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Smart GirlsSuccess, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism$

Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284142

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284142.001.0001

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A Deeper Look at Class and “Race”

A Deeper Look at Class and “Race”

Belongings and Exclusions

Chapter:
(p.123) Chapter Five A Deeper Look at Class and “Race”
Source:
Smart Girls
Author(s):

Shauna Pomerantz

Rebecca Raby

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520284142.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

In Chapter Five we focus on other contextualizing features of smart girls’ lives: intersections of class and ‘race’. Class emerged as a powerful force. On the one hand, it was a source of advantage and judgment between students, and thus a tool that some girls used to bolster their privilege and exclude others. But on the other hand, the deep effects of class were also something that was hidden and simplified. Similarly, ‘race’ emerged as a central feature in definitions of academic success, particularly in relation to the stereotype of the ‘smart Asian’. The girls in our study with Asian backgrounds lamented their pigeonholing as automatically good at math and laughed off these racist stereotypes as “just joking around,” yet such assumptions reproduce a narrow idea that being too smart is not only anti-social, but also the mark of a cultural outsider.

Keywords:   race, class, stereotype, smart, Asian, joking, exclusion

Asian-American students tell me that they feel ashamed of their identity—that they feel viewed as a faceless bunch of geeks and virtuosos. When they succeed, their peers chalk it up to “being Asian.”

Carolyn Chen, “Asians: Too Smart for Their Own Good?”

There were lots of things that made Flowerpower stand out. At eighteen, she was our oldest participant and the only person we talked with who had already left home—she moved out when she was sixteen and, at the time of our interviews, was living with a roommate in downtown Secord. To pay her rent, she worked as a waitress and a babysitter while going to school. Her mom had dropped out of high school as a teenager and now worked at a hair salon and at the local casino with Flowerpower’s stepdad; both of them had immigrated to Secord from Southeast Asia before Flowerpower was born. Flowerpower explained to Andrea that she had a fair bit of conflict with her parents. She suffered (p.124) from depression and left home partly to escape the pressure she felt from her mom and stepdad, who interpreted her behavior as stubbornness rather than a mental health issue. In consultation with a school counselor, Flowerpower decided to move out.

Reflecting her chosen pseudonym, Flowerpower told Andrea that she was dedicated to supporting social justice causes, including the environment, feminism, LGBTQ+ issues, and veganism. In school, she was drawn to classes in sociology, global inequality, and English. Even though she was a smart girl, she sometimes had trouble prioritizing her schoolwork—this was largely because she was often tired from and busy with her other commitments, but it was also because her classes did not always interest her. She was much more invested in “what’s going on in the world.” For this reason, she saw herself as politically smart, with a capacity to see through ideologies in a way that other students could not. Her schoolwork also suffered somewhat because she had made the decision to focus on her mental health by choosing to be “happy” rather than “stressed out.” She described herself as emotional and intense, and talked about her ongoing challenges with depression and low self-esteem. That said, she was also positive and forward thinking. At the time of her second interview, Flowerpower was completing extra twelfth grade credits. She had a renewed focus on her studies, as she wanted to attend university in order to make the world a better place.

Flowerpower wrestled with many challenges. She was dealing with depression and self-esteem issues; she came from a family that had difficulty making ends meet, whereas many students around her came from privileged backgrounds; and her Southeast Asian heritage was sometimes a source of discomfort in her predominantly white surroundings. Sometimes other students’ racist assumptions and jokes created awkward and (p.125) unpleasant social experiences for her. She was also overtly political in a way that was very different from what was accepted within popular peer culture and popular femininity.

We asked all of our participants about their social and cultural locations. Just as when they discussed gender and gender inequality, many of the young people we talked to reflected a neoliberal ethos as they described their racialized and classed worlds as neutral and contended that everyone was treated equally, diversity was accepted, and social and cultural categories made little difference. But just as they had when they spoke about gender, participants made contradictory comments that complicated these statements, reinforcing the power of gender, class, and “race” and highlighting the way these locations significantly shape young lives and interweave across peer cultures and classrooms.1 A smart white girl will have different experiences than a smart black girl or a smart Asian girl. These intersections are, in turn, dramatically shaped by class background and myriad other interwoven identity contexts. Such intersections are not always simply positive or negative, and they certainly complicate what it means to be a smart girl in the West, making it challenging to digest sweeping statements about what it is like to be a girl today.

Sexuality, disability, and mental health also arose as important identity locations in a number of our interviews. We had conversations with participants who suggested that some schools were much more welcoming than others for LGBTQ+ students, for instance. We also learned that participants had a good grasp of why certain students received accommodations for exceptionalities and that some, like Flowerpower, faced mental health challenges that made their experience of schooling different (p.126) from those without this particular circumstance. In this chapter, however, we focus on the two most prominent and powerful intersections that seemed to shape our participants’ experiences of belonging and exclusion at school: class and “race.” Dedicating a specific chapter to these important contexts of inequality is tricky because we do not wish to suggest that they can be dealt with in isolation from all of the other issues we talk about in this book. We have indicated how class is relevant to the media-hyped concept of the supergirl, how girls feel they need to be nice, and how narrow definitions of prettiness are invisibly rooted in white, middle-class perceptions of popular femininity such as “blondness,” high-end styles, a particular body shape, and flat-ironed hair. Yet we feel that it is important to dedicate this chapter to the relevance of class and “race” in girls’ negotiation of smartness and peer culture to ensure that each of these prominent forces receives the unique focus that it deserves.

Class positioning and inequality shaped how girls described, lived, and negotiated the tension between academic achievement and peer culture. Girls could mobilize class resources to navigate pressures and downplay their smartness, for instance, and girls who lacked such resources were vulnerable to exclusion. We also found that assumptions and stereotypes about Asian students complicated how academic achievement was framed in some schools, as being too smart could be equated with being too Asian, which, in turn, was equated with being an outsider. In this way, whiteness came to be positioned at the center of peer culture.

We have examined how post-feminism produces an illusion of gender equality, and this popular position has been joined by the argument that we live in a world which is “post race” or that “race” is no longer relevant as a vector of social inequality. Like (p.127) claiming “colorblindness”—not seeing “race”—this position denies the experiences and effects of racial inequality and undercuts our ability to talk about racism.2 These ideological positions dovetail with neoliberalism and the meritocratic contention that we are all competing equally, as individuals, on a level playing field. The structural inequalities relating to gender, class, and “race” are consequently denied. In this chapter, we foreground some of the crucial relevancies of class and “race” in relation to smart girls’ negotiations of their academic identities.

