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In The Culture Trap, Derron Wallace argues that the overreliance on culture to explain Black students' achievement and behavior 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 minority 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.

FreshEd #314
 The Culture Trap (Derron Wallace)

Praise for The Culture Trap

“This brave, brilliant book takes no hostages. Beautifully evocative and richly theorized, The Culture Trap sets out a compelling argument for why culture should not be prioritized over structure in understandings of educational achievement. For much needed illumination, this is the book to read—it is both an enormous pleasure and a revelation.”

—Diane Reay,

Professor of Education,

University of Cambridge

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