It may appear to outside observers that colleges and universities have made tremendous progress in regard to racial attitudes and practices over the past several decades.
Certainly their brochures and other public relations materials would lead to this conclusion, as do the messages on their websites and social media platforms.
But the intensity and frequency of demonstrations conducted by students of color on campuses across the nation during the last few months do not reconcile with the sense of racial harmony that the institutions have attempted to convey.
Further, faculty and administrators of color have offered their own testimonies of marginalization and exclusion that echo the students’ expressions of dissatisfaction.
The recent outbursts of discontent may have caught many white academics by surprise, but they result from a prolonged, repetitive litany of mistreatment, insults, slights, and even physical attacks that people of color have endured in predominantly white institutions since the ramping up of higher education desegregation in the 1970s.
Students on campus after campus are assailing the culture of the academy as one that supports and extends white privilege; minimizes the presence and influence of people of color in the student, faculty, and administrative ranks; and presents Eurocentric studies as the only legitimate source of knowledge, while simultaneously ignoring or minimizing the contributions of non-whites to the development of American society and world civilizations.
For more than four decades, I have been a member of a select group—academics of color who have spent most of our lives inside predominantly white colleges. From this vantage point, I recognize the validity of the charges and concerns of the demonstrating students, and I applaud their actions. During my career, I have attempted to call attention to the disjunction between what we say and what we do in the academy on matters of race and racism.
Read more at the Chronicle of Higher Education.