Racism in Our Society

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The renowned French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1897/1951) asserted in his groundbreaking tome Suicide: A Study in Sociology, education “is only the image and reflection of society. It imitates and reproduces the latter in abbreviated form; it does not create it” (p. 372). The statements, therefore, of Nieto and Bode (2008) relative to the failure of our schools to provide all students regardless of their background or situation with equal and unbiased educational opportunities is an indictment of the society in which these schools exist.

The ideals of the American democratic society are equal rights and equal opportunities for all people regardless of their creed, color, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender. Unfortunately, we have not lived up to the principles and, thus, today we see a continuing inequity in the nation’s schools although there has been a marked increase in the awareness of how racism is manifest in society (D’Andrea & Daniels, 2007). Beady and Hansell (1981) assert that “the promise of school desegregation for reducing educational inequities has largely gone unfulfilled” (p. 191). The 30 years since this statement was made have done little to change the truth of it.

There are three types of racism that are observable in our society: (a) individual, (b) cultural, and (c) institutional (Constantine, 2006 as cited in D’Andrea & Daniels, 2007). While individual racism produces problematic and often dramatic displays, the more subtle demonstrations of cultural and institutional racism are also seen in schools. Individual racism is when White individuals treat members of other racial groups differently because the White individual believes the person or the group to whom the person belongs is intell...

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Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2008). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Tenenbaum, H. R., & Ruck, M. D. (2007, May). Are teachers’ expectations different for racial minority than for European American students? A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(2), 253-273. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.99.2.253

Theoharis, G., & Haddix, M. (2011, August 22). Undermining racism and a whiteness ideology: White principals living a commitment to equitable and excellent schools. Urban Education, 46(6), 1332-1351. doi:10.1177/0042085911416012

Tyler, K. M., Boykin, A. W., & Walton, T. R. (2006). Cultural considerations in teachers’ perceptions of student classroom behaviors and achievement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 998-1005. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2006.04.017

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