Class: Snobby Schools and “Ghetto” Housing

Because her family was not well off and she now supported herself, Flowerpower drew a direct connection between success in school and class-based advantages. We asked her if other smart girls at Blue Ridge also worked after school and on weekends. With frustration, she explained, “The majority—not all—are privileged. They are the ones that have their own car that they drive to school everyday […]. There are people who have never worked before.” To Flowerpower, being a smart girl appeared easier for the girls who did not have the same kinds of demands on their lives that she had. She said that it was hard to see how fortunate everyone was while, in contrast, she had to work to pay her own bills. In spite of her frustration, she offered a positive framing of her situation, noting that she had gained money-management skills and self-sufficiency. Yet at the same time, she recognized that financial security and plentiful resources help girls flourish in school.

Flowerpower also wished her parents could prepare her for university, but instead they were satisfied with the possibility of (p.128) her graduating from high school and going to a technical college. She explained that, once she had moved out, they no longer gave her even this encouragement, so she had to find the impetus within herself to go on to university. It becomes clear how powerful class is in both hindering and facilitating academic achievement when we contrast Flowerpower’s position to McLovin’s. McLovin’s parents were both university educated and had jobs in municipal government. McLovin explained that she wanted to go to university and that her parents would support her by paying her tuition. She added that they had also provided good moral support for her and her sister Caramel by teaching them to prioritize their homework over other activities. McLovin then mentioned, “When it comes to math, my dad just kind of teaches me because he used to [teach courses at university], so I don’t know, that’s good.” McLovin’s experience confirmed the advantages of having parents who were able (and willing) to pay for university, teach study skills, and even help with advanced home-work, making her confident that she would excel in school.

Class powerfully shapes young people’s lives.3 Class is anchored in material conditions and is often associated with how much income and wealth4 a family has, the time the parents spend working outside the home, the kind of work the parents do, how secure that work is, and where and how the family lives. But class is also about culture, which includes values and dispositions that arise from a family’s or community’s material conditions, the ways of being that are most important and rewarded within a specific society, how closely a family approximates those ways of being, and how they are judged as a result.5 It is clear that, on multiple levels, class is deeply relevant to a discussion (p.129) of young people’s success in school. Despite a ubiquity of narratives that focused on individualism, our participants frequently touched on class inequalities in their evaluation of schools, assessments of each other’s clothing, determination of cliques, and appraisal of other students’ scholarly success or failure. These observations were largely about material resources, but they signified so much more. Our analysis showed deep class biases, with class markers used to indicate social success, popularity, smartness, and even cleanliness. In this way, class sharply intersected with smart girlhood to reward privilege, create boundaries, and produce exclusions.

The girls considered certain schools “rich.” Virginia described Blue Ridge as a “very rich” school, for instance: “[There are] Bentleys and BMWs and Lexuses in the parking lot. Everybody wears Abercrombie, Hollister, Bench—all the brand names. Almost everyone has an iPhone, or the new iPod touch, and everybody you know is rich and has lots of clothes and pretty hair and sparkly shoes, and oh, everyone wears the real brand Uggs.” Though Virginia was able to keep up with the fashions, she still felt like an outsider in this school culture. Elizabeth agreed that there were a lot of designer clothes at Blue Ridge, explaining that American Eagle was “almost the unofficial uniform. Instead of it being The Gap and Old Navy, it’s a little bit higher.” But she also said that you don’t really notice it as much when you are there, a statement that betrayed her own middle-class position as someone who is comfortably able to fit into such an environment. Haley and Quinn made similar observations of their school, St. Mary’s High. Haley said that the school had a lot of wealthy kids, but she did not include herself among them: “You can just tell by, like, what they wear and what they talk about, and all, like, all these things they do. A lot of them go on vacations quite a bit, (p.130) yeah. We have to buy the uniforms […]. So the majority in our school is not exactly rich. But we are pretty wealthy.”

Schools in affluent neighborhoods had reputations for being stronger academically,6 while schools that served less well-off families were considered, at least from the vantage point of Blue Ridge students, to be ‘ghetto’ schools.7 Sara explained that, at Blue Ridge, there were a lot of people from “pretty good family situations.” She went on to point out that one of the differences between Blue Ridge and Central Secondary was teen parents: “It’s, like, ‘Whoah, that does not happen here!’ Like, [at Central Secondary, they say,] ‘We have daycare at our school.’” Sara’s friend Basil piped in, “Yeah, we don’t have daycare at our school. That’s not happening here.”

Interestingly, two girls who went to Central High also commented on the daycare program at their school, but they treated it as a point of pride. Janey explained that she had gone to a local board meeting of students from various schools, and when she mentioned that her school had a daycare, other students were shocked. But Janey noted that her school’s daycare serviced students from other schools as well, including Blue Ridge: “Yeah, Blue Ridge High doesn’t allow pregnant women to stay at their school, so they come to our school. […] I was just kind of, like, ‘What are you guys doing? It’s an issue that is reality!’ People are hidden from it, but at Central it’s, like, reality and this stuff happens, you know what I mean?”

While the above story depicts how class was used to make judgments between schools, it was also used to make judgments between students within a school. Disputing some of the commentary on peer culture in chapter 3, we found that fitting in is not just about how social or friendly one is. Like Flowerpower’s story, Rory’s experience is a strong illustration of how a student’s (p.131) class background can shape her sense of belonging, which, in turn, affects both her social and her scholarly success in a particular school. At the time of our first interview, Rory went to Pinecrest Elementary, a feeder school for Blue Ridge. Rory’s parents had her when they were young, and she was proud of them for doing so well; but they lived near government-funded housing, and her dad had recently been laid off from his greenhouse job. Her mom was an accountant, and the family was renovating their house so that she could start a home daycare. Rory explained that Pinecrest’s reputation as a “snobby” school was “pretty accurate, considering we have rich snobby kids,” and she pointed out that they would likely “think my house is a ghetto.” She added that, since she lives near government-funded housing, other kids think that she lives in a “bad” area and, except for her close friends, no one comes to her house. She said she tried not to care but admitted that she did care “a little.” In her second interview, Rory talked about preferring her new high school, Great Lakes Secondary. It was closer to her house and did not seem to have the same pretentions as Pinecrest. She said she loved it so much because she “actually fit in.” She could bring friends home and not feel embarrassed because, “for all I know, they could live in the [government-funded] complex over there, that’s kind of run down.”

