Why Do We Exist?
AARJ aims to fund changes in institutions that will not only improve racial diversity on predominantly white campuses, but will equip students, faculty, and staff with tools to address racial inequity and to foster anti-racist climates for Black Indigenous Students of Color (BISOC) to thrive within. While the roots of these issues reach far deeper than college campuses, transforming the policies and climates of predominantly white institutions represents one step among many to create more accessible, equitable, and supportive education institutions.
How Racism Affects Education
Since the historic 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, many Americans began believing that the system which had been used to subjugate Black, Indigenous, and people of color in academic spaces had dissolved completely, allowing for a truly equal system of meritocracy to take its place. However, despite the ruling, more covert systems have allowed for racial segregation in schools to continue into the present.
Due to the combined forces of poverty, housing discrimination, redlining, underfunded schools, among copious other obstacles--racial segregation in schools persists. Since school funding heavily relies on property taxes, school districts experiencing high levels of poverty struggle to substantially fund their schools, leaving students ill-equipped to excel in our educational institutions (1). Underfunding leads to lower performance and even if students manage to perform well, many economically disadvantaged students of color can’t afford college expenses (2).
Thus, down the line, American colleges struggle to cultivate diverse and secure environments for Black students, Indigenous students, and other students of color (BISOC), leaving those few admitted BISOC to navigate predominantly White institutions (PWIs) without much support. Many of these PWIs not only lack diversity in their faculty, administration, and students, but also lack programs to support BISOC on campus, fail to educate their students, faculty, and staff on the history of race and racism, and even manage to silence these concerns when BISOC raise them. Black faculty, Indigenous faculty, and other faculty of color, additionally, bear much of the burden to educate students and faculty alike about race--creating a difficult balancing act between their commitment to diversity initiatives and meeting institutional expectations to achieve tenure.
People of color make up a larger share of postsecondary students than ever before. Between 1996 and 2016, the non-White share of undergraduates grew from 29.6 percent to 45.2 percent. Even so, college faculty, staff, and administrators remain predominantly White (4).
Black students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs exhibit higher rates of dropping out than any other racial or ethnic group. This is just one outcome that reflects the effects of systemic and structural barriers that can limit or eliminate opportunity for Black students, families, and communities, as well as for our nation at large (4).
Students are more likely to encounter people of color in service roles than in faculty or leadership positions. While people of color represented less than 20 percent of senior executives, they made up 42.2 percent of service and maintenance staff and 33 percent of campus safety personnel (4).
(1). Crampton, Delaney. “Gerrymandered school districts perpetuate segregation by keeping
low-income students out, which is bad for economic growth.” Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Equitable Growth, 19 Oct. 2019, https://equitablegrowth.org/gerrymandered-school-districts-perpetuate-segregation-by-keeping-low-income-students-out-which-is-bad-for-economic-growth/#:~:text=Fiscal%20Policy-,Gerrymandered%20school%20districts%20perpetuate%20segregation%20by%20keeping%20low%2Dincome%20students,of%20children%20in%20public%20schools..
(2). Barrett, Kira. “The Evidence is Clear: More Money For Schools Means Better Student
Outcomes.” neaToday, NEA, 1 Aug. 2018, http://neatoday.org/2018/08/01/money-matters-in-education/.
(3). “23 Billion.” EdBuild. 2020, https://edbuild.org/content/category/problems.
(4). Espinosa, Lorelle L., et al. “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report.” American Council on Education, 2019, https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/REHE-Exec-Summary-FINAL.pdf