The Culture Trap: Ethnic Expectations and Unequal Schooling for Black Youth

The Culture Trap: Ethnic Expectations and Unequal Schooling for Black Youth


2 May 2024    
5:00pm - 6:30pm

Event Type


2 May, 17:00-18:30

Join the Centre for International Education at the University of Sussex for an event with Derron Wallace, cultural sociologist of race, ethnicity, and education at Brandeis University, USA.

In The Culture Trap, Derron Wallace argues that the overreliance on culture to explain Black students’ achievement and behaviour in schools is a trap that undermines the historical factors and institutional processes that shape how Black students experience schooling. This trap is consequential for a host of racial and ethnic minority youth in schools, including Black Caribbean young people in London and New York City.

Since the 1920s, Black Caribbeans in New York have been considered a high-achieving Black model minority. Conversely, since the 1950s, Black Caribbeans in London have been regarded as a chronically underachieving minority. In both contexts, however, it is often suggested that Caribbean culture informs their status, whether as a celebrated minority in the US or as a demoted minority in Britain.

Drawing on rich observations, interviews and archives in London and New York City schools, Wallace suggests that the use of culture to justify Black Caribbean students’ achievement obscures the very real ways that school structures, institutional processes, and colonial conditions influence the racial, gender and class inequalities Black youth experience in schools. Wallace reveals how culture is at times used as an alibi for racism in schools, and points out what educators, parents and students can do to change the beliefs and practices that reinforce racism.

This event will be held in EH19, Essex House, University of Sussex (Campus Map) and streamed on Zoom.

Full details and registration here!