Kevin Cokley, Ph.D. is a Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Educational Psychology, as well as a Faculty Affiliate of the Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. Dr. Cokley’s research and teaching can be broadly categorized in the area of African American psychology. His research interests include the construction of racial and ethnic identities, Afrocentric psychology, academic motivation, academic self-concept, and understanding the psychological and environmental factors that impact African American student achievement. Dr. Cokley has published over 50 articles and book chapters. His 2004 article published in the Harvard Educational Review challenges the notion that African American students are anti-intellectual. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Black Psychology, and has served on the editorial boards of several journals including the Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology journal and the Journal of Counseling Psychology. He is the recipient of the 2008 “10 Rising Stars of the Academy” award by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the 2007 Association of Black Psychologists’ Scholarship Award, and the 2004 co-recipient of the Emerging Professional Award given by the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues of the American Psychological Association.
- Kevin CokleyProfessor of Educational Psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin
- Peniel JosephFounding Director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin
[0:00:07 Speaker 0] welcome to race and democracy of podcast on the intersection between race, democracy, public policy, social justice and citizenship. Welcome to race in democracy. We’re excited today to have Dr Kevin Coakley, who is director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, with US Professor Coakley, is also the Oscar and and Mao ze regions professor for educational research and development and U t System, distinguished teaching professor and professor of educational psychology and African and African Diaspora studies. So welcome, Professor of Coakley. Thank you to race in democracy. I want you to talk about the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis on campus. We call it I you pra But my uber has been doing really amazing things and research related to the city of Austin and really inequality and at racing democracy. We’re always interested in inequality in the connection race class, gender, intersectional justice and I you pres released a series of reports on everything from Austin and gentrification to write down the A I S D school systems and the different schools and areas that are slated for closure. We’re not sure if it’s gonna happen. But how sort of race and class are connected. Toe where schools that have been targeted for closure, you know who lives there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of lily white, um, school districts that have been targeted for closure. So I want it a big picture of what I u per does and then really get a little bit more detailed into some of these recent reports.
[0:01:49 Speaker 1] Yeah, well, well, thank you for having me. So are you for, um, is essentially a black policy institute. It is part of, um, Black studies here at the University of Texas, which, of course, consists of an academic department which is the African African Die Sport Studies department. We have the warfare center for African and African American studies. Um, are you for of course. And then we have the art galleries and, you know, we really consider ourselves to be fairly unique in the country and that, to our knowledge, um, there’s only one other black studies unit in the country that has four units such as ours. And having black sort of having a emphasis on policy is a pretty unique feature of black studies. And so we’re particularly proud of that are really I origin started from the involvement of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, where they really wanted to be able to turn to, um, some academic unit to help provide them with research and data to help advance their legislative agenda. And so it was through the efforts of the Black Caucus along with then President Bill Powers, that they sort of got together and really sort of thought of this entity that we now call ah, Uber And
[0:03:10 Speaker 0] you talked about black policy when I want to stop you there for a second, because when we think I teach it a policy school here, LBJ School and run the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy all the times we don’t connect, um, the struggle for black freedom and black citizenship to policy. But we really should, you know, and I write about this in the work, I do. So what? What are the tangible connections between the black community and public policy both in Austin and nationally?
