Racial Bias in Higher Education
Racism in higher education is a widely disregarded and chronic issue that affects students of color across the country. They must work harder than their white colleagues to win admittance to universities as well as acceptance from instructors and peers on campus. From the application process to graduation, research shows that students of color are treated differently than their white peers. From microaggressions to outright violence, racism in higher education must be addressed by every member of the campus community, including administration, staff, faculty, and students, to correct the problem and alter the situation for the better. Here are some examples of racism encountered by students of color in higher education:
Microaggressions are minor, everyday interactions that reinforce preconceptions and bigotry. Microaggressions can be verbal, behavioral, or environmental, and they can be purposeful or inadvertent. The individual performing a microaggression may have good intentions, but their words or actions have the opposite effect due to ignorance or carelessness. A white learner asking a multiracial learner, “So, what are you?” in an attempt to understand their background or culture is an example of a microaggression.
We all have preconceptions and biases, whether we realize it or not. A study by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) found that more than twice as many black students as white students were examined for fraud, even though black students made up a small percentage of total applications. This reveals a troubling bias among those in positions of authority in higher education. With learners of color confronting hostility motivated by racism before they even set foot on a college campus, it’s no surprise that statistically, fewer learners of color graduate than white learners.
- Nobody accepts accountability.
Nobody seemed to be willing to take on the task of combating racism in higher education. Some learners of color have expressed concern that HR and other administrators’ actions frequently reflect a fear of shifting cultural and legal standards rather than a desire for good change. Many white people believe that racial issues are not their concern, or that they are not “their issues.” The truth is that social issues touch everyone, and positive change requires the efforts of everyone, including administrators, professors, and students of all races.
Learners of color are expected to work far harder than white learners, reject their own culture and conform to those around them, and tolerate and navigate a minefield of overt and subtle racist statements, gestures, and more to acquire the same degrees as white learners. It is not moral nor reasonable to expect these students to become more resilient or to adapt to accommodate higher education’s systematic racism. Higher education must change for these students, and every individual associated with colleges bears responsibility for changing the racist mindset, climate, and action on college campuses.