While organizing efforts by movements such as Black Lives Matter and responses to the hate-filled policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump are heightening public discourse of racism, much less attention is paid to mechanisms of racial oppression in the field of education. Instead, conceptualizations that allude to racial difference but are disconnected from structural analyses continue to prevail in K–12 education research. In this chapter, our goal is to challenge racism-neutral and racism-evasive approaches to studying racial disparities by centering current research that makes visible the normalized facets of racism in K–12 schools. After narrowing over 4,000 articles that study racial inequity in education research, we reviewed a total of 186 U.S.-focused research studies in a K–12 school context that examine racism. As we categorized the literature, we built on a theory of the “new racism”—a more covert and hidden racism than that of the past—and grouped the articles into two main sections: (1) research that brings to light racism’s permanence and significance in the lives of students of Color through manifestations of what we conceptualize as (a) evaded racism, (b) “antiracist” racism, and (c) everyday racism and (2) research focused on confronting racism through racial literacy and the resistance of communities of Color. In our conclusion, we articulate suggestions for future directions in education research that include a more direct acknowledgement of racism as we attend to the experiences and needs of K–12 students of Color.
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Racism in Colleges
Racism has been a steady problem all through time. One of the most
troublesome areas of racism is in places of education. Finding a cure for this
would be a major step towards ending racism in general. No one has ever thought
of a solution yet, and racism will be strong as long as there isn't one.
It all started back when the colonists traded certain goods for slaves.
They had never seen a black person before and thought of them as lower human
beings because they did all of the colonists' work for them. Since blacks were
so low, they were never given a good education.
This lack of education continued throughout the centuries. Even in the
1700's slaves were never taught how to read or write. In the 1800's everyone's
feelings about slavery, good or bad, culminated in one big war, the American
Civil War. During this period, the slaves really tried to break free from their
past stereotypes. A small percentage of them taught themselves to read and write
and they began to teach others.
Some blacks even fought in the Civil War. The most educated were
selected and several black units were formed. Once the North had defeated the
South in the war, the slaves were freed from bondage, however, that did not mean
that they would be free from the terrible prejudice that still permeated the
Schools sprang up in all black areas but were not given the public
funding that they needed and deserved. They were usually only one room and very
dirty. They were given the oldest and most worn out books and equipment that
were available. There weren't even many teachers who were qualified and were
willing to teach at an all black school. Even though education was instituted
for African Americans, which was a step in the right direction, it was a very
small step and still didn't give blacks the education they deserved.
This treatment prevailed for many years after the Civil War. A new
concept, segregation , evolved and was predominant from the late 1800's through
the first half of the 1900's. Whites assumed that they were better than black
people and didn't want to be around them in anything they did. For example, in
buses, whites were given privileged seating in front; but blacks had to sit in
the back. Moreover, if there were not enough front seats whites could preempt
blacks from their back seats. There were separate restrooms, drinking fountains,
stores and, of course, schools.
Segregation remained the same for many years until one day in 1955 a
black woman named Rosa Parks sat down in the front of a bus where all of the
white people were sitting. When she was told to move to the back of the bus, she
refused to budge. This action set off an uproar among blacks who questioned
their rights for the first time.
In the 1960's, the governor of Alabama, George Wallace, was a militant
supporter of segregation. In 1963 two blacks, Vivian Jones and James Hood,
sought admission to the traditionally segregated University of Alabama.
According to legislation at the time, they had every right to go there; but
since the governor was so anti-black and pro segregation, he didn't like it one
bit. As the two black students prepared to enter the college, George Wallace
stood in the doorway, blocking their way addressing the need for segregation. He
refused to move, so the national guard was called in to restore order and admit
Jones and Hood to the University of Alabama. This was an important moment in
black history because it marked the first time a black person had been admitted
into an all white college.
