Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Sociological Influences/Racism

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The Reasons Behind Race and Racism
by Kelsey E. Thompson
[edit | edit source]

Learning Objectives[edit | edit source]

Students should be able to...
  • Know the difference between race and racism
  • Understand that racism occurs everywhere
  • Apply the knowledge learned to understand everyday happenings
  • Recognize racism in everyday life

Definition Difference[edit | edit source]

Race n.

1. A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.
2. A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: the German race.
3. A genealogical line; a lineage.
4. Humans considered as a group.
5. Biology
a. An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits. A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies.
b. A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.
6. A distinguishing or characteristic quality, such as the flavor of a wine.

Racism n.

1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

A Dissection of Racism[edit | edit source]

Racism has been around for hundreds of years dating back to the Enlightenment. Most scientists in the nineteenth century compared females to the lower race, which was mainly made up of blacks(Goldberg, 1990). Females and blacks were also compared to apes. As such, the research the scientists conducted was that of weighing the brains between females and those of lower races, and made the connection that the two were similar. For example, the white males were superior to the white females and the blacks. Because of their similarity, "women and lower races were called innately impulsive, emotional, imitative rather than original, and incapable of the abstract reasoning found in white men"(Goldberg, 1990). A white male's brain processes and hormones were different from the females, so in return, the females were considered a different 'species'(Goldberg, 1990). As the years went by, racism became dependent on the outcome of people's behaviors. For example, under certain circumstances "...belief, intention, act, consequence, principle, rule, or institution can be racist"(Goldberg, 1990). In isolation, expressions such as slurs and epithets can and will be considered racist(Goldberg, 1990).

Sociology of Racism[edit | edit source]

According to David Mason, race is a legitimate concept for sociological analysis and remains a pivotal concept in sociology(Mason, 1994). Racism and race can be analytically eminent from one another by "the separation of human populations according to a notion of human stock difference, the characteristic mark of construct of race, need not to posit a hierarchy of groups"(Mason, 1994). However, racism should not be limited in situations with discourses and practices that are associated with biogenetic differences(Mason, 1994). In general, the categories of personal, social cultural competences should not coincide with the concept of race. Race, as Mason states, is a social relationship. For example, populations generally are separated by genetic makeup and not by race. Racism also has negative stereotypes and evaluations of groups. These stereotypes and evaluations represent a kind of symbolic resource such as power for example(Mason, 1994). As such, "power is both relational and situational"(Mason, 1994).

Racism in Education[edit | edit source]

Prior to Brown vs Board of Education

"Positionality: the idea that peoples' backgrounds and identities, often seen as fixed in racial and gendered categories, are relational, contextual, and subject to change over time"(Maher, 2008). According to Frinde Maher, gender, race and class are shifting proportions not predetermined categories of identity(Maher, 2008).

Critical Race Theory(CRT) is oppositional and resists single-truth claims(Masko, 2008). CRT is based on six tenets: "1.racism is ordinary; 2.the current system of White-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes; 3.race and races are products of social thought and relations; 4.the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times; 5.intersectionality and antiessentialism are present, whereas everyone has overlapping, conflicting identities and loyalties; and 6.there is a shared minority experience that people of color communicate about race and racism that White people are unlikely to know is present"(Masko, 2008).

Some schools find resistance within their faculty, staff, and students. In a study done in a Mid-western state, resistance was found in the administration in adherence to the current curriculum and within the school's student body(Masko, 2008). The most common resistance in the administration was the teacher's frustration(Masko, 2008). However, the students resisted "societal expectations of low achievement for students of color, and...multicultural curriculum"(Masko, 2008). For example, one of the administrators gave a motivational speech to the student body that "teeters between chastising poor behavior and inspiring higher achievement"(Masko, 2008) as a form of resisting societal expectations of the students.

In addition, schools can also get in trouble for putting too many kids of one race in a certain program. For example, "black students are more likely than white youth to be labeled as 'mentally or educationally retarded' and assigned to special education"(Hill, 2004). In addition, a high amount of foster care students receive special education(between 30% and 41%) (Hill, 2004). However, racism can also be applied to teachers. "Black teachers who subscribe to stereotypes about blacks may also exhibit aversively racist behavior that results in 'double standards' in the differential treatment of black and white students"(Hill, 2004).