The girls’ judgments about schools and neighborhoods that were linked to observations about wealth and disposable income were reflected in the way that some of our participants talked about fashion, particularly name brand clothing. Fashion was clearly important in most schools: different styles marked out the boundaries around cliques, certain brand names helped to secure popularity, and other kinds of clothing was for loners. Given that fashion and looks were considered particularly important for (p.132) girls, money was a resource that enabled smart girls to thrive socially, as well as academically. American sociologist Julie Bettie looks at how high school girls understand class through interaction and performance rather than through a class-consciousness directly arising from their parents’ sources of income. According to Bettie, class culture is symbolized by consumption, which she notes is traditionally associated with the feminine sphere. Class markers and group membership are, therefore, frequently about purchases, especially of clothing and accessories.8

Caramel and McLovin were keen to talk about the relevance of name brand clothing at Blue Ridge. Even though McLovin said that she and her sister hung out with everyone and did not “divide people by their class,” McLovin argued that the ability to buy certain clothing brought higher social status. For instance, it was prestigious to wear clothing with the school’s name embroidered on it: “If you see people walking around with school sweaters and track pants and bandanas, it’s like that person’s cool because they can afford to wear our clothes.” Erin—the girl whose friend took her to Lululemon for wardrobe help—went to a smaller elementary school in a fairly well-off community. In preparation for the expensive shopping trip, Erin saved up $200 to spend at the store, a prospect that she found “scary.” But Erin said it had to be Lululemon—or Hollister or Aeropostal—because it might help her counteract the stigma she felt that being smart had at her school. She already knew that wearing clothing with such brand names was effective because she had received a Bench jacket for her birthday: “I really didn’t know what it was, I didn’t think people really cared. Then I got to school and everyone was, like, ‘Ooooohhhhh, you’ve got a Bench jacket.’”

Another girl who talked about the challenges of name brands was Smartypants, who went to Bethany High, a public Christian (p.133) school, and was far from wealthy. She lived in subsidized housing, and her parents’ jobs were precarious. At her school, Coach bags were the trend, and she explained that pretty much every girl had one. Smartypants did not tell us whether she had a Coach bag, but she did talk about the pressure to look a certain way: “You don’t want to be the girl in the corner not wearing certain styles or not wearing proper makeup.” When she was younger, she insisted on buying clothes at Garage so she would fit in, but she also noted that, often, the trendy clothing is very expensive, like Lululemon. “It’s frustrating,” she lamented. “I wouldn’t spend that much, but they are very nice pants.” Smartypants felt that the kids who were able to be both smart and popular were those who had the cash to dress a certain way. Consequently, she explained, “the ones who are less fortunate are most likely the ones who are less popular.”9

The idea that financial insecurity can hinder a girl’s popularity was echoed in Jordan’s observations about the local Catholic school she went to before Academy House. She told us about two girls in her school who were not as well off as everyone else and who, therefore, did not have the “right” look. She would sometimes stand with the two girls at recess, but she said that it was hard to be associated with them because of other kids’ negative comments. Rory talked about being on the other side of this dynamic as a girl that was judged for her less trendy style. She said that there was a popular group in her school that she did not like dealing with because of their judgments regarding her looks. With annoyance, she noted: “People say I’m gross because I wear Roots track pants or my bangs are too long.” That said, there were also girls in our study who talked about choosing comfort over style, alternative clothing over brand name items, and secondhand shops over retail stores in a way that rejected fashion as (p.134) the be-all and end-all of peer hierarchies.10 Girls such as Tony M. and Tony B. indicated that, while some students really prioritized fashion and the status it represented, others were less able to participate, less concerned, and/or pushed back against an ethos that they did not share—a point we return to in chapter 6.

The school a girl attended and the clothes she wore were assumed to indicate access to financial resources (or lack thereof), and these observations frequently came with judgments about families, too. It was around these material issues of schools and dress that discussions moved from the status of disposable income to deeper, class-based judgments, including about who is smart and functional. We saw this in a discussion with friends Sully, a middle-class, white student, and Joanne, an upper-middle-class, East Asian student. The two girls went to an elementary school that they positively described as having “rich, nice kids,” as if “rich” and “nice” were interchangeable. They both felt that the students from wealthier families and schools were smarter than others, in part because these students could afford the extras, like textbooks, technology, and tutoring, that would produce higher grades. Sully noted that the parents of these students were “successful, like teachers and doctors and stuff.” In contrast, Sully and Joanne noted that the kids who went to the local “ghetto” school were not considered smart: “The ghetto kids have good parents, but sometimes they feel like they aren’t good enough or something.”

In this exchange, Sully and Joanne rightly noted some of the direct and hidden injuries of class inequality, something that not many of our participants talked about. They saw that practical resources can help students be successful and that poverty can sometimes negatively shape people’s expectations and self-efficacy. But they also problematically privileged wealth by equating (p.135) “rich kids” with “nice kids” and assumed richer parents were smarter parents. They also generalized “ghetto” kids as lacking in certain ways. How might working-class young people negotiate such assumptions? Furthermore, Sully and Joanne expressed a typically neoliberal view in that their nascent class analysis focused exclusively on individual families’ choices and inclinations rather than on the deeper structural issues, such as unemployment or an insufficient minimum wage, that foster these inequalities.

Sara and Basil also noted that class is linked to academic performance. Sara was part South Asian and keen on computers and gaming. Her dad was a computer consultant and her mom was a homemaker. Basil was upper-middle-class and the only white girl in her circle of friends. Her mom was a doctor, and her dad was starting his own business. She was an avid reader and also involved in a local Jewish organization. Both girls came from financially secure homes, and while they did not place themselves among the rich students at Blue Ridge, they did see themselves as wealthy compared to students at other schools. Within a wider conversation about class, Shauna asked them whether they felt that it is the rich kids who are also known as smart kids. Nodding, Sara said yes, explaining that parents with a higher education expect more from their children. Basil added, “Usually [with] higher class parents, it’s like if you don’t get a high mark it’s not acceptable. They expect a lot. There’s a possibility it’s genetic too.” On the one had, as Sully and Joanne had pointed out, Sara and Basil rightly noted that there is a link between parents with more education and the educational performance of their children.11 But on the other hand, Sara and Basil primarily focused on expectations, without acknowledging the possibility that expectations are a consequence of certain conditions rather (p.136) than a cause. Such an interpretation, based on individualism, is again typical of neoliberalism, which easily shifts toward blame, holding working-class people responsible for their own (presumed) lack of success without recognizing the structural challenges they may face. Basil’s final comment reinforces this position by suggesting that rich kids may be smarter due to genetics.

