Five Challenges To Centering Race in Education

Categories: Statewide

Five Challenges To Centering Race in Education

We envision a public education system that uplifts all students regardless of their zip code, income, or race. If we are to close the opportunity, learning, and achievement gaps of the present, we must be bold; we must have courageous conversations about race and it’s impact in our public education system so that all students are prepared for college and careers.

Here are five challenges to centering race in education explored in our recent web panel on the topic.

1) Stereotypes create distrust on both sides (students & school staff). Meaningful and positive connections matter. Not just with teachers, but among all school staff and students.

“Stereotypes are leading to distrust on both sides – teachers and students – that perpetuate racial bias.” — Dr. Jason Okonofua, Stanford University

“Literally everyday I have to distance myself from what is a “stereotypical black male student”…”I didn’t go after school to get help because I didn’t trust my teachers.” — Reginald Quartey, Californians for Justice Student Leader

2) Diversity in teaching continues to be an issue. Demographics are rapidly changing – the majority of the popuplation will soon be people of color.

“75% of students in California are students of color, while only 29% of teachers are of color” — Terry Keleher, Thought Leadership & Practice Specialist, Race Forward

3) Racial Discrimination continues to flourish.

“In just one school year (2009-10), well over 30,000 California students were referred to law enforcement, and at least 20,000 students were arrested or given a police ticket. Over 90% of the arrested and ticketed students were youth of color.” – Terry Keleher, Thought Leadership & Practice Specialist at Race Forward

“Stereotypes that we’re all exposed to can affect the way we view our students; unchecked, it can lead to unfair discipline.” – Dr. Jason Okonofua, Stanford University

“Students of color attend the most militarized schools – students walk through metal detectors, are surveilled by cameras and often have more police officers & security than support staff like counselors, tutors, and social workers.” – Terry Keleher, Thought Leadership & Practice Specialist, Race Forward

4) Many believe the myth that racism is a thing of the past.

“A majority of white Americans believe racism is an issue of the past. Something we ‘fixed’ during the civil rights movement.” – Meredith Fenton, Vice President, Fenton Communications

“More than half of Latina/os in the country believe that we talk about race too much. [There is work to be done, not just among white Americans but also in communities of color.]” – Meredith Fenton, Vice President, Fenton Communications

5) Facing race requires us to acknowledge that we are a part of the problem.

“If we talk about race rather than use “high need” or “free & reduced lunch”, we have to acknowledge the problem of race and then look for the cause. If we do that, people would see they’re part of the problem, intentionally or unitentionally, and that they’re perpetuating the system.” – Reginal Quartey, Californians for Justice Student Leader


So what do we do about it?

We can all be a part of the solution. Through education and action, we can address racial disparities in our public schools and create a system that prepares all students for college and careers. Stay tuned for more panels and webinars in the series, and for our next post: “Five Things You Can Do to Center Race in Education”

Californians for Justice, the ACLU of CA, and PolicyLink look forward to bringing you a series of conversations on this topic. Want to get involved? Contact Saa’un at saaun@caljustice.org