Institutional Racism[edit | edit source]

Normally, black families have multiple risk factors such as unemployment and poverty, that cause the majority of children to become abused and neglected. Abuse and neglect is highly strenuous among the poor(Hill, 2004). As such, blacks tend to be overrepresented in child welfare because of the family's class status, not race. Because of this, "institutional racism influences the operation of child welfare"(Hill, 2004). Hill states in a statistic, that black children comprise about one of five children in the nation's population and account for more than two out of five of the 600,000 children who are placed in foster care(Hill, 2004).

Blacks are highly represented in child welfare because of their poverty status. Consequently, the definition of institutional racism is "the systematic oppression, subjugation and control of one racial group by another dominant or more powerful racial groups, made possible by the manner in which the society is structured"(Hill, 2004). For instance, some characteristics of institutional racism are that it can be covert or overt, unconscious or conscious and unintentional or intentional. However, racism does not necessarily occur in groups of people who meet and conspire. Even by internalizing the norms and values of an agency, institution or society can be called racism(Hill, 2004). Unfortunately, racism can occur without the person even knowing what he or she is doing.

In addition, institutional racism is also interconnected with sexism and classism(Hill, 2004). The most serious of this type of racism is commonly found among poor families headed by women who are of racial minority(Hill, 2004).

The personal opinion...[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, racism occurs everywhere. With experience from a racially diverse high school and a diverse high school sociology class, racism was a strong subject as to who it applies to and what is acceptable to each race. As such, in a discussion on derogatory words, one student made a comment that she did not understand why people were getting so worked up over the subject. This caused myself to interject and speak my opinion. Some black teens in my class mentioned that it was okay for themselves to call each other a "nigga" as long as it was not "nigger". I however made the suggestion of what if a white person came up to you in the hallway and called you by the first term that ends with the 'a'? The student who responded said that they would be offended. Why would one be offended when a white person calls them that, but not a fellow black? Racism. Some people tend to judge before they get to know the other. Sometimes to judge is to be prejudice or racist. Naturally, to judge is something almost everyone tends to do at one point in their life. However, I tend to stray away from it. I'm not friends with just white people. Some of my closest friends were black and in that sociology class. I was the quiet girl who never spoke unless she was called upon. That one day in class, everything changed. Not one person in that class looked at me the same because I voiced my opinion about racism. You could be green, purple, orange, yellow or red and I would still want to be your friend. I do not judge often and when I do, I am usually wrong about that person.

Everyone deserves a chance to become a friend. You never know who you will be friends with until you try. Race should not be apart of that decision.

Mini-Quiz[edit | edit source]

  1. What is the most common derogatory name used towards blacks even today?
    A. Blacky
    B. Jungle Bunny
    C. Nigger
    D. Wog
  2. In the past, scientists compared females and lower races to what animal?
    A. Ape
    B. Baboon
    C. Cat
    D. Dog
  3. Crystal is one of many black students at a local high school. She along with a few others were placed in a special education program in elemenraty school that has followed them to high school. Crystal and her classmates are associated with CRT how?
    A. Disproportionally
    B. Equally
    C. Inversely
    D. Proportionally
  4. If a minority student is being teased on or called names because of social class, the color of his or her skin and what classes he or she is taking, what is the student experincing?
    A. Education
    B. Happiness
    C. Racism
    D. Segregation

References[edit | edit source]

Goldberg, D (Ed.). (1990). Anatomy of racism. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Hill, R.B. (2004). Institutional racism in child welfare. Race and Society. 7, 17-33.

Maher, F. (2008). Twisted privileges: Terms of inclusion in feminist teaching. Radical Teacher. 83, 5-9.

Masko, A.L. (2008). Resistance at city middle school. Critical Race Theorizing in Educational Research. 10, 177-192.

Mason, D. (1994). Sociology: On the dangers and disconnecting race and racism. SAGE, 28, Retrieved February 5, 2009, from

Quiz Answers[edit | edit source]

  1. C.
  2. A.
  3. D.
  4. C.