Racism in Higher Education
Racism in higher education is an often ignored and pervasive problem that affects students of color across the nation. They have to work harder than their white counterparts for admission into universities and to gain acceptance by their professors and peers on campus. Research proves that students of color are treated differently than their white counterparts, from the admissions process to graduation.
From microaggressions to outright violence, racism in higher education must be tackled by each member on campus including administration, staff, and faculty, and students to rectify the problem and change the situation for the greater good. Here are some examples of racism that students of color face in higher education:
Microaggressions refer to small, daily interactions which perpetuate stereotypes and enforce racism. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional, verbal, behavioral, or environmental. The person committing a microaggression may even have good intentions, but due to ignorance or thoughtlessness, their words or actions have the opposite effect. An example of a microaggression is a white student asking a multiracial student, “So, what are you?” in an attempt to learn about their background or culture.
Whether we recognize it or not, we all have prejudices and biases. A study done on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) showed that more than twice the number of black students who used the service were investigated for fraud than white students, even though black students made up a small percentage of total applicants. This reflects a problematic bias held by those in positions of power in higher education. With students of color facing opposition fueled by racism before they are even able to set foot on a college campus, it’s no wonder that statistically fewer students of color graduate from college than white students.
- Nobody takes responsibility
It seems that nobody is willing to accept the responsibility of tackling racism in higher education. Some students of color have expressed that efforts made by HR and other administrators often reflect a fear of changing societal and legal standards rather than a desire for positive change. Many white people feel as though racial issues aren’t their responsibility, or aren’t “their issues.” The truth is that social issues affect everyone, and it takes the efforts of everyone, including administrators, professors, and students of every race to create positive change.
Students of color are expected to work much harder than their white counterparts, reject their own culture and conform to those around them, tolerate and navigate a minefield of overt and subtle racist comments, gestures, and more just to get the same degrees as white students. It’s not right or fair to demand that these students become more resilient or change to accommodate the systemic racism of higher education. Higher education needs to change for these students, and every single individual affiliated with universities holds a responsibility to change the racist mindset, environment, and activity surrounding college campuses.