Race Relations in America
American society likes to believe that race relations in our country are no longer strained. We do not want to hear about the need for affirmative action or about the growing numbers of white supremacist groups. In order to appease our collective conscious, we put aside the disturbing fact that racism is alive and well in the great U.S.A. It hides in the workplace, it subtly shows its ugly face in the media, and it affects the education of minority students nationwide. In the following excerpts from an interview with a middle class African American male, the reader will find strong evidence that race plays a major role in determining the type and quality of education a student receives.
The subject of the interview is a twenty year old African American male who identifies himself as middle to lower upper class. Both of his parents graduated from high school and his father received a business degree from Bowling Green State University in northern Ohio. He attended a large high school whose student body consisted of mostly the white upper class and very few minorities. Although his educational story is not an earth shattering one, it does effectively illustrate the presence of racism in American education today.
“I want you to understand that the racism I encountered
during school was not blatant,” he explained. “No one burned crosses in my yard or yelled out racial slurs as I walked down the hall. No, what I encountered was so subtle it wouldn’t hold up in court.” This subtle racism began with quiet comments made by the high school counselor who was helping him to register for classes. Without asking him about his family and home situation the counselor assumed certain things about his life. “She assumed that since I was black I certainly didn’t have a stable homelife. She figured my dad wasn’t home because he was in prison or whatever.” In reality, his homelife was actually a very warm and loving one. His father ran a small business downtown, which made enough money for them to live comfortably. His mother did not work while they were younger so that she could raise the children herself. The high school counselor immediately assumed my subject came from a dysfunctional black family that cared little for education. She enrolled him in the lower track classes and told him in so many words that “athletics are a great way to get into college.” A few sentences from a misinformed guidance counselor planted the seeds in my subject’s head as to where his high school path would take him.
Taking the counselor’s advice, my subject tried out for football, which led him into the educational world...