Theses Doctoral

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (Bipoc) Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Experiences With Racism, Discrimination, and Microaggressions in High School and Society: Identifying Predictors of School-based Microaggressions

Spellman, Qiana

There is a rationale for investigating the impact of racism and discrimination on adolescents and young adults in the United States. Racist or discriminatory experiences within educational settings, as well as in their communities, place Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students in a precarious position. This study examined potential factors related to high frequency of exposure to school-based racial and ethnic microaggressions, including: teacher cultural competence, school disciplinary structures, everyday discrimination, the race-related stress potentially associated with these experiences for BIPOC adolescents and young people, as well as mental health impacts.

Through an online social media campaign, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) ages 18-25 were surveyed (N = 287), recalling experiences in high school and society with racism, microaggressions, and discrimination. The study sought to identify predictors of school-based racial and ethnic microaggressions. While controlling for social desirability, findings showed how having experienced a higher frequency of school-based racial and ethnic microaggressions while in high school was significantly predicted by various factors, such as: (1) older age; (2) darker skin; (3) lower education; (4) less teacher cultural competence; (5) more discrimination; (6) less fair discipline; (7) greater race-related stress; (8) better mental health during the past year; and (9) higher drop-out rates or consideration of dropping out due to racism. Additionally, participants experienced moderate levels of depression, anxiety, and trauma in the past year due to race.

The study provides future researchers with a set of measures for examining what BIPOC students endure in school settings, along with the frequency and impact of such encounters with racism, microaggressions, and discrimination. This research is especially useful for the fields of counseling and education, given implications for meeting the needs of BIPOC adolescents while they are in high school, in order to address their experiences with racism, microaggressions, and discrimination—and to prevent drop-out from high school. The needs of BIPOC young adults also need to be addressed, given evidence of an impact for young adults beyond their high school years from school-based racial and ethnic microaggressions—which are compounded by exposure to societal-wide racism, microaggressions, and discrimination.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Wallace, Barbara
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 22, 2022