Many saw the 2008 election of Barack Obama as a sign that America had moved past the issue of race, that a colorblind society was finally within reach. But as Marianne Modica reveals in Race Among Friends, attempts to be colorblind do not end racism—in fact, ignoring race increases the likelihood that racism will occur in our schools and in society.
This intriguing volume focuses on a “racially friendly” suburban charter school called Excellence Academy, highlighting the ways that students and teachers think about race and act out racial identity. Modica finds that even in an environment where students of all racial backgrounds work and play together harmoniously, race affects the daily experiences of students and teachers in profound but unexamined ways. Some teachers, she notes, feared that talking about race in the classroom would open them to charges of racism, so they avoided the topic. And rather than generate honest and constructive conversations about race, student friendships opened the door for insensitive racial comments by whites, resentment and silence by blacks, and racially biased administrative practices. In the end, the school’s friendly environment did not promote—and may have hindered—serious discussion of race and racial inequity.
The desire to ignore race in favor of a “colorblind society,” Modica writes, has become an entrenched part of American culture. But as Race Among Friends shows, when race becomes a taboo subject, it has serious ramifications for students and teachers of all ethnic origins.
About the Author
MARIANNE MODICA is an associate professor of education at the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville, PA.
"A timely contribution to the array of literature that examines how race plays out in school settings."
— Anthropology & Education Quarterly
"The process of refining and deepening our understandings of race is an ongoing challenge in the United States. Race Among Friends does what just plain good science should do. It focuses on a narrow aspect of reality, which needs further understanding and works to understand it. On the way to those understandings the work goes through the much needed process of examining and clarifying existing theory. We now know more about cross-racial friendship as a result of Modica's work. However, we also have a refined understanding of issues ranging from colorblindness to marginalization."
— Education Review
"With rich narratives, solid data, and a refusal to smooth over problematic areas that exist when discussing whiteness and racism, Race among Friends addresses important issues with insight, clarity, and a call to (re)commit ourselves to pursing strategies for undoing whiteness and racism in ourselves and in the teaching environment."
— Alice McIntyre
"Race matters in suburbs as much as in cities. In her ethnographic study of high school students in a suburban charter school, Modica pays astute attention to the juxtaposition of cross-racial friendships and racial tension. It’s a must-read for all."
— Heewon Chang