The Issue of Race In Higher Education

Jan 6, 2011


For some reason, some people prefer to tip toe around the issue of race. Even worse, some people experience life through rose-colored glasses and wholeheartedly believe that race is no longer significant in today’s society. Then there are those who, in an attempt to be impartial, proclaim that “I don’t see color”. Frankly, that notion denies the fact that color matters. But it does matter. Race is ubiquitous. Every morning, I look in the mirror and see “color” and then I walk outside and I take on a life that’s authentic to a black male. So it should come as no surprise that my experiences in academia have been uniquely different compared to that of others. The idea of the “black intellectual” has been of particular interest to me after I heard that there was a discussion about it on the campus of my alma mater recently.

Whenever there is a discussion of race in education, I notice that.. there is an overwhelming lack of support amongst white students for race-conscious programs such as affirmative action. In my opinion, they take a very na├»ve approach on the subject, assuming that blacks are being given hand-outs instead gaining admittance based on merit. I’ve actually heard someone say, “my friend didn’t get into such and such school because they have to admit a certain number of minorities”. It’s demeaning to say the least, but also very sad that people aren’t able to open their eyes and see the world around them for what it really is. In my opinion the main difference between white and non-white students is that the latter have historically had to start from ground zero. So there is an immense need for equalizers like affirmative action.

Also in the discussion about minority students, I’ve heard people say that “black intellectuals” have a tendency to be cocky. Although I don’t totally disagree, made obvious by my public service annoncement to them, I do think it is less about arrogance and more about trying to prove that they are just as deserving and just as capable as their white counterparts. Personally, I work hard FIRST to attain my personal goals; second, to make my family proud; and third, to provide an example for those who look up to me. But I'm not going to sit here and ignore the fact that I also strive to prove doubters wrong and negate stereotypes. I really don't think there is anything wrong with that.

But I’m just rappin’, what are your thoughts on race in education and the black intellectual? Is race still an issue in education? Has race affected your educational experiences any?


Erica R. said...

First, let me start by thanking you for your very kind words on my blog. It was flattering, now that I see you are a writer as well, I am over the moon!

As a result of this statement: "I’ve heard people say that 'black intellectuals' have a tendency to be cocky." I would LOVE for you to read my newest post. I frequently refer to black males with degrees (disclaimer: don't be offended.)

Now, on to YOUR post. I think you are very correct. I think that people are delusional when they say race is an irrelevant issue now. When The Game rapped ...."And fuck Jesse Jackson cause it ain't about race now." I thought it was the most ignorant statement in life. Race still matters.

With regard to our white counterparts, I don't think they are naive, I think they are human. Race is a major issue to us, and other minority groups because we know how it feels to be of color in this very white dominant society. White people do not think about race. Period. It does not even register for them. Therefore, a general human trait that we all have the tendency to possess is the inability to sympathize with issues that we can't comprehend. White people, generally speaking, are not ignorant or naive, its just that race is not relevant to their lives. The irrelevance of race for them is what shapes how they feel about affirmative action and other race related programs. Just my thoughts.

deonna said...

Race has definitely affected my experience in undergrad.

I am actually in a peer education program that seeks to deconstruct issues around identities such as race, socio-economic status and gender, etc. It is always amazing to me when I'm facilitating a discussion on someone points out how they are color blind. They don't realize that they may not see race because they do not have to deal with the experiences that come with being a person of color. In that area of their identity, they are privileged. Being white is what is normal and like Erin said race doesn't register for them.

Most people don't see things as truth when it is not a part of their experience, which is kind of sad to me.

Erin also makes a valid point by saying "we all have the tendency to possess is the inability to sympathize with issues that we can't comprehend." It's so true. I didn't realize I have privilege in places because it's not something I do not have to deal with. An example of that would be just being able to walk up stairs. People that are in wheelchairs sometimes have to scavenge to find ramps to get into buildings or elevators to get up some floors.

I wish more people acknowledge their privilege.

Dub said...

wow, love the discourse y'all.

Don't watch me, w-w-watch my feet....