"Lucky" Mexicans and White Hispanics: Latina/o teachers and racial identity



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My dissertation is study is a two-year critical ethnography of the racial identity productions of a cohort of Latina/o teachers in the bilingual education program at a large, public university. The goals of this project are 1) to explore how Latina/o preservice teachers of varying racial self-identifications and cultural backgrounds author identities as bilingual educators; 2) to investigate how distinct racial, class, linguistic, and immigration backgrounds are used to construct intra-ethnic identity differences in the bilingual cohort; and 3) to explore how and why some Latina/o bilingual cohort members produce white racial identities. To this end, I ask preservice teacher participants to narrate how family, K-12 schooling, and university bilingual teacher education experiences have shaped their notions of racial identity and whiteness, while paying particular attention to changes in teacher education and the broader cultural history of Latino whiteness in the United States. The aim of exploring these issues is to present a broad picture of the role of schooling and society in producing white racial identities for Latinas/os. My theoretical framework draws upon theories of figured worlds and racial formation as entry points for understanding the complex socio-historical and everyday processes that produce Latina/o racial identities and whiteness. I use methods such as participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and life history to construct vignettes of the identities of each participant. The data sources include preservice teacher interviews, classroom observations, and educational autobiographies submitted by the Latina/o bilingual preservice teachers. The findings of the study are presented in two chapters. Chapter 5 presents the ways that socialization in family and schooling contexts produced whiteness in various settings and also investigates how participants thought about Hispanic, Latina/o, and Mexicana/o identities. Chapter 6 discusses the role of the bilingual program producing and creating distinctions between Latina/o, Hispanic, Mexicana/o and White participants. I argue that the bilingual program inverted the dominant social capital relationships by creating a figured world that emphasized Latina/o linguistic and cultural knowledge. Implications for this research include creating spaces where the dominant linguistic and social capital of mainstream schooling is challenged in order to develop reflective and empathic bilingual educators.