Andres Pinedo, M.S., Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latinx youth and families, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or was there a particularly influential study in the field or in a related field?
As a senior in high school, I enrolled in a Mexican American Studies course, taught by Mr. Alfonso Taboada, and I’d say that this experience launched my trajectory into conducting psychological research to try and remedy the oppression experienced by Latinx communities and other oppressed groups. This class was the first to directly introduce me to the history (and ongoing process) of colonization and the perniciousness of structural racism. While I saw severe poverty, exploitation, and criminalization occurring in my community – the Eastern Coachella Valley – I was yet to connect these realities to structural oppression and how certain people (e.g., Mexican laborers) were systematically exploited, kept in legal precarity, and culturally denigrated. I was mostly thinking about these inequalities in individualistic ways and believed that people were in their position because they failed to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” In making the connections between my living conditions and structural oppression, I became driven to try and find ways to improve the conditions of my community and other oppressed communities.
This drive led me to Dr. Christy Byrd’s office hours at the University of California, Santa Cruz to discuss the importance of school racial climate in promoting the academic success of racially marginalized youth. My experience in that Mexican American Studies class led me to believe that Dr. Byrd’s research was crucial for helping us create educational contexts that supported the academic development of all students. She was kind enough to offer me a research assistant position in her lab where I worked on research related to school racial climate, microaggressions, and critical consciousness. This experience hooked me on research and helped me to envision a potential career as a university professor. Even more, she introduced me to another professor at UC Santa Cruz, Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias, who welcomed me into her lab where I learned first-hand how to translate research into practice and what it meant to be a great mentor. Dr. Covarrubias was extremely generous with her time and helped so many of her students achieve their goals. It was these experiences with amazing mentors (many of which I’m yet to name) that kept me on this trajectory of conducting research and working with communities to combat social injustice.
I’m still pretty early into this journey of academia and research, but my advice to folx just beginning to step into research is to pursue the questions that you’re passionate about, and not those that simply “fill a gap in the literature.” Research is an arduous process and it can often be demotivating, but what keeps me going is my genuine interest in what I’m studying and the implications that my work can have. Beyond that, I’d say read and learn from areas outside of your field – psychology/child development is far behind in theorizing and understanding oppression and we have a lot to learn from others such as Frantz Fanon, bell hooks, Barbara Ransby, Eve Tuck, Stuart Hall, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Robin D. G. Kelley, Paulo Freire, Keeanaga-Yamahtta Taylor, W. E. B. Dubois… and so many more.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
One publication I’m excited about is my first ever first-author publication which is in press at Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. It is entitled “Disentangling Longitudinal Trajectories of Racial Discrimination and Critical Action among Black and Latinx College Students: What Role do Peers Play?” and was written with some great collaborators/mentors, Dr. Matthew Diemer, Dr. Myles Durkee, and Dr. Elan Hope. This study examines a consistent finding, that racial discrimination is associated with activist resistance among Black and Latinx youth, but does so with longitudinal data which is mostly absent in this area of research. Our findings shed light on how racial discrimination experiences and critical action unfold over the transition from high school to college and offer insight into their antecedents while considering the importance of peers too. We hope that our research enhances our understanding of the ways that racially marginalized students resist racist oppression and how universities can support them in doing so.