A final example is offered by Isabell, a lower-middle-class, white student, who laid out the hierarchy of popularity at her school, Lester B. Pearson High. According to Isabell, the popular group was rich, pretty, and smart, while the “average” people were “alright looking, kind of smart, but they aren’t rich,” and “then there’s the umm, kind of, like, the scrubby people, I guess. People who don’t exactly have an extremely good quality of life.” Shauna asked Isabell what she meant by “scrubby people.” Isabell explained: “Like, they didn’t grow up in a stable family. Like, maybe their parents did drugs or were alcoholics or something like that. They tend to kind of go to the lower part of the cycle, I think, just because their parents let them get away with stuff.” The “scrubs,” she then clarified, were the poor kids. The school hierarchy, in this telling, is all about class, with rich students enjoying an attractive synergy of looks, smartness, and wealth and the poorer students condemned to hardship. Even though Isabell herself was not well off, her story presents a troubling portrayal of poor families as inherently dysfunctional and rich families as competent and successful. The girls did not question how rich families became rich, how structural forces and private resources preserve that wealth, how children from richer families may be advantaged in schools, or what kinds of broader social challenges and resiliencies poorer families negotiate.

In most of our interviews, girls said that popularity was about being well known or well liked and that some smart girls just (p.137) had the charisma and the skills to attract others. But clearly, popularity and acceptance are not just about being friendly, outgoing, or kind—the class context of a school, class inequality between students, and class prejudices and stereotypes play an important, but largely unacknowledged, role as well. Very few of our participants noted that inequalities are embedded in our institutions, including the dynamics of peer cultures. Furthermore, there was little recognition of the broader structural issues that are reflected in economic inequalities, such as the difficult consequences of a low minimum wage, unemployment and underemployment, the lack of social supports for challenges such as mental illness, and the ways that schools favor more privileged children. Instead, most girls individualized troubles and successes. Yet there is a vast body of literature about the blunt and more deeply hidden injuries of class differences within schools.12

At a practical level, when families have difficulty making ends meet, it often means that parents are working long hours with low wages, and this makes it difficult to prioritize a relationship with the school.13 A lack of income also makes involvement in school trips and fundraisers difficult and prevents students from having the extra resources that they may need, such as tutors or Internet access at home. And of course, class-based judgments and discrimination from peers and teachers, including judgments about what kinds of people are smart, shape students’ (and parents’) feelings of belonging within the school.

At a deeper level, researchers have drawn on French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s work to suggest that schools reflect and reward middle-class culture.14 As we have discussed, some of our participants gave up peer popularity in the present in order to focus on school, with the hope of translating their high grades (p.138) and academic skills into good jobs (and economic capital) later in their lives. But cultural capital is not only for the future; it is also present in rewards and accolades that are bestowed in the present for certain ways of being a student.15 For those students who come from middle- and upper-middle-class backgrounds, there tends to be a “natural” familiarity between school culture and home culture, given the dominance of middle-class culture in schools.16 Meanwhile, students who do not have such an affinity for middle-class culture will not feel as comfortable17 and will be more likely to clash with the school, whether it be in terms of curriculum, disciplinary issues, or peer hierarchies.18 The concept of cultural capital provides a useful explanation for the experiences of students like Flowerpower, who felt disconnected from both the curriculum and her peers. Flowerpower’s exposure to inequality allowed her to see through ideology in a way that a lot of her classmates could not. She wanted courses that recognized these inequalities and provided opportunities to talk about social justice. Flowerpower blamed herself for being angry at the injustice around her, but her anger made a lot of sense when it was contextualized in a school environment that did not resonate with her own experience and concerns.

Class is not just about fashion, holidays, or houses—it is also about ways of being and belonging. Where a girl lives, how she looks, and where she goes to school can shape who she can hang out with, whether she will be considered popular, and consequently, whether she will find comfort in both academic and social success. The wealth of students’ families even shapes the “fit” they feel between their school environment and their own ways of being. As we have seen in the above examples, a student’s class positioning can even influence whether they will be considered able to be smart.

(p.139) The “Smart Asian” Stereotype

When Flowerpower was a child, she asked her mom to give her an English name that she could use instead of her Chinese name, like some other Asian19 students she knew had. This story exemplified Flowerpower’s past discomfort with her racialization and cultural heritage, but when we spoke with her, she was moving toward embracing her roots. This acceptance was clearly a difficult journey for Flowerpower, one that was directly linked to challenges she faced in school. She explained, “[At my previous school], everyone referred to me as ‘the Asia,’ and I was also referred to as ‘the Asian,’ or I would walk into a party and people would be, like, ‘Oh, it’s Asia.’ Even though it was kind of, like, a friendly gesture for their intentions, I was offended. To be honest, I couldn’t accept my ethnicity, so being reminded I’m different hurt me.” Flowerpower attributed the hurtfulness of these comments to her own embarrassment over her “race” and ethnicity,20 internalizing and individualizing the interaction. However, such “joking” singled her out as different from her classmates based on how she looked and also suggested that there was little difference between her and billions of others who are homogenized by the term “Asian.”21

Sociologists and antiracist scholars have analyzed how “race,” as a social category, plays out in schools, focusing particularly on anti-black racism in the attitudes and actions of school staff. For example, teachers’ and administrators’ evaluations of student performance and behavior can be laden with discrimination against black students.22 Less research has been conducted on racism within school peer groups, however, but some of this research indicates that Asian American students are particularly vulnerable to peer discrimination.23 Even so, we heard stories about black (p.140) students that raised concerns. Chanel, our only black participant, told a frightening story about being called racist names and chased outside of a busy supermarket in Secord, and she also talked about the ubiquity in her school of lesser racist incidents. Allie, who was white, was bothered that some students at her school offensively used the “N-word.” And Yasmin, who was South Asian, noted that certain students at her school were called “dark chocolate,” “milk chocolate,” or “brown bunny,” which she described as a joke. Together, these troubling examples suggest a strong undercurrent of peer-based anti-black racism in the Secord area.

While a number of the girls described their schools as multicultural, Secord and its surrounding area is limited in terms of racial diversity, and most people are of European heritage. Despite our many attempts to locate diverse participants, the majority by far of those who signed up for our study were white, and while these boys and girls had a lot to say about “race” and ethnicity, it was primarily about Asian students and the “smart Asian” stereotype—which also points to the perception that whiteness is invisible.24 Across our interviews, the “smart Asian” label was repeated over and over again.25 There were two key threads to this discussion. First, participants frequently claimed that their social worlds were full of diversity and equality. And second, through a wide range of comments, cracks appeared in this neoliberal narrative as it became clear that Asian students were understood through a narrow stereotype that reproduced a relationship between being smart and being on the outside of peer cultures. Most commonly, the “smart Asian” stereotype assumes that Asian students are good at school, hardworking, and especially gifted at math and science.26 While some of our participants were able to critically recognize this pattern as a stereotype, most presented it as a social truth that Asian students, (p.141) much more than girls specifically, were the ones they assumed would try hard and succeed at school.

