I recently had a telling experience while sitting at a friend’s dinner table. The mother asked her son how his class was today. He answered, “It got deleted”....
Racism comes in all colors. Encarta’s dictionary defines racism as: “animosity toward other races prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races and belief in racial superiority in that people of different races have different qualities and abilities and that some races are inherently superior or inferior.” While the government has instituted many laws which prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin as well as disabilities, the fact is that racism in schools is still an issue although quite different from the school racism prevalent before the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
There continues to be many school funding inequalities as most schools are still dependent on property taxes to finance their school systems. This often leaves large groups of minority students in urban areas with less than optimal learning conditions. As the United States has embraced and promoted “Multiculturalism” however, the typical white vs black racism that I grew up with is not always the issue. In the wake of our building strong cultural identities (definitely a good thing), the feeling of superiority has been taken over by many groups (definitely not a positive outcome).
Racism has many faces. It can be observed in our classrooms in the form of bullying, cyber-bulling, cliques, and even technically innocent comments both verbally and in writing. What our students are exposed to in their homes effects how they think and how they act. What they are exposed to through the media also affects them. The sensationalism of hate crimes is news and our students know all about it.
Racism comes from many directions. Even teachers and administrators are not immune to its effects. Schools where most of the teachers are primarily one race and the assistants another are not uncommon and generally have underlining tension which can be felt by the students and parent body as well. If an administrator has a particular racial bias, she/he will often make it difficult for teachers, students, parents in little, hard to document but definitely insidious, ways. The overall efficacy of the teacher(s) and students will be compromised in these situations.
Racism profoundly affects our students’ futures. Statistics show that in many areas, the schools in the United States are more segregated than ever before. With many children being locked into their local public schools with no options for private education that their wealthier peers can afford, students find themselves unprepared for a college education and thus entrance into a profession which would help them pull themselves and their future children out of their level of economic disadvantage. Many, if they even graduate, find themselves virtually unemployable.
Racism can be challenged and changed. Racism in schools is unfortunately still alive and well. We as educators and administrators have an enormous task ahead of us to change this tide. It is not enough that our multicultural programs have instilled pride in our country’s diverse ethnic groups. We have an obligation to also give over that pride in ourselves does not preclude respect for others. School racism can and should be addressed on all levels.