Adapting, Disrupting, and Resisting: How Middle School Black Males Position Themselves in Response to Racialization in School


  • Carl James York University



Black, African Canadians, Boys, Middle-School, Equity, Stereotyping, Positioning Theory, Critical Race Theory CRT


Studies of Black students’ schooling experiences and educational outcomes have consistently shown that compared to their peers, they – especially males – tend to underperform academically, be more athletically engaged, and be streamed into non-academic educational programs. These studies tend to focus on high school students, but what of middle school students: is the situation any different? Using a combination of critical race theory and positioning theory, this article presents the results of a 2018 focus group of middle school male students residing in an outer suburb of the Greater Toronto Area. The findings reveal how the nine participants positioned themselves, and were positioned by their teachers, for an education that would enable them to enter high school and become academically successful. Some participants felt that teachers had constructs of them as underperformers, athletes, and troublemakers; others believed teachers saw them as ‘regular students’ and treated them accordingly by supporting their academic and extracurricular activities. How these students read educators’ perceptions of them informed their positioning responses: some adjusted and others resisted. Our findings highlight the urgent need to support Black students in culturally relevant ways during the transition schooling years so that they enter high school ready to meet the social, academic, and pedagogical challenges they will face, graduate, and realize their post high school ambitions.