Thursday, November 12, 2015

Missouri student protests shine a light on campus institutional racism

One positive outcome from the Univ. of Missouri student protests is finally more media focus and light shined on the racist culture often embedded in post-secondary campus life.

John Eligon, who has been covering the protests since Ferguson, does a fair job of getting at it in his yesterday's NYT piece, "At University of Missouri, Black Students See a Campus Riven by Race."

But even from the headline you can see that his focus is more on black students' "perception" rather than the reality of campus institutional racism. It's more about "racial tension" than racism. But why shouldn't there be "racial tension" on a campus with a long history of systemic racism that's become a part of the fabric of university life and where black students, many away from home and from their own communities for the first time, have to shoulder the burden of change, often in isolation. All this, not to mention the ongoing physical threats to their safety.

Eligon begins to make the case here [My comments in brackets]:
Missouri, where the state university began accepting black students in 1950 and hired its first black faculty member in 1969, has faced distinct challenges in overcoming racial divisions. [Eligon assumes that's what the administration is trying to do. We still have to consider the possible purpose of the institution being social reproduction. - M.K.].
With Kansas City to the west and St. Louis to the east, the state has two urban hubs that account for most of the state’s black residents, about 12 percent of the population. The rest of the state is overwhelmingly rural and white. Both blacks and whites are underrepresented [Not sure how both are "underrepresented". -- M.K.] at the university compared with the demographics of the entire state. Eight percent of students are black, while nearly 80 percent are white, compared with about 84 percent of the state.
Educational outcomes at the university have also not always been equal ["Not always" ?Have they ever been? -- M.K.]. While about 83 percent of black freshmen return for their sophomore year, nearly 88 percent of whites and 94 percent of Asians do. And black students have the lowest graduation rate of all races, less than 55 percent, compared with 71 percent for whites.
Black students are demanding the hiring of more minority faculty members which they say would help improve "racial understanding" [Eligon's words -- M.K.] . About three out of four faculty members on this campus are white, and only about 3 percent are black.

Yes, that would be a good start. 

The struggle continues. Look for it to spread to other campuses. I hope so. 

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