On first thought, the characterization of Asian students as inherently smart appears to be positive, because being smart is valued and promises rewards. Jenny-Po, who was East Asian, explained that her friends “are called ‘the Asians,’ because Asians are always smart.” When Shauna asked if this stereotype bothered her, she replied, “No, because it’s usually good, like, [being] smart. Or I can play an instrument. This one time I did a chin-up in gym class this girl was, like, ‘Whoah! She’s smart and strong! One of those.’” Smartypants, who was South Asian, also considered the “smart Asian” stereotype to be a compliment. Rory, who was white, observed that people poked fun at a group of Asian students at her school, but she then quickly rationalized that it was “not in a mean way, but they just, like, sometimes say, ‘Oh, you are so Asian’ instead of ‘so smart.’”

But while the assumption of academic success appears innocuous enough, there are significant troubling effects of this kind of supposedly “good racism.”27 The “smart Asian” social category generalizes across enormous diversity, reduces people to an assumed set of narrow traits, and is the basis for other exclusionary assumptions. The girls in our study with Asian backgrounds included immigrants and second-generation Canadians, and their families came from such diverse places as China, Korea, the Philippines, and Cambodia. They included girls who were religious and nonreligious, and girls from wealthy families alongside girls, like Flowerpower and Smartypants, from either stable or precarious working-class families. A positive stereotype does not prevent students from experiencing discrimination or what Canadian anthropologist Dan Yon terms “cultural racism”28—they must still grapple with the homogenizing assumption that (p.142) they have inherent traits based on how they look or where they come from.29 Furthermore, the expectation that all Asian students are thriving can magnify feelings of incompetence when Asian students struggle to learn certain material and may make Asian students less likely to ask for, or receive, the kind of instructional support they need.30

The fact that her peers denied any possible struggle she may be having in school was an issue for Flowerpower, who both perpetuated and defied this stereotype. She observed, “Asian parents have a reputation of being really strict and pressuring students to do well.” But she explained that her parents did not pressure her at all “because they were busy with work and stuff. My mom would ask me if I had homework but never offer to help.” She continued, “At Blue Ridge, all the students that are Asian are really involved in school and sports and have good grades. I guess with me … no.” Yet people continued to assume she was super smart: “They would say, like, ‘Oh, you must be good at math’!” She described instances where other students asked her for help with their schoolwork because they presumed that she knew the answers because she was Asian: “When they ask me, I just go, ‘I don’t know,’ and it makes me feel like an idiot, you know […], because I don’t know, because they ask me these questions and I have no answer for them […]. So it’s just kind of like a reminder, like, almost, you know, that you are not that smart [laughs], yeah.”

Joanne also felt misrecognized. She told us that people saw her as a genius because she was Asian and automatically went to her for help. Joanne’s co-interviewee, Sully, who was white, added, “In math class, everyone is, like, ‘Oh, just ask the Asian’!” Despite being a very strong student in other subjects, Joanne struggled in math and could not answer their questions. But she said that these assumptions did not really bother her and were (p.143) not necessarily racist, explaining, “It’s a good part [of being Asian].” Yet she also noted that other kids did not see her for who she was: “Like, I’m not who you think I am.” These racialized expectations thus foster the frustrating experience of being not only misjudged but also misrecognized.31

The use of stereotypes, such as that of the “smart Asian,” enabled white students to exclude others by emphasizing cultural differences or social incompatibility without seeing themselves as racist.32 Within Canada, multiculturalism and diversity are claimed as core values, and racism is widely considered socially unacceptable. That said, racism is defined narrowly, leaving subtler forms of racism, broader institutional racialization, and the centering of whiteness largely unexamined.33 In our study, for instance, one of the ways that participants talked about the “smart Asian” stereotype was as a joke they used to tease each other about being smart or geeky. Joking can be complicated and powerful, creating both in-group bonds and exclusion. Sometimes, the joking seemed playful, especially when Asian students teased each other about embodying the stereotype, but this type of joking also suggested deeper discrimination and exclusion, such as the pain Flowerpower felt when she was called “Asia.” As we discussed in the previous chapter, our participants talked about sexist joking. Some of the stories we heard about students using the “smart Asian” stereotype as a “joke” evoked in us a similar degree of discomfort and concern as did the sexist jokes, especially as the joking, and the reactions to this joking, masked discrimination.

For example, Andrea asked Maggie, one of our white participants, if she had ever seen racism at her school. Maggie explained, “No, obviously the racist things are the people of different races making fun of themselves. It’s just a joke. It’s not racism. They are (p.144) just joking and having fun with each other.” Andrea then asked if there were a lot of Asian or black people at Maggie’s school, and Maggie said, “I think more black than Asian, but most of the people are Canadian.” These contradictory statements have troubling connotations. First, Maggie suggested that there is no racism, and then she said that racism does exist but turned the idea on its head by saying that it is people of color who enact it against each other. Maggie then confidently noted that it is not actually racism, as the people of color are just joking around. In her final statement, she conflated black and Asian students with new immigrants, suggesting that they are not Canadian.34 Together, these accounts presented a vision of benign and yet exclusionary Canadian whiteness, while portraying racism as something nonwhite students inflict on each other for a laugh.

Another example of this thinking was given by Elizabeth, who was white. She said that the “smart Asian” stereotype circulated at Blue Ridge but claimed that it was only used as a joke: “It’s more a joke, not an actual … There’s a lot of Asians, like, a lot, like, half our student population. The jokes made are completely random, but it’s that you’re Asian, so you must be smart. It’s not necessarily true.” Elizabeth’s comments were somewhat critical, as she perceived that the stereotype was not always accurate, yet her other statements drew attention to how the narrative of “just joking” needs to be examined more closely. She said the jokes are “completely random,” but they are not; they are specifically aimed at and name Asian students. She also suggested that Asian students make up half the student population of Blue Ridge, which is out of sync with other students’ description of the school as mostly white.35 She also explained that, because the Asian students joke around with the stereotype, too, there is no racism at her school. Yet, later in the interview, she countered (p.145) this observation, noting that some people take the joking “in a very negative way […]. They will say, ‘Oh, that was really offensive, I didn’t like that.’” To her, however, this reaction was an example of a person who was just looking for something to criticize: “They want a reason to complain rather than they are actually offended by it.” To support this observation, Elizabeth explained that “everyone” makes jokes about Asian smartness, “and, like, everyone knows they’re joking, but there are certain people […] that actually take offense to them just to get attention to get an apology kind of thing.” In suggesting that students should not complain about “smart Asian” jokes, Elizabeth demonstrated how ubiquitous—and pernicious—such joking can be and how both joking along and complaining about such joking can be used to dismiss the seriousness of the issue.

