Problem of Institutional Racism in Schools: Enequality in Education

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Table of Contents

  • Background
  • Institutional Racism in Education: Analysis of Articles
  • Conclusion


In schools, there are students from all different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. What most people do not realize is that there can be a variety of students in the same school, but can receive a different education. This isn’t because they are learning a new material, or because they are in different classes. The reason that students receive a different education is a product of institutional racism in schools. Institutional racism is racism practiced in a social institution or cultural setting rather than racism in an individual setting. Institutional racism is seen in many high institutions around the world, but one place where it takes place but is rarely noticed is when it takes place in schools. In our schooling today, high class white students are the ones that receives the best education out of any other race in the United States. Racism in education has multiple reasons which are explored in this essay. Minority students do not receive the same education as white students do. This can greatly impact on how their future plays out. Underprivileged students attend schools that have older materials, less technology, and are inferior in many other aspects in education. This leads to the poor education they receive which puts these children at a disadvantage when it comes to going out in the American society and finding a job to support their families. A lack of superior education leads to a struggle to receive high paying jobs because of their lower quality of schooling and learning experience. Even though it is sometimes unintentional, institutional racism has a major effect on people's lives and needs to be fixed within our schools.

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Democracy is a very dynamic term that is used to describe our society and the institutions that are within, but is our society truly democratic? The definition of democracy is a form of government in which all people or citizens are represented through election. However, this system we obtain in America today is flawed. The point of society is to represent everyone but there are plenty of examples in our politics today that in which the person in office does not represent their people well. Democracy is commonly misunderstood by people often because they view democracy as everyone being given a chance to succeed. What many fail to realize that even though everyone is given a chance to succeed, the likelihood for privileged white kids to succeed is a lot higher than underprivileged black kids from poor communities and schooling. America has been influenced by a system in which a social hierarchy is established and people are put into an immobile state in their social class that their ancestors have been in for decades. In The Meritocracy Myth the concept of democracy is explained “Aristocracy has made a chain of all the members of the community, from the peasant to the king democracy breaks that chain, and severs every link to it. As social conditions become more equal, the number of persons increases who, although they me neither rich enough nor powerful enough to exercise any great influence over their fellow creatures, have nevertheless acquired or retained sufficient education and fortune to satisfy their own wants.” (McNamee and Miller, p. 8, 2009). A democracy is intended for everyone to have the opportunity to become the best they can be, but in the American system today, social mobility is very unlikely.

Institutional Racism in Education: Analysis of Articles

Institutional racism in schools is a strong factor in why America is not a true democracy today. In the first article written by a 6th grade teacher from Utah named Lily Eskelsen Garcia talks about her perspective and how she has seen institutional racism in a school setting. Garcia has taught a wide variety of students from all different cultural, economic, religious, and racial backgrounds. She has also taught gifted and talented students in her years of teaching. She states that in no point in our history as a nation, have we ever reached racial equality in schools. A common theme that Garcia pushes for is to talk about institutional racism in schools. Garcia shares her experience with a white coworker who hates talking about racism and claims that she treats all of her students the same no matter the color of their skin. She explains to her coworker that “We have to talk about it because it’s so hard for you to talk about it.” (Garcia, 2019). Even though teachers may not be racist, they still need to talk about the topic of racism to disrupt the culture in schools. Even though Garcia’s coworker may not view herself as a racist, she may be like many who are blind to the subtleness of institutional racism. Garcia also states ““The National Education Association believes that, in order to achieve racial and social justice, educators must acknowledge the existence of White supremacy culture as a primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism,” (2019). Our society will never reach fair and equal treatment if educators don't talk about the inequality of the kind of education kids get in schools.

