Understanding Latino Students’ Schooling Experiences: The Relevance of Skin Color Among Mexican and Puerto Rican High School Students

For the last forty years researchers have posited competing theories regarding the relative influence of social class background and racial-group membership on the school experiences, academic performance, behavior, and motivation of ethnic minority students. The general purpose of these competing theories has been to explain why ethnic minority students fail or succeed in schools. This study represents an initial foray into a complex conversation on internal and external social identification, racial constructs and interaction as part of the schooling experience of Latino students. Two significant findings from the larger study are reported in this article. First, the negotiation of identity among these Mexican and Puerto Rican students in predominantly African American schools demonstrates racial/ethnic boundary designations (i.e., who is in and who is out) as structured by skin color. Secondly, what is meant to be designated as White-looking, Hispanic/Mexican-looking, or Black/Bi-Racial looking maintained differing meaning and latitude in the racial/ethnic boundary options across skin color groups. Both these findings posit further questioning as to what we know about identification among Latino students, and more importantly how it gets played out in schools. Learn more