Fabian Barch works toward creating greater opportunity for all
When Washington University in St. Louis senior Fabian Barch came out as gay to his Jamaican-born mother, she was supportive and understanding. Still, Barch noticed she struggled.
“My mother is fantastic, but I knew it was hard for her because there is a lot of homophobia in Jamaica,” Barch said. “To understand her perspective better, I needed to understand where she came from.”
So Barch received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship to study how gay and bisexual men modify their behaviors and identities in Martinique, another Caribbean island. There he found a society considerably less easygoing than many of us would imagine.
“There is this perception of island life but that is not where the culture is at,” Barch said. “Martinique is part of France, so it does have progressive laws and legal protections. But if the police officer is as homophobic as the guy who beats you up, are you going to find justice?”
Barch’s work gave him a clearer view of both his mother and his academic aspirations as a researcher. This fall, Barch will start a PhD program in the sociology of education at New York University. There he will study how prison education programs impact recidivism rates among nonviolent offenders.
“Discipline in schools and in prisons is highly racialized in that black and Latino students are disciplined more often and more severely than their white counterparts,” said Barch, an Ervin scholar who will graduate in May with a degree in educational studies and French from Arts & Sciences. “As someone who identifies as mixed, I’m really interested in how racism plays out in people’s lives. And as someone who has had the opportunity to attend great schools, I’m also interested in how education can make the American dream come true.”
Barch believes too few young Americans have access to that dream. Somehow, someway, Barch is determined to change that.
“Sometimes that dream is of me as the principal at a really innovative school and sometimes it’s me as secretary of education working 14-hour days and making the reforms necessary for the kids,” Barch said. “But at the end of the day, I want to get as many skills as I can to help make sure that no matter a child’s race, class, sexuality or gender, that child has the opportunity to learn and be happy.”
by Diane Toroian Keaggy