Racialized communication met with silence in the classroom

November 20, 2008

A new article in the journal Communication, Culture & Critique illustrates the ways some college students bear the costs of silence-mediated racialized communication in their everyday classroom activities. Specifically, the essay shows that White privilege enables racially laden communication that regenerates, albeit unintentionally, the social exclusion of American Indian students. Moreover, as the essay argues, this exclusion results not only in myriad unearned stresses for American Indian students but sometimes also in their ultimately abandoning their academic objectives.

Patricia Olivia Covarrubias, M.A., Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico combines interpretive approaches from the ethnography of communication and critical Whiteness theories to draw on data collected from 35 American Indian students in a western U.S. university.

The student accounts reveal that racially charged moments can be and are experienced at complex and multiple levels. For example, one student reveals how a guest speaker made a derogatory comment about American Indians thinking she was White, and no one, including the instructor, corrected the speaker's assumption.

Covarrubias names the arrangement of discriminatory statements with subsequent dismissive silence as "masked silence sequences."

By introducing this concept, the study shows that silence is a powerful communicative phenomenon that affects the perceptions people have of each other as well as their interactions, including the promotion of prejudice and discrimination.

Silence, like all communication, is cultural. Silence garners its meaning from the systems of beliefs and values within which it emerges and occurs. Thus, silence means different things to different people in different times and places. Moreover, failing to understand a people's distinctive meanings and valuations of silence can and does result in preventable misunderstandings, and even discrimination.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Many small microaggressions add up to something big

Related Stories

Many small microaggressions add up to something big

November 17, 2015

Upon entering a classroom or office for the first time, I frequently take more than a few seconds to place my book bag on the floor. I do this to give the occupants of the room the opportunity to brush aside all assumptions ...

The Web: Silencing jihadi Web sites

August 3, 2005

The online communications channel between al-Qaida's shadowy leaders and its terrorist operatives has been severely disrupted in recent weeks -- since the July 7, 2005, jihadi attacks on London -- apparently by British intelligence.

The emotional historian?

February 29, 2012

Danelle van Zyl-Hermann, a Gates scholar with an interest in the emotional history of South Africa, explains why the study of society's sentiments can unlock a better understanding of the past.

The controversy over interstellar messaging

February 20, 2015

Should we beam messages into deep space, announcing our presence to any extraterrestrial civilizations that might be out there? Or, should we just listen? Since the beginnings of the modern Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 20, 2008
That one!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.