On Racial Disparities in Education

All of these remembrances were designed to be partial—to remember the side of history that the U.S. wants to acknowledge. They are a physical embodiment of America’s desire for selective memory and serve as…a cover for colonialism. – Nick Martin on statues of historical figures with legacies of genocide, land theft, and forced assimilation of Native people.

Sundown Towns

The Story

Sundown towns are towns that remain all white due to a combination of discriminatory local laws and violence. Tactics originally ranged from real estate agents setting up exclusionary covenants that dictated who could buy or rent in certain areas to outright harassment, intimidation, and threats. Sundown towns get their name from the practice of posting signs that said things like “no blacks after sundown.” While the signs are no longer up, some of the tactics used to keep Black people out are still active in towns across the country.

Our Take

Learning and talking about sundown towns reconfigures the narratives many towns maintain about their pasts. An all-white town is not always simply a matter of demographics, it may be a carefully constructed outcome rooted in a “desire to keep outsiders—people of color—out.” Learning more about these towns reveals often highly racialized environments that white people tend to accept as normal or unproblematic.

Railroad tracks in a sundown town

How It Affects You

There are many ways individuals can address the ongoing legacy of sundown towns and any artificially all-white environment.

  1. If you have a connection to a sundown town, urge local institutions to talk openly about it, to apologize for it, and to commit to changing. Commitment to change looks like actively hiring Black people and ensuring they have access to quality resources.
  2. Work with local museums and libraries to elevate stories of people of color who have histories in majority-white areas. Doing so creates a more complete history of a place. It also helps challenge “whitewashed” narratives that hide past misdeeds and make present-day ones easier to implement. 
  3. Consider the business owners and local board and City Council members in your town. What is their racial make-up? Consider their policies in terms of hiring, housing, and zoning. Do these policies discriminate, segregate, and disenfranchise non-white groups?
  4. Investigative journalist Logan Jaffe cites the desire to keep outsiders out. He suggests that “Individuals like you can begin to poke holes in the perceived value of living in a homogenous community.”

New Data on Racial Disparities in Education

The Story

You can now access data on racial disparities in almost all K-12 schools across the country. Activists and data scientists are encouraging parents to look up their child’s school and assess whether the data indicates patterns of racism. Data by race on suspensions, expulsions, arrests, student police referrals, and access to quality teachers and advanced courses can reveal racial bias and discrimination in a school administration.

The newly released data is an important tool for educators, parents, and students who want to end disproportionate discipline for students of color. The hope is to erode the “policies and practices upholding the school to prison pipeline” by calling them out and demanding change.

Our Take

When faced with evidence of racially biased discipline, school and district officials often fall back on a common myth about students of color: that they act out more than white students do. Be prepared to respond to this myth with well-researched facts. Black and white students show similar rates for being sent to the principal’s office and committing serious offenses. “And when Black students misbehave, they are punished more severely than White students who commit the same offenses.”

How It Affects You

After presenting their findings to their administration and colleagues and asking for an actionable response, educators can do the following: 1) reach out to other schools currently addressing disproportionate discipline, and 2) connect with initiatives like the Dignity in Schools Campaign.

The COVID-19 Crisis and Diversity In Science

The Story

In a letter to Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers from around the world suggest that the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected scientists from underrepresented groups. 

Scientist of color working in the lab

Students and researchers of color are facing increased financial strain, as the COVID-19 crisis has led to cuts in academic jobs and funding. An analysis of scientific paper submissions revealed that COVID-19 has led to fewer submissions from female first authors. Additionally, international scholars have been forced to return to their countries of origin to care for their families. 

Researchers are calling for increased efforts to ensure that scientists from underrepresented groups remain in science. 

Our Take

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated pre-existing inequities in the sciences. Increasing awareness of the unique challenges underrepresented scholars face during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond is necessary for building inclusion. By implementing strategies for assessing and fostering inclusion in the scientific workplace, institutions can mitigate some of the effects of COVID-19 on diversity in the sciences. 

How It Affects You

Faculty and hiring committees can build inclusion in the scientific workplace by: 

  1. Recruiting and retaining leadership from underrepresented backgrounds
  2. Recognizing the non-academic and communal tasks that women and other underrepresented scholars take on in the workplace
  3. Committing to address implicit biases in hiring, promotion, funding, and publication decisions
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Categories
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COVID-19
diversity in science
inclusive hiring
racial bias
racial disparities in education
school to prison pipeline
sundown towns

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