Maggie and Elizabeth were far from the only participants to suggest that, because Asian students participate in the joking, it is not hurtful or racist. While they have a point in that peer culture is based on insider jokes that may not always feel offensive and that students can playfully engage with stereotypes, the flip side is that rigidly policed peer norms make it difficult to speak up in the face of subtle (or even overt) discrimination, as Elizabeth’s comments make clear.36 In fact, when students with Asian backgrounds participate in their own teasing, they may be working at being included. Given the pervasive narrative of acceptance that is central to Canadian identity and the positioning of Asian students as “perpetual foreigners,”37 Asian or other students naming such joking as racism could, ironically, feel like too much of a challenge to the dominant Canadian ethos of tolerance and diversity.

While many participants saw the “smart Asian” stereotype as teasing and nothing more, some girls did not dismiss it as just joking. (p.146) Flowerpower named racism specifically when calling out the racist joking of the class clown. Similarly, Rory was concerned when students were saying that a girl in her class got very high marks only because she was Asian: “I think it’s racist, just not as racist as people can be to, like, say, black people. […] Teachers say, ‘Ignore [such comments] […].’ They say, ‘If you see someone being bullied, step in,’ but if they are saying remarks that are rude, [they tell you] to walk away.” Rory felt that such a response was insufficient—more needed to be done! Lisa noted that Asian students were categorized as smart through “stupid” jokes that “generalized.” She then added, “Someone once told me I might as well be Asian [because I’m smart]. It wasn’t a name or hurtful, but I would feel bad if I was Asian and was stereotyped the way they are.”

While many girls recognized and celebrated multiculturalism and diversity in their schools, comments about “smart Asians” were clearly exclusionary. Being “too Asian,” for example, was equated with being too focused on studies and being antisocial. In this way, it separated Asian-ness from dominant peer culture: being both Asian and smart meant that you could be seen as overly Asian. Caramel, who was white, outlined it this way: “Yeah, it’s true at our school, there’s Asians and then there’s Asians […]. There’s a kid at our school with a 109 percent average or something, and they spend their time doing homework and I can’t. … I have a life outside of my school. I can’t spend every moment of my life looking at a paper.” For Caramel, this level of studiousness and consequent Asian-ness was undesirable. But she also framed these students’ exclusion from peer culture as their fault—others are not actively excluding them, it is their Asianness that makes them unpopular. Again, a division was reinforced between smartness (in this case, being “too Asian”) and being social. Like Elizabeth, Caramel also suggested that a focus on (p.147) academics was, in itself, foreign: “More English people are slack about grades. People who came here from anywhere are all grade imperative.” Seen another way, then, when Asian students try hard in school, they are sometimes seen as failing to be fully Canadian, which creates a quandary for Asian students who are invested in their academics but also in the social life of their school and the imagined idea of what it means to be a Canadian.

Intersectional Complexities

Jacqueline went to the same school as Flowerpower and was also subjected to the “smart Asian” stereotype because she was East Asian. But Jacqueline’s experience at Blue Ridge was notably different. She was well supported by her academic parents, ambitious in her goals, and involved in a number of extracurricular activities, including engineering club, debating club, and drafting the school newsletter. She and her friend Cindy, who was also East Asian, said that, although they both encountered the “smart Asian” stereotype, they had not experienced racism at their school and felt that it did not really matter what their “race” or ethnicity was. While Flowerpower struggled at Blue Ridge, Jacqueline seemed comfortable with her social position. For Jacqueline, a certain configuration of class background, ethnicity, peer involvement, and personal context shaped a trajectory through Blue Ridge that ensured a degree of ease and promised ongoing success. The intersections in Flowerpower’s life shaped a significantly different trajectory.

There are numerous intersections in girls’ lives that shape how smart girls see themselves and others, experience and negotiate peer culture, and navigate the institution of the school. Of these intersections, class and “race” are pivotal, as they are embedded in (p.148) historical and structural forms of inequality, deeply connected to family and community, fraught with problematic stereotypes, and loaded with long-term repercussions. Sometimes they significantly intertwine, and sometimes they diverge.38 Yet, as with gender, neoliberal individualism masks these significant social divisions and inequalities. We—students, educators, parents, and researchers—need more stories about smart girls’ diverse and complicated experiences in schools.39 In exploring some of the complexities of these intersections, we have sought to illustrate the relevance of key aspects of identity and structural inequality as they interact with each other and play out in each smart girl’s unique life, thus shattering the gender-only narrative that dominates media and popular psychological conceptions of successful girls and failing boys. In our final chapter, we offer two more ways of contextualizing the lives of smart girls: microresistances and school culture. These glimpses into how smart girls resist popular femininity and how they might be better supported in schools and beyond open the door to different configurations of academic success—and possibilities for social transformation.

Notes:

(1.) For just a few examples, see Bettie, Women without Class; Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Standford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–99; Ann Arnett Ferguson, Bad Boys: Public Schools and the Making of Black Masculinity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000); Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag; Stephanie A. Shields, “Gender: An Intersectionality Perspective,” Sex Roles 59, no. 5 (2008): 301–11.

(2.) Shawn Arango Ricks, “Falling through the Cracks: Black Girls and Education,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning 4, no. 1 (2014): 10–21; Ralina L. Joseph, “‘Tyra Banks Is Fat’: Reading (Post-) Racism and (Post-)Feminism in the New Millenium,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 26, no. 3 (2009): 237–54.

(4.) Income includes benefits, and wealth includes investments, properties, and debt.

(5.) Reflecting Bettie’s (Women without Class) position, we consider economic-related categories, including relations to the means of production, income, wealth, skill, education, and status, to be important parts of class. But like Bettie, we also consider class to be performative (see also Walkerdine et al., Growing Up Girl). There is concreteness to class in terms of material relations, the routines of daily life, and shared histories in the body—or a lifelong durable inculcation of habitus (Bourdieu and Passeron, Reproduction in Education)—but sometimes, class positions can be embraced or eschewed and made more or less visible. Class can be given significance not only through what kind of work someone does but also through shifting processes of consumption, self-presentation, relationship building, personal goals, and life experiences (see Bettie, Women without Class; and Walkerdine et al., Growing Up Girl).