[0:03:36 Speaker 1] Well, I mean, if you, if you think about it like every aspect of our lives is impacted by policy, you know, whether you talk about education, criminal justice, health. Um, you know, economics, housing, which happen to be the areas that we tend to sort of focus on. All of those areas are impacted by policy. And when you’re talking about issues of equity, which, of course, is what we sort of focus on, um, where you see some of the most, um inequitable, unfair, um, sort of treatments off folks of color and black folks in particular, is in the decisions that are made around policy. And so we believe that, you know, one of the ways that you really sort of impact and improve the lives of black folks is at the policy level. And so what we try to do is to jar attention to those, um, you know, policies and practices, but politics in particular that we believe disproportionately sort of impact and marginalized on black folks. And so that’s that’s sort of where we we focus. And we do that, um, primarily through the area of research, whether it’s writing policy briefs, legislative reports, we also do a fair number of op EDS. Um and more. And what we really hope to accomplish is to have our research be used by those constituent in those entities to sort of help advance their sort of advocacy efforts. And I had to sort of say this, you know, as a research institute, we are not an advocacy organization. You know, I think often townspeople, when they sort of looked to us, they expect us to be an advocacy organization. But, you know, we can’t And we, you know, we are always reminded that, you know, being part of ah state sort of public support institution, we cannot sort of be seen to be explicit advocates of any sort of position. So what we do is we provide people research and data, and they can take it and use it for whatever ends. And, of course, we’d like to see it be used towards the ends of social justice
[0:05:43 Speaker 0] on that score. Gentrification. I’d love to talk to you about that, because when you think about ah, Gentrification in Austin and I uber is, uh, published a series of reports, including some by Eric Tang was a professor and adds that really sort of breakdown one, the history of racial segregation in the city of Austin and sort of this you know this I 35 divide in terms of East Austin vs West Austin and other parts of Austin. But really, over the last 15 years, the way in which East Austin has really been a site of major and massive investment investment by private capital investment by, um, homeowners and gentry fires the neighborhoods of being cleared out of indigenous, African, American and Latin X residents who some have gone to Pflueger Ville. Some have left the state some of certainly left Travis County. Um, And you you sort of published these reports that really show this stark inequity in how the East Austin is being gentrified. I’d love to talk about
[0:06:48 Speaker 1] well, you know, And in all credit goes to Dr Eric Tang. Um, As you know, we have what we refer to as faculty, fellows and associates. And these are individuals that we’ve identified whose research, um really sort of supports the mission of our institute. And Dr Tang has been one of our most active faculty fellows. And so he approached us, um, with this idea of really sort of examining this area, this issue of gentrification, and we sort of supported him sort of materially to sort of be able to go and do that research. So I just wanted me to be clear that that that really was, you know, something that he approached us with, and we supported him fully. Ah, but as you well know, um, what he uncovered through his syriza reports really made national news. And it shook up people here in Austin because they really had not been attention focused on how Austin, even though it is, you know, sort of, you know, sort of position as this very sort of, um, really growing, burgeoning sort of liberal progressive city. Um, and in many ways it is. But that for African Americans, you see a very sort of different story, particularly terms of the decision to sort of leave Austin for various reasons. And in his SYRIZA reports, he uncovered, um, really something that had not been explicitly discussed. And it made the city of Austin have to sort of address some of the uncomfortable truths that he he uncovered, you know? So, for example, when you look at, we know we know about the housing situation. We know that housing and Alison is incredibly expensive, unaffordable for for many communities. It’s been especially difficult for Black and that next that next folks, when you look at the situation of education, as you sort of pointed out the divided by 35 we see that black folks have had to make some very difficult decisions about whether they should stay, um, in their homes that are increasingly becoming too expensive to afford because of property taxes because of gentrification, as you’ve mentioned, um, and having to sort of make the difficult decision to leave school that generations of families had attended because they simply cannot afford the property taxes, not to mention the achievement gap that has long persisted in the schools and not feeling that their kids we’re getting, you know, the same type of quality education is kids in other areas. Not to mention what we also know to be the sort of this disparate treatment by law enforcement. So these are the sort of some of the issues that Dr Tang uncovering his reports that all contributed to really this exodus of black folks from Austin proper to some of the areas that you sort of mentioned flu prevail, round walking, etcetera.
[0:09:41 Speaker 0] Now we think about the University of Texas. What do you feel about University of Texas in its historic role in creating racial segregation and economic segregation and inequality? Because I think one of the ironies of value pra and adds really, all the faculty of color here is that you t has a long history of racial segregation at least pre 1950 even after 1950 when we think about human sweat and you think about the founding of ads in 1969 just the segregation and dorms disallowing African Americans to be part of athletics. When we think about the first black players late sixties early seventies, people like Earl Campbell. So what, You know, how does the community feel about the the university? And what do you think about the university’s role now? Trying to leverage its resource is towards you, said not advocacy, but really brutal truths that are uncovered by the research. Does the research in and of itself exposes it illustrates inequalities, these power differentials and the structural and institutional racism.
