Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Background and Purpose: While the general consensus on what it means to be resilient has expanded over time, our conceptualizations of the concept continue to be largely understood from a mainstream, homogeneous perspective. Underlying assumptions regarding this perspective are that: a) resilience holds the same meaning for all; and b) marginalized youth possess a sort of “ordinary magic” they utilize in persevering through historical and contextual constraints. Methods: Derived from the data of a phenomenological study that seeks to emphasize the unique experiences of a marginalized population in the analysis of African American individuals from low-income backgrounds and their resilience processes, the current study explores how African Americans frame their lived experience with resilience within the context of childhood adversity due to race and social class. Results: Findings identify seven interpretive repertoires in which participants used to frame their lived experience with resilience, underscoring institutional and structural inequalities as a key factor in making their experience unique. From most salient to least salient, these themes are representations of verbal patterns that include the following phrases: 1) “I am stronger because...”; 2) “They don’t understand”; 3) “I’m not just doing this for me”; 4) I can’t become a statistic”; 5) “Education is going to get you out of there”; 6) “Who said I can’t?”; and 7) “Black people have to be better than...”. Conclusions and Implications: Because much of the contemporary construction on what it means to be resilient is informed by normative ideals for success, this makes resilience somewhat of an ideological code for reinforcing social norms. Such implicit codes may function independent of conscious intention for those – like social workers – who seek to ameliorate marginalization and its effects. There remains theoretical space in the resilience literature for a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be resilient for which this study aimed to address. This timely work on capturing and normalizing the African American experience within a crucial aspect of social work practice may add greatly to the literature. For the social work profession overall, it may lead to more intentional, efficient, and effective practices as it relates to helping people bounce back from adversity, which may in turn, lead to more favorable outcomes for socially and economically disadvantaged children and families.