(p.224) (7.) This may, in part, be why so many students from Blue Ridge signed up for our study, as their sense of themselves as being smart was linked to being Blue Ridge students.

(8.) See Eckert, Jock and Burnouts; and Shauna Pomerantz, Girls, Style, and School Identities: Dressing the Part (New York: Palgrave, 2008).

(9.) For an excellent sociological analysis of the role of consumption in children’s peer cultures, see Alison Pugh, Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). Not only does Pugh illustrate how purchasing practices play a central role in children’s cultures, she also points to parental purchases that are about bolstering their children’s belonging and peer status. She raises concerns about the young people who cannot, or will not, participate and also about the centrality of consumption in these processes.

(10.) Amira Proweller, who studied an elite private girls’ school, argues that brand names were used within the peer culture to sort the girls by class, although this sorting was also used to critique upper-middle-class girls’ privilege and how they used it to exclude others (see Proweller, Constructing Female Identities: Meaning Making in an Upper Middle Class Youth Culture [New York: State University of New York Press, 1998]).

(11.) Pamela Davis-Kean, “The Influence of Parent Education and Family Income on Child Achievement: The Indirect Role of Parental Expectations and the Home Environment,” Journal of Family Psychology 19, no. 2 (2005): 294–304.

(12.) Classic critical theory on the inequities of education systems includes Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life (New York: Basic Books, 1977); Peter McLaren, Life in Schools: An Introduction to Critical Pedagogy and the Foundations of Education, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2014); and Willis, Learning to Labour. Feminist research on the topic includes Julie Bettie, Women without Class; Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber, “Girls and Subcultures” in The Subcultures Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Ken Gelder (London: Routledge, 1997), 112–20; Walkerdine et al. Growing Up Girl; and Lois Weis, Working (p.225) Class without Work: High School Students in a De-Industrializing Economy (New York: Routledge, 1990).

(13.) Much like Flowerpower’s observations at the beginning of this chapter, Rory’s position differed from these interpretations, and she had rare insight into some of the ways privilege might work. She did not focus on presumed family culture, but instead noted certain advantages that privilege might bring, such as time and social connections to the school (see Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital”; and Lareau, Unequal Childhoods). She talked about how children from richer families sometimes have an advantage because their parents are more involved in their schooling: “Their parents know all the teachers, so if they get a bad grade and their parents ask for a retest, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure!’” She did not feel that such privileges would extend to her own family: “If my mom called in, they would be like, ‘Sorry, that’s not allowed.’ They give favors.”

(14.) For a more traditionally Marxist analysis of how schools reproduce the class inequalities embedded in capitalism, see Bowles and Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America.

(16.) Rather than problematizing the young person’s family or culture, the focus on cultural capital suggests that the dominant culture of the school is too narrow to meet the diverse backgrounds of all students. See Lareau, Unequal Childhoods.

(17.) As Louise Archer, Sumi Hollingsworth, and Anna Halsall (“University’s Not for Me—I’m a Nike Person”: Urban, Working-Class Young People’s Negotiations of ‘Style,’ Identity, and Educational Engagement,” Sociology 41, no. 2 [2005], 220) put it, “More powerful groups, like the middle classes, tend to enjoy a greater synergy between their own life-worlds and those of dominant societal institutions and structures, and hence benefit from a privileged ability to know, understand and play the ‘game.’” See also Lareau, Unequal Childhoods.

(19.) “Asian” is a contextual, homogenizing, and racialized term that is used to refer to people across diverse cultures and countries (Stacey J. Lee, “Additional Complexities: Social Class, Ethnicity, Generation, and Gender in Asian American Student Experiences,” (p.226) Race, Ethnicity and Education 9, no. 1 [2006]: 17–28). Participants in our study frequently used the term “Asian,” but they also identified themselves or other students as being from specific countries, such as Korea or China. We use the term “Asian” here as a problematically generalized, overarching category in order to focus on its effects. We have also opted to identify certain respondents as having East Asian, South Asian, or Southeast Asian heritage to indicate certain participants’ positionality in this conversation and to gesture towards diversity within the term “Asian” but also to flag that “race” is not about a specific country or culture but rather about problematic meaning that is imputed to physical appearance. While we understand that people from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia are subject to different stereotypes, participants in our study invoked the “smart Asian” stereotype across these categories.

(20.) Flowerpower said that she was uncomfortable with her own ethnicity, a term that is used to refer to a group of people who feel united by a sense of shared history, language, and cultural practices (Stephen Cornell and Douglas Harmann, Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World, 2nd ed. [Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge, 2007]). In this chapter, we have opted to focus primarily on the concept of “race,” however, as “ethnic distinctions within racial categories have tended to be overshadowed by the racial designations [usually asserted by others from outside the group]” (27). In our research, this observation has certainly been the case, as illustrated by the “smart Asian” stereotype, a form of categorizing that overshadows specific references to ethnicity and contributes to a shared experience among young people perceived to be Asian (see also Bettie, Women without Class).

(21.) Mythili Rajiva (“Brown Girls, White Worlds: Adolescence and the Making of Racialized Selves,” Canadian Review and Anthropology 43, no. 2 [2006]: 165–83) explains how second generation South Asian girls in Canada generally feel a sense of belonging but then experience a “boundary moment” through which they become Othered as outside of dominant white culture.

(22.) See Enora R. Brown, “Freedom for Some, Discipline for ‘Others,’” in Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization (p.227) of Schools, ed. Kenneth J. Saltman and David A. Gabbard (New York: Routledge, 2003), 130–64; Ferguson, Bad Boys; Aaron Kupchik and Nicholas Ellis, “School Discipline and Security: Fair for All Students?,” Youth and Society 39, no. 4 (2008): 549–74; Russell J. Skiba and M. Karega Rausch, “Zero Tolerance, Suspension, and Expulsion: Questions of Equity and Effectiveness,” in Handbook of Classroom Management: Research, Practice and Contemporary Issues, ed. Carolyn M. Evertson and Carol S. Weinstein (Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006), 1063–92; Richard R. Verdugo, “Race-Ethnicity, Social Class, and Zero Tolerance Policies: The Cultural and Structural Wars,” Education and Urban Society 35, no. 1 (2002): 50–75; and John M. Wallace, Sara Goodkind, Cynthia M. Wallace, and Jerald G. Bachman, “Racial, Ethnic and Gender Differences in School Discipline among U.S. High School Students: 1991–2005,” Negro Educational Review 59, nos. 1–2 (2008): 47–62. For a rich, ethnographic examination of intersectionality and the unequal application of discipline across gender and “race,” see Morris, “‘Tuck In That Shirt!.’” For a focus on Canada, see Carl James, “Students ‘at Risk’: Stereotypes and the Schooling of Black Boys,” Urban Education 47, no. 2 (2012): 464–94.