[0:10:49 Speaker 1] Well, I mean, you really sort of, you know, already answered your question. I mean, you t, um not unlike, you know, other large public urban schools does not enjoy. Ah, very good reputation amongst black and Latin. Next folks particularly. I would say, you know, back, folks, but you know that next folks as well, um, I’ve been here since 2000 and seven, and when I, you know, arrived here with with my, um, partner, you know, we heard stories about how the black community here really looked at UT very suspiciously, very skeptically. Um, there, You know, for those who have been longtime residents here, they remember the stories they remember. All the examples that you provided about how you t systematically discriminated against black folks was not welcoming toward black folks. And the community has long memories. And so what you t has had to do, um, you know, has been to really try to, um, demonstrate that it really has taken those its history seriously and wants to see sort of repair, or least, yeah, to repair its image in the community. So when you talk about the DDC, the divisional diversity community engagement, I think that was created, I think important to try to really bridge the gap between the university and the community to so to improve on the public relations, if you will, Um, now, how successful that has been? Um, you know, I think that probably you would have to sort of ask the community, um, itself. I suspect that we still have a long ways to go. I think you t still sort of seen as that entity across, you know? So the 35 that has sort of encroached the pine or increasingly encroached upon spaces that have traditionally historically been populated by black folks And that next folks and that has not done that has not helped its attempt to try to repair rehabilitate his image.
[0:12:55 Speaker 0] I want to talk about schools because one thing that, um, are you pro recently published, which I was really impressed by was this idea of And there’s a brief using data to inform the A I s school change of strategy and for people who don’t know a I S t is the Austin Independent School District right here. Um, And when we think about, um, there’s 12 announced school closures and according to the brief, um, over 4000 students will be displaced, but nine of the 12 which is 75% 9 of the 12 closing schools carry student bodies that are predominantly, economically disadvantaged. Um ah. 130 out of every 1000 black students will be displaced. 89 out of every 1000 Latin ex students will be displaced. 41 out of every 1000 white students will be displaced. So I think this is extraordinary, especially since black and Latin ex students account for 62% of the A I S d population, but 80% of the students who are going to be displaced. So I wanted to talk about that. And, you know, what are those findings mean in terms of Boston, especially? This city like you said, has this image of itself. Is this progressive in this literal city, the only thing about policies and policies of disadvantage mint and and that marginalized folks across race and class lines. It seems like black and Latin X folks are really disadvantaged in this city, especially those who don’t have the degrees and the access that that people like us are fortunate to enjoy.
[0:14:35 Speaker 1] Yeah, well, I mean you again. You sort of, you know, hit the nail on the head when we we didn’t start the year planning on doing research on this issue of sort of school closures. What we did decide to do was to focus this year on education. As I mentioned it, we have, you know, about five core areas of, ah, work that we sort of do and education. You know, certainly being one of my especially areas is one that we decided we would focus on for this year. It just so happened that, you know, the school closures issue coincided with my decision to sort of focus on education. So it was rather saying different is that it also became together. Um, and we had new staff in place. You know, Duck is not Dr Yeboah, Uh, you know, a research associate, Ricky Low with someone who, you know, was very sort of skilled demographer and statistician. We had a new policy coordinator, Monica Olson, who came to us from Georgetown University with a a good background in public policy and in psychology. And the two of them together sort of, you know, really sort of last time to this issue. And it has been amazing in terms of the work that they have done as you sort of pointed out, they have produced a series of briefs. Infographics op EDS. Andre. What? And what really sort of I think motivated them to be so energetic about this is their repeated sort of meetings with community members they would go to into the community. They were listening to the reactions of the community who felt in some ways, almost like, you know, helpless like you know, their sense of being. So we’re gonna close these these 12 schools and as you sort of pointed out through the statistics that disproportionately impact black and let next on and this economically disadvantaged students And there was just, you know, just a a groundswell of emotion around this, this sort of event, and what it did was it ripped off the band aid of old wounds that have existed for many, many years around. This disparate treatment of you know, these back in that next families and and part of what we want to do with the briefs in particularly was to sort of slow the process down, um, attending the meetings, listening to the community and listening to the rationale being, you know, offered by SDI officials. It became apparent that, um, things were being rushed and they weren’t necessarily being informed by researchers. So what? What Ricky and Annika did Was they put together, You know, these briefs, and in a brief that you refer to they had to specific recommendations. One, they said, Let’s slow down. Like why? There’s no need to sort of rushed this vote. There’s too much that we don’t know, So slow it down. And then again, we are a research institute. Refer to what we know through the research. What does the research say about school closures and what they sort of pointed to and they provided a number of different, um, references is that research of school closures has by a large, not shown it to be an effective sort of, you know, policy. So if you’re gonna make such a drastic change that impacts the lives of so many people, at least be informed by what research says will be the likely outcome. And that’s what they did. And and I think that they buy sort of doing this research is really empowered the community to take it and to sort of be able to sort of articulate its own sort of positions around. You know, let’s that sort of rush into this process. And let’s sort of B’more mindful about its disparate impact.