The second article “Racism In Schools: Unintentional but No Less Damaging” talks about how even though institutional racism is not made from racist people with hate in their heart towards others with different skin color. It is made from society as a whole following the norms and culture that have been implemented for centuries that hold lower class minorities in their underprivileged status. The author, Bob Kuznia, writes about a young mexican immigrant girl named Alejandra who was raised from a poor family in California. At the high school she attended in Santa Barbara, she was just another poor latino immigrant among many of her classmates that were just like her. Her class was also filled with a multitude of rich white kids that grew up in the Santa Barbara Community of Montecito, a very wealthy neighborhood. Alejandra did above average in academics and had a dream of going to a four year college. However, her counselor suggested “her to go to the local community college.” (Kuznia, 2017). She was more than capable of going higher than a community college. This made her lose all self-esteem that she had for herself and her future goals. This subtle form of racism happens all over schools today. Alejandra’s counselor followed the long term ideas that because she was from a poor family and she was not white, that she would not succeed. The article “Institutional Racism” it reveals genesis of this racism by stating “This classification of humans into superior and inferior groupings parallels the age of European conquest of Asia and Africa. It appears that the creation of “races” went hand and glove with the determination of white skin superiority.” (Better, p.5, 2008). Alejandra counselor most likely had no sense of hatred for her because she was brown, but because of the institutional racism in the mind of her counselor has never been corrected, he or she was still brainwashed with the idea that a poor minority cannot go above and beyond the social class of their family. The article talks about a group called the National Conference of Community. This is a group of people that battle institutional racism and are trying to change to thoughts of people in our society. They state that “the organization spends much of its time informing educators about the everyday red flags that may be invisible to them, but glaringly obvious to many minority students and teachers of color.” (Kuznia, 2017). Educators have an immense impact on how children think, and what better way to rid the racist ideas that our society teaches, than to have teachers start by opening the eyes to their students. Obviously there will never be a one generation turn around with these ideas which have been existing for centuries, but it is important to start somewhere.

There are many other ways in which institutional racism is present in our schools today. For example, schools obtain a bulk of their funding from their property tax. For minority kids that live in poor neighborhoods, their schooling clearly won’t be as pristine as the wealthy students whose schooling gets a larger amount of money because of the higher cost of housing in their district. This is one way in which the system that has been set up for years has allowed rich white kids to get a better education than those who do not live in high class areas. School funding has been established this way and needs to be fixed. In the writing titled “Ain’t No Makin’ It” an argument is made stating “For every Andrew Carnegie there are thousands of able and intelligent workers who were left behind to occupy positions In the class structure not much different from those held by their parents. What about the static, nearly permanent element in the working class, whose members consider the chances for mobility remote and thus despair of all hope? These people are shunned, hidden, forgotten--and for good reason--because just as the self-made individual is a testament to certain American ideals, so the very existence of an 'underclass' in American society is a living contradiction to those ideals.” (MacLeod, p. 3-4, 2009). This quote is explaining the way institutional racism follows the trend of rich white people owning the majority of the money and distributing it back into our economy does not benefit everyone. There are many minorities that have the capabilities to contribute to our society in a major way, but can’t because they are told that they can’t become doctors, or shouldn’t go to college.


Institutional racism exist is practice in institutions all over the U.S., but one terrible place it occurs is in schools. Schooling is a place where children are supposed to receive an equal education in the so called ‘democracy’ that they live in. In “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” the author reveals the intention of the oppressor, which is”“Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them,' (1) for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated. To achieve this the oppressors use the banking concept of education in conjunction with a paternalistic social action apparatus, within which the oppressed receive the euphemistic title of 'welfare recipients.' They are treated as individual cases, as marginal persons who deviate from the general configuration of a 'good, organized and just' society.” (Freir, ch.1, 1993). To aid the lifestyle of the oppressed minorities, there needs to be a movement in a society that is willing to stand up to the typical institutional racism. Democracy calls for an equal representation for all people, including equality in the learning process for citizens. for Educators need to point out the examples of institutional racism that occur in every because of the unrecognizable qualities that it obtains. These qualities are unrecognizable due to the regularity it has in the public setting. The information used has taught and shown how often institutional racism happens, and how little people notice it. The fellowship of the American people must realize the problematic system in our schooling and get out of the comfort zone of institutional racism.

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