Applying critical race theory as a tool for examining the literacies of black immigrant youth

Kendra Nalubega-Booker, Arlette Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Context: There is a growing body of literature about the educational experiences of students who are African immigrants in U.S. schools. This study looks closely at a Ugandan immigrant's educational experiences in the U.S. as well as the laws and policies that preempted her education. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study is to examine the disconnect between the rhetoric and practice of second language/bilingual laws in one school district in a Midwestern state, with regard to the experiences of an African immigrant whose has a diverse linguistic background. Research Design: This study is crafted through a critical race theory lens and applies critical policy analysis to understand current practices. Using autoethnography, we provide a firstperson reflection on the lived experiences of a young African immigrant student and her family. Then, drawing on critical race theory in concert with critical policy analysis, we examine the implementation and practice of second language/bilingual laws and policies in the state of Illinois. Findings/Results: We find that the discourse and rhetoric surrounding second language/ bilingual laws and policies on federal, state, and local levels do not align with actual practices in school districts and classrooms. We describe how the lack of coherence between discourse and practice has contributed to delimiting an African immigrant student's access to mainstream language and linguistic education and other academic opportunities. Conclusions/Recommendations: We conclude with recommendations to improve bilingual services to speakers of African languages: Acknowledge that some African immigrant students possess a diverse linguistic background; address and challenge the dominant attitudes that deprive African immigrant students of a quality educational experience. We call upon administrators and policymakers to evaluate and correct the disconnect between second language/bilingual laws and policies. We recommend that cultural competence be central to second language/bilingual laws and policies throughout the planning and implementation processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number130309
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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