Annually, the Social Justice class presents a project that they find extremely relevant to the students and staff at Central. This year the project was on Institutionalized Racism. Our project focused on tracking in classes, and racial disparities in clubs, sports, etc. A somewhat sensitive topic, we all felt like it was something that we are very passionate about in relation to the current events happening today in the United States, as well as issues we saw happening at Central.
For some background, Institutionalized Racism is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions- reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.
As a member of this class I am incredibly proud and excited to share our project, something I believe is long overdue.
What Social Justice means to us:
Our class has identified that Social Justice is a movement that strives to understand how identity impact individuals, how intersectionality plays a role in defining experiences, and how we can be upstanders when we witness or experience injustice in our community. Through our studies we have become more aware of how society has normalized injustice, and we are learning how to take a stand against this injustice.
Tracking in classes has been a huge problem, not only in high school but even in elementary school. Our class interviewed faculty and students about their experiences at Central in regard to race in order to gain insight on the effects of Institutionalized Racism at our school. We had many interesting responses from a wide range of different people.
“We are trying to put bandaids on big gaping wounds. The minority students not taking AP classes are results of them not taking the honors classes before it. They are discouraged from elementary school if they don’t make the honors programs” -White Male Teacher
It’s apparent that this issue has started a while back, even with programs like the gifted program, which was showing kids from a young age that they are either in the “smart group” or the “regular group”.
Why we chose institutionalized racism:
As a class we were extremely impacted and unsettled with the result of current events in the United States. We actually took at least a day to really just express some of our fears about the future. This is not something that affects one person, or one group of minorities. This event is something that will affect a huge amount of people from different races, religions, sexualities, etc. I personally, was in a state of shock, confusion, anger, and deep, deep sadness. As a millennial I watched myself and so many others around me fall into a deep devastation. I’ve had people close to me worried about being deported, or worry about the level of discrimination and safety for their kids at school.
With everything happening currently in the United States, this led us to focus our presentation on institutionalized racism.
Slowly we have begun to realize that now more than ever is the time to raise our voices even louder. Now is the time for us to bring change, and to fight together. We can no longer sit back and not do anything, this is happening now, and this is real.
We conducted student and staff surveys, interviews with staff members and staff members who used to work at Central.
Through these surveys, we found the following information:
- We found that 71% of African American staff considered leaving Central due to Racial Disparities.
- 76% of the staff surveys said that the AP classes are primarily filled with White students.
- For the student surveys 261 students say their classes are racially identifiable. 68% are students of color.
- We also found that 100% of the staff at Central feel that they treat their students . This specific statistic is interesting because the experience and feelings of the students are quite different.
- 63 students have considered, or have dropped classes/extracurricular due to racial disparities. 73% of those students are students of color.
One major problem is that our student bodies shows a diverse background, but if you were to walk into a classroom you will see a majority of only white teachers. Students of color aren’t really seeing their race represented in teachers and faculty.
“Yes my race impacts my job, that is one of the reasons I chose to come to Central. With such a diverse student body, students are in need of people in the building that look like them” – African American Teacher
We also sent interview questions to teachers of color who have left Central.
“I had to prove myself worthy of my position. I felt like I was constantly being compared to others in the field and having to prove my value. Also, since some we’re not aware of every task I completed within this position I felt like some people did not value me or my position. I am not sure this I am not sure this has to do with race, but maybe more of a lack of understanding of my role.”
What I find extremely difficult about Institutionalized Racism is that many questions that arise from this study are questions we don’t necessarily have the answers to. This is an issue that starts way back. It isn’t something that can be easily changed in a short amount of time. We have to make sure Central is a place where all students feel included.
One reason why we don’t have that many teachers of color at Central is that this is an issue that starts when they are kids. If they aren’t seeing teachers of their race being represented in classrooms from a young age, it could discourage them from being teachers when they are older.
One of our proposals was that we have more intensive training that forces teachers to confront their own racial bias, which I think is very important. A lot of these issues aren’t explicitly shown but the fact that they are internalized are just as problematic. I don’t think any one person has an answer to this huge issue. What we really want to communicate is that this is a broad issue that has started way back.
What we can do as students is to work with the staff here at Central to ultimately provide a more inclusive place for everyone. The voice of Central shouldn’t only be from the majority students. We need to work to showcase the diversity at Central and not cover it up.
Our change starts now.