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Richards' research addresses the implications of the growing diversity of the U.S. Black population with particular attention to the experiences of Black immigrants from the Caribbean. In addition, she produces research that promotes critical thinking in regards to how institutions of higher education can better work for students and faculty from diverse backgrounds and communities. She is currently working on two research projects designed to generate knowledge that will make higher education institutions more inclusive for racially and socioeconomically marginalized students and faculty. The first project investigates how schools can provide first generation college students with the cultural and social capital to transition from high school to college successfully. The second project examines the relationship between "race-talk" and racial (in)justice in higher education institutions.
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Draws on critical race theory's counter-storytelling methodology to illustrate how institutional assessments can function effectively as tools of gendered, racial oppression when colorblind frames are used to evaluate the experiences and accomplishments of underrepresented faculty.
Explores the multidimensional social processes and meanings germane to the experiences of first-generation college students before and during their matriculation into institutions of higher education. Offers timely, empirical examinations of the ways that these students negotiate experiences shaped by structural inequities in higher education institutions and the pathways that lead to them.
Contributes to the immigration, race/ethnicity, and education literatures by examining how academic tracking influences the racial and ethnic identities of second-generation West Indian students.
Analyzes a simulation game called "Cultural Capital in the Classroom," which provides introduction to sociology students with a multidimensional view of how social class impacts students' educational outcomes beyond differences in economic resources, and the role of schools in reproducing social inequality.
Discusses how the black immigrant population in New York City has grown exponentially since 1990, such that West Indians now compose the majority of black population in several neighborhoods. Examines how this ethnic density manifests in schools, and how it influences ethnic identity formation among second-generation West Indians.
Argues that past scholarship on black women's social history offers some helpful insights into the "residential desires and decision making" related to black women's social location. Pinpoints instances of downward residential mobility among a sample of disadvantaged black mothers and works to elucidate both structurally and culturally related circumstances that help to explain them.
Suggests that theoretical discussions of hybrid ethnic identities represent an area of convergence between the European experience of adapting to American society and that of more racially and ethnically diverse population streams in the post-1965 immigration era. Discusses, specifically, how discrimination, social exclusion and geographical separation from the mainstream fostered and maintained hybrid ethnic identities among European immigrants, similar to the reactive ethnic identities produced among racial and ethnic minorities of today.
Challenges the dominant view that racial discrimination will necessarily erode ethnic affiliation among second and later generation West Indian youth. Suggests that in the years to come, ethnic identification among future generations of West Indians is likely to grow stronger, not weaker. Agrees that future generations of these West Indian ethnics will eventually "fade" into "black America;" however, they will likely do so as "Caribbeans" or "Caribbean Americans," changing what it means to be black in the United States.