[0:18:20 Speaker 0] Now, you said this year, Are you pres focusing on education? What other themes are coming out of education in addition to a I S d and the school closures?
[0:18:29 Speaker 1] Well, that, I mean, that has been the the primary thing I will sort of add. And you would be interested. I think, in hearing this, I took a special interest in the issue of African back in studies and as you probably you know, well, where of, um, there was a very important vote that took place or that’s going to take place on implementing or incorporating after making studies and K 12 education. Yes, and that has been a very It’s a very historically significant sort of. Ah, moment, Aziz. You know, last year Mexican American studies was approved, and so so the issue I think for us was not so much about whether this proposal will get approved. We feel very confident that it will get approved, but the real issue comes into it is in what form? How will it be? Um what will Africa making studies and looked like in K through 12 education. And it was brought to my attention into the attention of some other concerned folks that there was this effort that was gonna take place that would, you know, what I would sort of characterize as as water down. Um, you know, some of the ways in which, you know, some of the hard shoes about our history will be talked to students. So, for example, the issue of slavery, Um, you know, there. You know, there are folks out there who believe that, you know, slavery should be taught in a way that does not, you know, blame
[0:20:02 Speaker 0] people. It doesn’t ruffle feathers That doesn’t ruffle gonna whitewash our history. Exactly.
[0:20:08 Speaker 1] And these are people who are in a position of making these sort of decisions. And so, um, you know a group of us, you know, who sort of, you know, we sort of got together. We wrote a letter. I guess I let you can call it to sort of address some of these concerns. I, along with Dr Barry and and Dr Anthony careful around among several other folks offered public testimony to sort of talk about one. The importance of making sure that this proposal gets, you know, sort of, you know, accepted on. And I specifically addressed the the the sort of dangers of of make politicizing it and and and making sure that it’s not sort of talk in a way that whitewashes or really tries to sort of make people sort of feel less bad about the horrors of slavery. So So, in a way, Teoh ask you a question that is the other sort of area of education that, you know, I personally ivory sort of invested in because, as you sort of pointed out, I have a joint appointment in in Black studies, African and African Die sports studies as well as as educational psychology and have been a long standing member of the National Council of Black Studies. So So the way the African American studies is taught in K Through 12 Education here in Texas is a particular interest to me, both personally and professionally.
