21 Century Racism and How it Affects Education Term Paper

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¶ … Racism Affects Education

How 21st Century Racism Affects Education

Racism, no matter what sort it is, or toward who or whom it might be addressed, has always impacted American education in one way or another: in terms of (for example) classroom practices; access; admissions policies and results; quotas, and more generally how students; graduates, and non-graduates are treated by society inside and outside schools, colleges, and universities (e.g., in terms of ability to get jobs; afford housing, etc.). Moreover, just as America itself has become far more diverse in the 21st century; and just as educational attitudes; goals and practices have grown diverse to meet needs of an expanding, ever more complex society; racism in education, if less visible than in the past is neither less virulent nor less harmful.

As Beswick observes "A quarter century of desegregation has not yet solved the self-deprecation, low levels of educational performance, or overall quality of life for America's people of color. Racism in any measure undermines children's self-esteem and erodes the educational process" ("Racism in America's Schools"). Twenty-first century educational racism has perhaps become less publicly visible than the educational racism of past generations centuries in America. Obviously for instance, it is no longer 'politically correct' in today's society to express or even admit to racist attitudes.

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Going even further back, there is obviously no longer any African-American slavery; nor are there the kinds of national and state laws that existed at the time of slavery that prohibited the teaching of blacks, under any circumstances, to read and write. Nor (in the case of another minority group, the Japanese and Japanese-Americans) is there forced internment of Japanese and Japanese-descended youths and their families in American concentration camps in California and elsewhere, as there was during World War II.

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But just because racism is no longer as overt as in the past that does not mean that it is gone. Obviously tendrils of deep-rooted racist attitudes in education and elsewhere linger on in America today - after all, some unique brand of 21st century educational racism in America did not just spring, fully formed, into the present moment. The unfortunate truth is that the roots of today's stubborn educational racism within America are long, deep and complex, and of course provide the key conditions of possibility for 21st century racism in education and elsewhere, even if the latter now takes on more subtle forms than it did in the past.

Furthermore educational racism has been an unfortunate fact of American life ever since colonial days, and most likely before that. Within our Constitution itself, Negroes (non-free persons) are explicitly described as unequal within Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution that states: "Representatives...shall be apportioned among the several States... according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons...and....three-fifths of all other persons" [italics added] ("Constitution of the United States").

Less than a century later in 1857, the United States Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision found that America had not constitutionally included blacks as a participating element or beneficiary of the privileges of American citizenship ("Dred Scott Case"). Back then blacks' struggles to even become literate, the cornerstone of any effective or meaningful educational program or process, were inextricably connected to the dominant culture's unwillingness to even acknowledge them as full human beings.

But for nearly 50 years now the term "affirmative action" has been used in the United States to designate programs, policies, and procedures intended to promote equal opportunities for African-Americans, other minority groups, and women, "by favoring them in hiring and promotion, college admissions, and the awarding of government contracts" ("Affirmative Action," 2000) Clearly then, education in America is less racist than in the past. But educational racism remains very far from being erased, even in the 21st century for many African-Americans; Hispanics; Asians, Native Americans and other non-members of the dominant culture (Delgado and Stefanic, 2001).

From the mid-1960's or so until about the late 1990's ("Affirmative Action") blacks, Hispanics and other minorities were able, for the first time ever in real numbers, to at last enroll in colleges; universities, graduate schools; medical and law schools, etc., as a result of affirmative action programs that allowed for a certain number of minority applicants to be admitted based on specific criteria ("Affirmative Action"). However also within that same period and beginning especially in the 1980's, based on a number of anti-Affirmative Action court rulings from that decade on in California; Texas, Michigan and other states all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court ("Affirmative Action Ten Years After Proposition 209");and with the passage of Proposition 209 in California in 1996, thereby rendering Affirmative Action in college admissions in that state illegal ("Proposition 209: Text of Proposed Law") minority enrollments nationwide again decreased from past levels, which had been the highest ever in the 1970's (Affirmative Action").

Another blow to affirmative action came in 1996 when the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court prohibited the University of Texas's Law School from 'any consideration of race or ethnicity' in future admissions decisions. As in California subsequent to the U.S. Supreme Court Bakke decision of 1978, the curtailment of affirmative action admissions policies at the University of Texas Law School resulted in a dramatic decline in minority enrollment at that school ("Affirmative Action").

Loury (2001) describes educational racism as being rooted in "racial stigma" (p. 20); and that as being rooted in the legacy of slavery and a lingering reason for ongoing disregard for the welfare of blacks and other minorities educationally and otherwise by white society as a whole:

The social isolation and negative perception of urban ghettos is a leading example of racial stigma at work in America today. These black ghetto dwellers are a people apart, ridiculed for their cultural styles, isolated socially, experiencing an internalized sense of despair, with limited access to communal networks or mutual assistance. The purported criminality, sexual profligacy, and intellectual inadequacy of these people are the frequent objects of public derision. It does not require enormous powers of perception to see how this symbolic degradation ties in with the history of race relations in the United States.

The historical process that produced these urban black ghettos graphically illustrate how racial stigma, operating over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, helped create the facts that are its own justification. (20-21)

This analysis by Loury perhaps explains better than any the tenaciousness of American prejudice against minorities and blacks in particular that leads in turn to educational and other discrimination even now. In general though and despite the many obstacles to Affirmative Action of the past few decades, the news about minority college admissions has been good (although it might have been better had the tide not turned against Affirmative Action when it did), since 1976.

For instance, as Nelson states: "According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education, minority students made up 32% of all college students in 2004, up from 17% in 1976" ("Report: Minority Enrollment has Increased," Sep. 13, 2007). But later on in this same article, Nelson further reports:

That increase isn't as huge as it may sound... minorities in the general population increased from 20% to 33% during that time, meaning the proportion of minority college students increased by 12% since

1980 relative to the overall minority proportion of the population.

The proportion of black and Hispanic students still lags behind that of white and Asian-American students. The gap between white and black college enrollment has slimmed by about seven percent since 1980 while the gap between white and Hispanic enrollment remained roughly the same over that time period. ("Report: Minority Enrollment Has Increased")

Such numbers tell us definitively that the various blows dealt to Affirmative Action in recent decades have indeed had an effect on minority access to higher education opportunities.

Reversals of official attitudes about and support for Affirmative Action brought on by court decisions and voter initiatives of the late 1970's and beyond (starting with Bakke) have clearly taken a toll on minority admissions to; representation within; and graduation from post-secondary educational programs. But even prior to the time minority students would apply for college or university admission, 21st century racism in education takes place at earlier levels, e.g., in primary and secondary schools; thereby giving minority students relatively limited opportunities for optimal educational opportunities later on.

With their college preparation then lacking and as a result qualitatively unequal to the preparation for college of white students also seeking higher education admission, higher education becomes even harder for minority students to successfully obtain. In 2004 Solorzano and Ornelas compared patterns of enrollments of Latino/a and African-American high school students in advanced placement courses in four separate high schools within the Los Angeles [California] Unified School District. The four particular high schools studied by the authors were spread over four very different geographical areas of Los Angeles.

The high schools… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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