Racial Discrimination, Critical Intersectional Awareness, and Latina/o Students' Academic Outcomes
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Despite Latina/os’ growing college enrollment rates, bachelor’s degree completion rates for this group continue to lag behind other racial groups. Explanations for racial inequalities in educational outcomes of students of color are often framed from a deficit-lens, where “culture” and individual characteristics are implicated as contributors of underachievement. A major risk-factor contributing to known racial educational inequalities is attributed to the unequal exposure to varying forms of racism experienced by students of color in educational institutions in the U.S., including college campuses. Research on protective factors finds critical consciousness is associated with positive academic outcomes among students of color who face racial discrimination. However, most- if not all- of these studies have measured critical consciousness either from the context of general knowledge of oppression or individualized single social group oppression (i.e., gender, race/ethnicity, or social class alone), but not from an understanding of multiple intersecting identities. Critical intersectional awareness, defined as an awareness of how multiple social identities shape’s one social location, is discussed and analyzed as a potential protective factor in the current study. Using an integrated LatCrit and risk and resilience framework this study examines whether experiences of racial discrimination are associated with academic outcomes (i.e., GPA and academic skepticism) and whether critical intersectional awareness moderates the relationship between racial discrimination and academic outcomes among Latina/o students attending a Hispanic Serving Institution. Results show a main effect of racial discrimination for academic skepticism, but not for GPA. Critical intersectional awareness moderated the relationship between racial discrimination and academic skepticism only. This study extends our understanding of critical consciousness from a more complex and intersectional level and provides initial evidence that critical intersectional awareness may be a protective factor in the face of perceived racial discrimination. Study implications include developing and implementing university courses and programming targeted at fostering critical intersectional awareness among Latina/o students (and for other marginalized groups) as a viable approach to addressing, and, reducing academic race disparities among the fastest-growing segment of the college population in our country.