Super Heroes and Lucky Duckies: Racialized Stressors Among Teachers

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Abstract

Objectives: This article explores the complex relationships between race and occupational stressors among an ethnically diverse sample of high school teachers and their implications for women’s mental health. Method: Interviews with Black, White, and Mexican American teachers suggest that workplaces are organized by subtle forms of gender and racial discrimination as well as White racial privilege; this context shapes women’s experiences of occupational stressors. Results: The data indicate that teachers experience racially specific stressors at work and make racially specific appraisals about common stressors among all teachers. Black and Mexican American women report chronic strains, such as differential workloads, perceptions of incompetence, and lack of support from administrators, whereas White teachers report, yet minimize, sexual harassment from male colleagues. Student misbehavior, a stressor shared by all teachers, is experienced and understood as a personal failing by White teachers and as a manifestation of systemic racism by teachers of color. Conclusions: The interviews offer important insights into the ways professional workplaces remain an arena marked by racial inequality and White privilege and that racialized stressors are differentially distributed among women. Findings support claims from intersectionality in that race, racism, and racial privilege operate in multiplicative ways that create different constellations of occupational stressors among women, which in turn have implications for wellbeing.

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