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A Phenomenological Study of Racial Harassment in School and Emotional Effects Among the Retrospective Accounts of Older Black Adolescents


Increased reports in public schools and depictions on social media signify racial harassment is quite prevalent in the lives of black students in the United States. However, the degree to which research has focused on the specific forms of racial harassment in school and its emotional effects remain understudied. This phenomenological study explored the retrospective accounts of racial harassment in the public-school experiences of a sample of older black youth and the emotional consequences of such encounters. Findings from the participants indicate the most prevalent form of racial harassment occurred in the form of subtle assaults and racial slights, followed by verbal and physical assaults. Participants were also more likely to express anger and sadness in their accounts of racial harassment. Discussion focuses on how racial harassment has adverse emotional consequences and the need for interventions that address racial healing, bias reduction, and emotional regulation for adults and students in school.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Berdine Gordon-Littrean, Dr. Jackie Flemmings, Samuel Baxter and others who helped in the analysis of participants interviews and their thoughtful expertise in education and public health.

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Correspondence to Dawn X. Henderson.

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Henderson, D.X., Jones, J., McLeod, K. et al. A Phenomenological Study of Racial Harassment in School and Emotional Effects Among the Retrospective Accounts of Older Black Adolescents. Urban Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-020-00551-5

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  • Racial harassment
  • Black
  • African Americans
  • Phenomenological
  • Education