(23.) Celia B. Fisher, Scyatta A. Wallace, and Rose E. Fenton, “Discrimination Distress during Adolescence,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29, no. 6 (2000): 679–95; Sandra Graham, April Z. Taylor, and Alice Y. Ho, “Race and Ethnicity in Peer Relations Research,” in Handbook of Peer Interactions, Relationships and Groups, ed. Kenneth H. Rubin, William M. Bukowski, and Brett Laursen (New York: Guilford, 2009), 394–413; Susan Rosenbloom and Niobe Way, “Experiences of Discrimination among African American, Asian American, and Latino Adolescents in an Urban High School,” Youth and Society 35, no. 4 (2004): 420–51.

(24.) Whiteness can be understood as a constructed, shifting, relational, and privileged boundary that positions people who either are not visibly “raced” or are perceived to be white. Whiteness is commonly the unspoken or “un/marked” norm (Richard Dyer, “The Matter of Whiteness,” in Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader, ed. Les Back and John Solomos [London: Routledge, 2000], 539–48), problematically and favorably produced in contrast to “nonwhiteness” (Karen Deliovsky, (p.228) White Femininity: Race, Gender, and Power [Nova Scotia: Fernwood, 2010], 26). As Frances Henry and Carol Tator describe, “White culture, norms, and values […] become normative natural. They become the standard against which all other cultures, groups, and individuals are measured and usually found to be inferior” (The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society, 3rd ed. [Toronto: Nelson, 2006]). As such, while intersected by other inequalities, whiteness “refers to a position of structural advantage and social dominance facilitating the practice of power over subdominant groups” (Levine-Rasky, “Whiteness,” 86).

(25.) We are grateful to Larissa Bablak for her keen analytical insights into this topic. The article we coauthored with her deeply informed this section. See Bablak et al., “‘I Don’t Want to Stereotype.’”

(26.) Catherine Costigan, Tina F. Su, and Josephine M. Hua, “Ethnic Identity among Chinese Canadian Youth: A Review of the Canadian Literature,” Canadian Psychology 50, no. 4 (2009): 261–72; Dan Cui and Jennifer Kelly, “‘Too Asian?’ or the Invisible Citizen on the Other Side of the Nation?,” Journal of International Migration and Integration 14, no. 1 (2013): 157–74; Stacey J. Lee, Unraveling the “Model Minority” Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009); Stacey J. Lee, Up against Whiteness: Race, School, and Immigrant Youth (New York: Teacher’s College Press, 2005); Julie Matthews, “Racialised Schooling, ‘Ethnic Success’ and Asian-Australian Students,” British Journal of Sociology and Education 23, no. 2 (2002): 193–207; Qin Zhang, “Asian Americans beyond the Model Minority Stereotype: The Nerdy and the Leftout,” Journal of International and Intercultural Communication 3, no. 1 (2010): 20–37.

(27.) Cui and Kelly, “Too Asian?”; S. Lee, Unraveling; S. Lee, Up against Whiteness; Raby, “‘There’s No Racism at My School”; Jean Yonemura Wing, “Beyond Black and White: The Model Minority Myth and the Invisibility of Asian American Students,” Urban Review 39, no. 4 (2007): 455–87; Zhang, “Asian Americans.”

(28.) Daniel A. Yon, Elusive Cultures: Schooling, Race and Identity in Global Times (New York: State University of New York Press, 2000).

(30.) Gilberto Q. Conchas and Christina C. Pérez, “Surfing the ‘Model Minority’ Wave of Success: How the School Context Shapes Distinct Experiences among Vietnamese Youth,” New Directions for Youth Development 2003, no. 100 (2003): 41–56; S. Lee, Unraveling.

(31.) Chen, “Asians: Too Smart”; Conchas and Pérez, “Surfing the ‘Model Minority.’” See also Kim Zarzour, “Asian Students Are Feeling Stressed, Survey Shows,” Yorkregion.com, July 12, 2013, www.yorkregion.com/news-story/3890884-asian-students-are-feeling-stressed-survey-shows; and Daniel A. Yon, “Urban Portraits of Identity: On the Problem of Knowing Culture and Identity in Intercultural Studies,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 21, no. 2 (2000): 143–57.

(32.) Frances Henry, Carol Tator, Winston Mattis, and Tim Rees, “The Ideology of Racism,” in The Politics of Race in Canada: Readings in Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Realities, and Future Possibilities, ed. Maria Wallis and Augie Fleras (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2009), 108–18.

(33.) The related concept of “new racisms” attempts to broaden our understandings of racism, recognizing that people can “maintain two apparently conflicting sets of values”—a liberal openness to diversity and equality alongside “negative feelings about people of colour … that result in differential treatment of them, or discrimination against them” (Henry et al., “Ideology of Racism,” 108).

(34.) A similar comment was made by Caramel, who said she noticed “that more English people are slack about grades. People who came here from anywhere are all grade imperative.” This problematically suggests that people who are from “here” are English and people from elsewhere are not. Stacey Lee (“Additional Complexities,” 21) discusses this as a problem of being seen as “perpetual foreigners.” See also page 147.

(35.) For example, when Shauna asked if there was any racism at Blue Ridge, Jenny-Po said, “There isn’t much of it, there aren’t many kids to be targeted. [Where I used to live,] there are a lot more kids, (p.230) and it’s way more multicultural.” In another example, Andrea asked Darlene and Maggie if Blue Ridge had a mix of ethnicities, and Darlene said that it didn’t in comparison to the school she previously went to in another city: “I would say there is a bigger Asian population in [this other city], whereas now there’s like five Asians at our school. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there’s not as many as before.”

(38.) As a case in point, Stacey Lee (“Additional Complexities”) notes that, in the United States, Asian Americans are more likely to have higher and lower income than white people.

(39.) Ricks (Falling through the Cracks) points particularly to the dearth of research on black girls and academic success in the United States. The same can certainly be said for Canada.