Characterizing Competing Tensions in Black Immigrant Literacies: Beyond Partial Representations of Success

Patriann Smith, Jaehoon Lee, Rong Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this study, we problematize the notion that Black immigrant youth be designated as high achieving or new model minority when comparing their literate success with that of their Black American peers. We draw from ideological and autonomous views regarding literacies while recognizing notions such as languaging informed by personhood, monoglossic norms, heteroglossic perspectives, and raciolinguistic ideologies, which come to bear on the literacies of Black immigrant youth. Using these lenses, we examined Black immigrant literacy from both qualitative and quantitative paradigms. Quantitative findings revealed that native English-speaking Black immigrant youth had significantly higher scores on reading literacy than native English-speaking Black American youth on the Programme for International Student Assessment. Among all Black students in 2009, native English speakers outperformed non-native English speakers. However, superior reading literacy performance among native English speakers was not as obvious in 2015 as was observed in 2009. In 2015, non-native English speakers outperformed native English speakers among Black immigrants, whereas native English speakers had higher scores than non-native English speakers on reading literacy among Black Americans. Qualitative findings showed that (a) literate success in one Black immigrant youth’s (D’Arcy) literacy practices was influenced by multilingualism as both an asset and a deficit; (b) dialectal difference was perceived as language interference and as binary (i.e., legitimate vs. nonlegitimate); (c) there was persistent unacceptability of D’Arcy’s language, accent, and certain literacies across home and school; (d) expectations about D’Arcy’s racial literate identity remained steeped in assumptions regarding racialized language and raciolinguistic ideology; and (e) teacher interventions revealed tensions across (racio)linguistic ideologies. Implications for theory, research, policy, and practice are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-90
Number of pages32
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


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