[0:21:34 Speaker 0] Where do you see I You pra in the next several years, in terms of policy, areas that are super will focus on and really, um, for black people in Austin what are some of these policy Not just areas, but potential policy solutions over the next five years and is really related to all those issues that we’ve talked about. You know, obviously education, but gentrification, housing, healthcare, K through 12 education, all these
[0:22:03 Speaker 1] different. Well, I mean, you know, the goal is to sort of eventually sort of not be needed again, would not not be needed. In other words, we would like to sort of be able to contribute research in a way that would impact policies that no longer create inequitable outcomes. And so, you know, now that’s somewhat of ah, you topic sort of vision. So we I suspect we’ll be in business for for quite a while. If I could just offer one specific example. That’s that’s very sort of salient. Now is the issue of sort of criminal justice. And so I’m sure you have been following what’s been happening. Um, you know, I think there was last night. I think there was a meeting of city. I think City Hall around allegations of racism off a P. D. And this is something that, you know, I have written about, you know, just in terms of sort of my my public scholarship for for a few years. And we know that there has been a history of a very sort of contentious, unfortunately sort of, um, dynamic between communities of color and law enforcement. And what we are seeing happening currently with the Boston Police Department and allegations of racism is is very, very disturbing. And what I would like to see happen, at least in Temple, sort of I you pres involvement is to really be able to sort of contribute to that conversation and and and help to sort of provide some sort of basis for which they can make policy changes, um, within their department and in their practices and procedures. Ah, where I think we’re just sort of at the beginning of that now. I mean, Austin has, as you well know, has had a long history of of issues with law enforcement. So this is I mean, so this issue is not new, but I think it’s sort of gotten to a fever pitch with these very, very explicit allegations of racism and documented. And so it’s gonna be interesting to see how a PD responds. Um, it’s gonna be interesting in being, As you’ve heard, you know, there’s disagreement about what should be the nature of the response. Should we sort of slow? Should we stop with the, um I think the current sort of bringing in of new cadets? Um, you know, there’s been suggestions that we need to stop all, um, attempts to bring in new officers until there’s been a thorough investigation of sort of what’s going on. And of course, a P D, as you might expect, is not supportive of that because they’re already understaffed and would be concerned about the impact of stopping bringing in the new cadets would have on their ability to effectively so to serve the community. So I would like to see you for being involved in that conversation and contributing some some work that would be useful for people as they sort of make these decisions around sort of community policing.
[0:25:14 Speaker 0] And when you think about not just community policing but all these other issues of inequity and marginalization that black Austinites face as a policy solution, is it more community organizing? Is it, um, promoting more effective local legislation? We think about code next and building codes and residential codes and housing. Is it is it electing officials? What? What? What is it? One to stop the drain that’s happening in the city with black flight from the city. Um, but also to create more equitable communities where black people are and have Austin as a site where black people want to come and not just black people with PhDs and connected to Silicon Valley. But just, you know, the black quotidian.
[0:25:58 Speaker 1] You know, I that that’s a that’s a difficult question. Um, I think that what has to happen is U T. And the folks you know, you know, white folks at UT who are in positions to to to help, to, To help impact chains. We need to be in conversation with the community. You know, we’ve already talked about the history of sort of, um, distrust on the part of the community. We need to be part of the solution in in that we can’t be seen as in my pain. We should not be seen as being sort of completely separate of removed from these very realistic that impact. Really. All of us, Some of us more than others. Uh, I think I go should be, too, to help to empower the community, to really address and solve these problems themselves. I mean, we can’t be seen. It’s sort of like coming in and having all the answers and sort of telling them what to do. But we need to work in concert with them. But what the ultimate goal of empowering them. And we’re starting to see some of that now. Particularly I think around the who cultures issues. But But if we’re going to stem this, this sort of exodus of ah, back post leaving Austin is gonna have to come. I think, from the community it’s cell being supported by those of us who have according to position to being able to sort of help them. Um, but being able to sort of provide them the resource is that they need to essentially sort of fight the good fight. But I I do think that nothing can nothing. There would be no changes without the agency of the community and without them sort of leading to efforts without support, whatever the policy issues and whatever around we were talking about,
[0:27:58 Speaker 0] all right, we’ll end it there on the hopeful optimistic note. Fighting the good fight community empowerment, grassroots struggle. Ah, where scholars and researchers like Dr Coakley play ah, an assistive role and let let community leaders, um, and residents decide what to do with the research that they produce in service of their own goals of citizenship and social justice. So it’s been a pleasure. Kevin Doctor Coakley, My friend Kevin Coakley, who is the director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis here at University of Texas at Austin. He is also the Oscar and an Mao Ze Regions professor of educational research and development. He’s a UTI system, distinguished teaching professor and professor of educational psychology and African and African vast four studies at the University of Texas, one of leading scholars in the country, On these these really important issues of of, of race and education and in equity and democracy. So thank you for joining us here at racing democracy. Thank you for having me. Thanks for listening to this episode. And you can check out related content on Twitter at Pernille Joseph. That’s p e N I e o j o S e. Ph and our website CS rd dot LBJ that utexas dot e d u and the Center for Study of Race and Democracy is on Facebook as well. This podcast was recorded at the liberal Arts Development Studio at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. Thank you