Shadow Politics in the Rich Light of Day: Black Youth, Political Socialization, and one Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area High School
Fishman, Darwin Ben
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: SHADOW POLITICS IN THE RICH LIGHT OF DAY: BLACK YOUTH, POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION, AND ONE WASHINGTON, D.C. METROPOLITAN AREA HIGH SCHOOL Darwin Ben Fishman, Doctor of Philosophy, 2006 Dissertation directed by: Professor Ron Walters Department of Government and Politics There is still a lot that is not known about how we develop our political identity and why we retain certain parts of our political identity and shed other parts. Most of the research done in the last forty years was based on the assumption that political socialization occurred during youth and that youth learned some of their most important political lessons while in school. The current field of political socialization has expanded and changed greatly, but still retains youth identity formation as the foundation of most scholarly work. The racial and quantitative bias of this past research on political socialization has been neglected. These theoretical and methodological concerns have provided the basis for my research. To be able to address these issues and to delve more deeply into these issues, I have focused my work on the political socialization of Black youth. I decided to conduct an ethnographic research project to be able examine the political socialization process for Black youth and to be able address some of the larger questions about the field of political socialization and identity politics. This project was based on observations and interviews in one African American History elective class for Juniors and Seniors in a public high school. This high school was located in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, and it was nestled in a poor working class suburban area. The research gave me insight into the lives of Black youth's political socialization from a unique perspective. Unlike past race neutral work and quantitative research, this ethnographic research illustrated how complicated and contradictory Black youth political socialization can be. I found the students' lack of knowledge about local, state, and national political affairs was not matched by an equally apparent lack of interest or enthusiasm for political issues or participation. Instead I found that the students were most passionate and well versed in a few, very specific political areas. This ethnographic approach did not produce a way to avoid these awkward points, but it instead created the space in which many of these contradictory trends could be re-stitched together in a more meaningful fashion.