In this paper I attempt to do three things. Firstly, I explore the concept of resistance in the sociology of youth and education. I raise questions about the power of this concept to provide a descriptive language for understanding the way young people generally, and in this paper, young African-Caribbean men in London schools, deal with the contexts of institutional racism. I then go on to suggest the concepts of 'resilience' and 'refusal' as providing a more appropriate descriptive language. Drawing on the narratives provided by 15 African-Caribbean young men in three London schools, I explore the power of this descriptive language to capture the sense of youthful agency, but also the ambiguity of that agency. Thirdly, in light of the concepts of 'resilience' and 'refusal', I ask the question as to whether the school-based mentoring programmes these young men participated in can be regarded as emergent counter-hegemonic projects.