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“We Just Find Ways to Survive”: Identity and Asset-Based Decision-Making Processes Among Black Youth in an AntiBlack Reality


The purpose of this study was to explore the decision-making processes of Black high school students, regarding their post-graduation plans (e.g. going to college, entering the workforce, etc.).While there is seemingly more attention, research, and money spent on college outreach, preparation, and promise programs (Perna, 2002), recent literature has shown us that higher education institutions target their college access efforts toward white, higher income communities (Jaquette & Salazar, 2018). Thus, as research has shown, urban students possessing the qualifications to enroll into four-year institutions often do not apply or enroll into these institutions (Roderick, Coca, & Nagaoka, 2011). This undermatching of urban students leads to the overrepresentation of low-income, students of color in the community college sector of higher education, and underrepresentation in the four-year sector (Anderson et al., 2015). To remedy this, this study takes a deeper look into not just college access, matriculation, and choice, but further asks what decisions Black high school graduates are making around their futures, and why. While understanding the inequity in K-12 urban schools is important and deeply affect Black student decision making processes, this study expands literature around how, against the odds, students are making informed decisions. Considering the aforementioned, and guided by Social Reproduction Theory (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), Community Cultural Wealth (Yosso, 2005), and Black Critical Theory (Dumas & ross, 2016), this study asks: 1) What are Black students from “South LA high school” post-graduation decisions? 1a) Does, and if so how does, antiBlack racism affect their decisions? 2) What other factors influence their decision-making processes? 3) How do Black students from “Henry Lacks High School” make their decisions regarding their futures following high school? 3a) Does, and if so how does, antiBlack racism affect their decisions? Utilizing semi-structured interviews, walking interviews, and photo elicitation interviews this study will provides a number of implications for research, theory, and practice. Most prevalent is the need for researchers and practitioners to understand the political economy and how that affects student behaviors. Accordingly, it is necessary to understand how students recognize the ways in which antiBlack racism permeates through Black communities and schools, and make their decisions accordingly. Additionally, there must be a development of programming and policies that take identity-based approaches, have discussions of race and racial identity, and actually engage in equity work.

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