BY: AVA RICHARDSON
“Kids growing up in the United States are living in a world of ongoing public debates about race, daily displays of racial injustice, deep political divides and increasing inequality,” said Margaret Hagerman, an MSU assistant professor of sociology. “My research is important because it provides a window into not only what kids growing up in this moment think about these subjects but how they go about developing these ideas in the contexts of their everyday lives.”
Hagerman has worked as an assistant professor in Mississippi State University’s Department of Sociology for six years. She is a faculty affiliate in the African American Studies and Gender Studies programs, and also serves as the graduate coordinator in her department. Most of Hagerman’s research focuses on racial learning processes in childhood. Specifically, Hagerman has conducted research that focuses on the process of white racial socialization, or how white children develop ideas about race, racism and inequality, especially in connection with their families.
Her current work explores how kids growing up in the present political era understand racism and politics. Her future work will explore how families talk about race across generations, especially when they disagree on particular topics.
Hagerman’s work is featured in her book, “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America” (NYU Press 2018). Since the release of her book, Hagerman has been invited to speak about her research to audiences across the country. “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share my work with a number of public audiences and help communities think differently about issues of equity, fairness and what it means to be a ‘good’ parent. Hagerman has visited public and independent schools, parent groups, neighborhood associations, racial justice organizations and universities, including the Child Study Center at Yale Medical School. Her work has also been featured in over 50 media outlets, including the LA Times, The Conversation, Time, NPR’s Marketplace and the L.A. Review of Books.
Last year, Hagerman received the William J. Goode Book Award from the Family Section of the American Sociological Association. Her book also was a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Book Award given by the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Hagerman also received the Dean’s Eminent Scholar award from the College of Arts & Sciences at MSU in 2019.
Hagerman says that it is imperative to conduct research about kids and racism because she feels it is “so important to our society and our democracy’s future.”
“Through understanding how the ideas that help sustain a structurally unequal society take shape in childhood, we can better challenge these ideas, particularly in our work with young people of all races and class backgrounds. This is especially important as we think about the state of our present and future democracy, as we develop curriculum and educational materials for young learners, and as we collectively seek to challenge rather than reproduce racism and inequality in our society.”