanas/os attending a 4-year college and the one community college transfer student, seven will graduate with a baccalaureate degree. Finally, two Chicana/o students will continue on to earn a graduate or professional school degree and less than one will receive a doctorate.
In order to humanize some of these statistical realities along the Chicana/o educational pipeline, I utilize a method of presenting research called counterstorytelling. Indeed, social scientists offer at least two types of stories to explain unequal educational outcomes—majoritarian stories and counterstories.10 A majoritarian story implicitly begins from the assumption that all students enjoy access to the same educational opportunities and conditions from elementary through postsecondary school. From this premise, and utilizing seemingly neutral and objective standard formulae, the majoritarian story faults Chicana/o students and community cultural traditions for unequal schooling outcomes.
A counterstory, on the other hand, begins with an understanding that inadequate educational conditions limit equal access and opportunities in Chicana/o schooling.11 Pointing out the biased and subjective formulae of the majoritarian story, the counterstory reveals that Chicanas/os usually attend overcrowded, run-down, and racially segregated schools.12 Too often, these schools provide low per-pupil expenditures, few well-trained teachers, and limited access to a quality, college-bound curriculum.13 Instead of blaming Chicana/o students or community cultural traditions, a counterstory addresses the structures, practices, and discourses that facilitate high dropout (pushout)14 rates along the Chicana/o educational pipeline.
Counterstorytelling as used in this book draws directly from scholarship in critical race theory (CRT). CRT refers to a framework used to examine and challenge the ways race and racism implicitly and explicitly shape social structures, practices, and discourses.15 This book utilizes critical race counterstorytelling to theorize, examine, and challenge the ways race and racism implicitly and explicitly effect Chicanas/os in the United States educational system.
Below, I briefly define the terms race, racism, and White privilege for this book, and further introduce readers to CRT as a conceptual, theoretical, pedagogical, and methodological framework in education. Next, I extend on the description of majoritarian storytelling. I then outline the methodology of counterstorytelling in CRT and for this book in particular. Finally, I address some of the critics of critical race counterstories, and propose four functions of counterstorytelling.


Race is a socially constructed category, created to differentiate groups based primarily on skin color, phenotype, ethnicity, and culture for the purpose of showing the superiority or dominance of one group over another.16 The social meanings applied to race find their justification in an ideology of racial superiority and White privilege—an ideology of racism...

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