Racism is an issue that societies around the world have faced throughout the history of humanity. So prevalent has racism been in fact, that in the 19th century, many scientists subscribed to the belief that humans can be divided into races based off of genetic differences, with racism “describing the state of being racist, i.e., subscribing to the belief that the human population can or should be classified into races with differential abilities and dispositions”. Racism has been studied for centuries, seen practice both privately and officially in many nations, and has been fought everywhere it has found refuge. And yet, racism persists. Racism persists for many reasons, too many to list. However, there is only one true path to the destruction of racism. By educating more people to a higher standard and opening more avenues by which members of minority “races” (to the extent that race exists in the first place) may reach positions of power within society, academia, and government, we may combat racism at the source. First, by educating people as to what the nature of race truly is, then, by combating any racist propaganda used by hate groups in an effort to create an “us/them” narrative by exposing the truth that there is only the “us” in government, academia, economics, etc.
Education is the single most powerful tool we have to
fight racism. Education can take many different forms. It can be direct, or it
can be passive. Education is also one of the strongest tools used to divide and
segregate people in society. Historically, nations with state-sponsored racist
policies have segregated schools and taught students to see those of other
races as lesser, be that within the curriculum itself or through messages
conveyed through its society. However, these racist practices do nothing but
hurt the population of a nation. As many educators themselves have noted,
having more racial diversity in classrooms helps students by
“promoting student growth and reflection”, playing “an essential role in career preparation”, and “diversity prepares students for citizenship”1. Although these benefits are noted by educators themselves, they’re still subject to interpretation. What IS undeniable, is the objective trend in the correlation between diversity in classrooms, as noted by an “amicus brief in the Fisher II case” that “argues that researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving”2, 3. Not only does classroom diversity help ALL students perform better, but as noted by the report “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students” by Amy Stuart Wells, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo, “the American Psychological Association’s brief reviewed evidence that the ‘negative effects associated with insufficient racial diversity extend to members of nonminority groups’”2. The implication here is that racism or discrimination, conscious or subconscious, hinder the educational process of nonminority white students as well as minority students. By providing more diverse classrooms, not only may we increase the cognitive ability of our students, but we may also offer them perspective that helps them to inform themselves of the reality of the modern world from the perspectives of those unlike themselves and, most importantly, foster understanding. This is where the fight against racism begins, within the classrooms.
Fostering understanding is the second most powerful way we may combat racism in all of its forms. Many racists in America point to disproportionate statistics of crimes prosecuted against minorities as well as disproportionate IQ levels and education completion rates as justification for their deeply held beliefs. The issue here is not that they cite statistics that are wrong, or that their statistics lie (in most cases, they don’t). The issue here is that these statistics are presented without context. The disproportionate levels of crime and homicide, among African-Americans especially, are a genuine issue. However they are not indicative of any sort of racial, biological, or genetic inferiority. Rather, these disproportionate levels of crime are indicative of the systematic racism that minority groups face every day within the Criminal Justice system, as well as the educational system. For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a government organization, African Americans are second only to American Indians in lowest graduation rates by percentage (76%)5. However, this does not take into account the fact that African Americans typically find themselves in schools with less funding and lower educational quality than schools in predominantly white areas. This is due to the fact that schools themselves in America are funded by local property taxes. The issue with this is, African Americans have significantly lower property values than White Americans for no other reason than the fact that they are black4. The racism even in something as benign as the values of our property continue to create scenarios where minority groups in America, specifically African-Americans, are provided with lower quality public services due to nothing but their race.
It is especially important, however, to address the crime
disparity between minority groups and White Americans. While many on the far
right of the political spectrum are quick to point out that although African Americans
are only 12.3% of the population, they commit 50% of the murders in the nation6.
This is true. The issue with this however, is that it does not take into
account the conditions that many African Americans are born into and entrapped
within, lacking employment opportunities outside of crime, nor does it take
into account the disproportionate rate at which African Americans are convicted
of crimes, apprehended for crimes, or targeted by law enforcement6.
Not only are African Americans apprehended more for serious criminal offences,
they’re also apprehended more for misdemeanor offenses such as drug use. African Americans only constitute 12.5% of illicit drug users in the
United States, they are 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 1/3 of all
those incarcerated for drug offenses in state facilities7. The
disproportionate levels of arrests and incarceration for African American drug
use create a cycle in which African American mothers and fathers are
incarcerated and unable to provide for the families that they fostered. This,
in turn, forces much of the youth to turn to drop out of school and engage in
criminal activity in order to provide for their family. When these statistics
are interpreted within context, they don’t paint the picture of any racial
inferiority. Rather, they expose the truth of the American criminal justice
system. That it always has been, and likely will continue to be for a very long
time, biased against members of the minority group in the United States.
Biological science is another important tool that may help combat racism. As many scientists have noted, there is indeed no genetic basis to race. This point is further reinforced by Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and a biologist, who commented on a scientific study arguing that race was a social construct by stating “What the study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning non single variant where all Africans have one variant and Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded”8. Essentially, what Svante is saying, is that not now, nor in the past, has there ever been a genetic difference between the genetic makeup of people from African regions or European regions. By taking away any scientific basis racists may use to divide us and propagate their flawed and objectively incorrect propaganda, we take away any logic or reason behind their argument. We disprove their pseudo-science and protect the uneducated and the impressionable from their false truths and “alternative facts”. Once we allow true scientific fact to take precedent over racist pseudoscience, we may cut away at the roots of racism and cause the destruction of the pillars of hate that racists attempt to foster within others.
At the end of the day however, all these solutions simply
play a part in fostering understanding. Only through understanding and patience
can we truly eliminate racism. While there have been many people that have
sought to fight racism and all the institutions it finds itself present in
throughout history, the most successful path has been understanding. Though we
may create understanding through all of these methods, educating the majority
about the life and culture of minority populations, teaching people about the
racism found in the institutions of government, and disproving the
pseudoscience racists use to push their agendas, there are many other ways to
foster understanding. While many choose the forceful manner of fighting racism,
which itself has its own shares of positives and negatives, as many people
would note, Martin Luther King Jr. was leagues more successful in changing
government policy than Malcolm X ever was.
- “The Value of Classroom Diversity.” ED.gov Blog, ED.gov, 6 Apr. 2016, blog.ed.gov/2016/04/the-value-of-classroom-diversity/.
- Wells, Amy Stuart, et al. “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students.” The Century Foundation, The Century Foundation, 3 Apr. 2017, tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/.
- “Brief of the American Educational Research Association et.al. as amici curiae in Support of Respondents in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin”; A. L. Antonio, M. J. Chang, K. Hakuta, D. A. Kenny, S. Levin, and J. F. Milem, “Effects of Racial Diversity on Complex Thinking in College Students,” Psychological Science 15, no. 8 (August 2004): 507-510, http://pss.sagepub.com/content/15/8/507.short.
- Anacker, Katrin B. “Still Paying the Race Tax? Analyzing Property Values in Homogeneous and Mixed-Race Suburbs.” Journal of Urban Affairs, vol. 32, no. 1, 2010, pp. 55–77., doi:10.1111/j.1467-9906.2008.00437.x.
- “ Search COE Public High School Graduation Rates .” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, May 2018, nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp.
- Cooper, Alexa, and Erica L. Smith. “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008.” Bureau of Justice Statistics, The U.S. Department of Justice, Nov. 2011, Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008.
- “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/.
- Gannon, Megan. “Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue.” Scientific American, LiveScience, 5 Feb. 2016, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-construct-scientists-argue/.