Race in the Schoolyard adds a new dimension to the literature on race and schooling. It examines how race is understood, produced, reproduced and contested by students, teachers and parents. It provides rich description and profound analysis of the dynamics of race in elementary schools. Its explanations of how race is constructed and dealt with at schools incorporates the examination of micro processes such as teacher practices and macro processes such as residential segregation. It makes a strong statement about how racial categorization is imbued in everyday life at school and even in the most minute or "insignificant" details of school. The book shows how racial categorization leads to behavior toward others that influence their educational opportunities.
Amanda Lewis provides new insights into how race gets constructed by schools. She examines how school as an institution produces racial meanings, in formal and informal ways, that have lasting consequences for students, especially students of color.
Amanda Lewis'work--which was quoted in the University of Michigan affirmative action case--will surely raise controversy and fuel substantial debates. She wrestles with the relative roles of culture and merit in the book. She uses Bourdieu to understand cultural gaps between minority students and the school. She argues that such gaps put minority students at a disadvantage as they are judged, not in terms of "ability or potential," but by "white middle class styles of interaction." In other words, while acknowledging cultural differences, she points out that these differences are not treated neutrally; rather, those of white students tend to be rewarded, and those of students of color are more often treated as illegitimate.
Amanda Lewis' studies of schools is also part of the larger theoretical project of understanding race relations in America. She argues, in the manner of Bobo, Feagin, and Bonilla-Silva, that racism in America has not disappeared but has assumed new, more subtle forms.