Although laws pertaining to civil rights were enacted that ended
segregation, hatred and racism still continued; and it appears to be even
stronger now than it ever has been. Today there is no legal segregation in
colleges but a recent study revealed that most southern colleges remain
In this day and age, there are many diverse ethnic groups and cultural
backgrounds that populate the same colleges. With this great amount of people,
there is naturally much tension between the many groups. From this tension
arises the hate groups on college campuses. Whether they are against whites,
blacks or any other groups, they cause many problems in the steady flow of
Although everyone has the freedom of speech, even if the majority
disagrees with it, they do not have the freedom to do whatever they want to
fellow human beings. These hate groups become uncontrollable when they assault
or desecrate things that other races value. In October 1995, two black students
from Rowan College in New Jersey were beaten on the college campus by a couple
of white football players. The fight occurred at the Study Hall pub when racial
slurs were used against the black students. When the black students asked them
to quit with the verbal assault, the football players drug them out to the
football field and began to beat them until someone saw it happening. It was
stopped immediately and the football players were escorted away. The two
students suffered minor injuries and have recovered. The football players were
kicked off the team and may even be suspended from the college if charges are
This is just one example of the racial prejudice in colleges, even in a
small college of 9,000 students. In a larger school the problems are
understandably magnified. At Rutgers University in February, the school was
racked with controversy. The president of Rutgers, Francis L. Lawrence, was
caught saying that black students do worse on the SAT tests because they are
genetically inferior to other students, particularly white ones. This incident
spurred a protest on the floor of a basketball game between Rutgers and UMass at
half-time. Soon hundreds of classmates streamed onto the court, forcing the
suspension of the game. The one black woman, who started it, is now known as the
Rosa Parks of Rutgers. Lawrence was not reprimanded for his comments but this
shows that even the leaders of schools are not free of prejudice.
But, most of the time it does not matter how large the school is, just
how many students are involved in the riots. Probably one of the biggest school
riots in history was at the University of Massachusetts on October 27, 1986. The
World Series had just ended, where the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox.
Hundreds of students, many of them drunk, came pouring out of their dorms. White
Red Sox fans began taunting and shoving black Mets fans. After a while, a huge
mob of 3,000 whites were running all over the campus, chasing and beating anyone
they saw who was black. Luckily, only ten of the black students were severely
injured, but that was ten too many.
Black students now are facing the same oppression in schools as there
was many years ago. Groups such as the Nazi skinheads make it very difficult for
blacks to get a good education because they are constantly worried about being
verbally or even physically assaulted. This, however, could be part of the
problem says Shelby Steele, a black professor of English at San Jose State
University. He says that because of black feelings of inferiority, people have
exaggerated the level of racism on some campuses and that blacks should try to
move on with their lives rather than be pulled down to a lower level of petty
fighting. "Instead of demonstrating for a black 'theme house,' black students
might be better off spending their time reading and studying."
This kind of hatred is not peculiar to the colleges alone. Many
teenagers who are either in the hate groups or have a lack of faith in equality
are made this way through their high schools. Many high schools are either all
black or all white and influence the way that teens think. The all black schools
even resemble the schools of old. They have minimal funding and substandard
equipment. They are always in the worst neighborhoods and are filled with drugs
and violence. In all white high schools, on the other hand, students are not
accustomed to being around blacks. This might be one of the reasons that blacks
and whites do not mix well in colleges.
In 1994, a principal from an Alabama high school opposed interracial
couples' attending his school's prom. The students and parents protested, saying
that the kids had the right to take whoever they wanted to prom. Although he was
fired as principal, his ideas have left their mark, that students should stay
away from other races. He probably isn't the only principal or authority figure
that thinks this way. When students learn this behavior from high school and
their parents they take it on to college with them.
When these diverse backgrounds get mixed together in college, many
confrontations occur. The movie Higher Learning is a great example of the way
many college campuses are today. There are many groups of students going to the
same school, ranging from whites to blacks to Asians and different religions
such as Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc. Of course, there are even hate groups. In
the movie, a group of neo-nazis do not want to have anything to do with the
blacks or Jews who go to that college. Usually the blacks tend to stay away from
the group so as not to be a part of a fight but one can only take so much. There
are numerous beatings and verbal assaults against the blacks; and, when they try
to fight back the police always take for granted who started the fighting, and
arrest the black "troublemakers". By the end of the movie, there is a peace
march on the campus and the nazis don't like it. The group persuades one of the
members to go to the top of a large building with a gun and open fire on the
peace marchers. He does and a black woman ends up getting shot. Her boyfriend
runs to the top of the building and proceeds to beat the nazi. The cops find
them both, drag the black man off and start to beat him as if he just picked a
fight for no reason! As the cops approach the white student, he becomes
frightened and sticks the gun in his mouth. He says if they come any closer he
will shoot himself. The movie ends with him actually shooting himself, which
goes to show the confusion that most of these people have. Most of them probably
don't even know why they hate, they just know that is what they were brought up
to think so it must be right. Obviously that is not the case. Even though this
movie was fiction, the type of college campus it portrays is not. These kind of
things are happening everywhere, and most of them aren't even publicized.
When one goes to college one would expect to go there to learn but that
is not always the case, as often seen on the news. Although there is widespread
violence in college, it does not go unpunished.
Many of these beatings and riots that are going on in recent times are
broken up by the police before anyone seriously gets hurt. The people who
partook in the crimes are usually apprehended and punished for their actions.
Some people would say that the offenders are not punished well enough, because
there has not been a decline in violence as of late. The court system has done
little in improving the life on college campuses. A lot of the cases brought up
are simply forgotten about because of "more important matters." It is just a
mere excuse on their behalf to support these kind of racist actions. "University
administrators at many campuses prefer to ignore racial incidents or keep them
out of the news." This kind of thinking is increasing the gap between races and
putting more fuel on the fire of racism. This is not always the case, as seen in
the Rowan College, Rutgers and UMass events. But, even when they show some
action toward ending racism through fair decisions, there is a limit to what
they can do. According to the first amendment, the hate groups that are formed
do have a right to march, protest and show what they believe in. There is no law
against having a nazi flag or being a skinhead, but there are laws to prevent
slander and violence. That is where the human nature of peacemaking comes in to
Nearly every human wishes deep in their heart for peace on earth, with
the exception of those who take part in the hateful actions mentioned before.
Past peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr. have struggled and even given
their lives for the cause of peace; and because of this, blacks have a lot more
rights and a higher acceptance in society than they did 30 or 40 years ago. But
they still do not have the full respect they deserve as fellow human beings, so
more work is needed. Although nothing can be done about existing hate groups
existence, there is hope for the next generation of people to be a lot more
open-minded. The only way for that hope to be realized is if all the people of
the nation, and even the world, band together and stop racism before it starts.
By educating young children and bringing them up to know the difference between
reality and ignorance. Programs are already in place in most schools that are
not bias against other races or genders. If there is a school that is
predominantly black or Spanish, courses are set up to meet the needs of the
children. Spanish and Spanish History are taught to Spanish children and black
culture and history are taught to black children. "Even in colleges, many
students are encouraged to take a course in ethnic studies or cultural diversity
which are often taught by newly hired minority faculty members."
If these children are taught the correct values that should have been
taught a long time ago, then they can grow up to be leaders of a new, equal
nation that gives everyone an even chance at life and free from hatred. In the
meantime, the laws should be increased against any kind of hate crime,
especially in schools. To many of these offenses are slipping through the cracks
of the court system without any kind of punishment whatsoever. No form of racial
abuse should be tolerated in the slightest and if offenders knew this, then
maybe it would mark the beginning of the end of racial injustice.
Today's current status is, sadly to say, very much unchanged from the
eighties and early nineties when a lot of the bad incidents occurred. There is
still much to be done and hopefully much to look forward to.
I, for one, would like to see an end to all of this violence and hatred
that is ripping the country apart. If everyone could put aside their differences
and look at their similarities they have with other people, then this world
would be a better place. I think it is really unfortunate what is going on with
today's schools. School is supposed to be a place where people are educated and
taught so that they would not be ignorant to all areas of learning, not a place
where ignorance thrives and real education is only handed out to those who have
white skin, or those who are fortunate enough to afford a good college. No one
should have to put up with any form of abuse, especially when they are trying to
learn and make something of themselves so that they can have an equal chance for
success in the future. Perhaps if everyone would have a positive outlook on this
problem in the future, there will be an end to all of the violence and hatred in
our nation's schools and everywhere else that this pestilence exists.
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