Even within urban school districts, schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority students receive fewer instructional resources than others. And tracking systems exacerbate these inequalities by segregating many low-income and minority students within schools. In combination, these policies leave minority students with fewer and lower-quality books, curriculum materials, laboratories, and computers; significantly larger class sizes; less qualified and experienced teachers; and less access to high-quality curriculum. Many schools serving low-income and minority students do not even offer the math and science courses needed for college, and they provide lower-quality teaching in the classes they do offer. It all adds up.
Linda Darling-Hammond in Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education
The way that history is commonly presented in the US (at least in my experience) has been lacking in intersectionality and ironically historical context. I don’t think that individual history teachers are the root of this problem in part because there are systemic issues that play out, like how public schools are often underfunded, overcrowded, and fail to address racism.
Months and events like Black History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month are so necessary because of the ways in which we as a society (especially we as white people in power) have written about history. We often alienate the others of society while learning about history – we whitewash and in some cases, don’t even address some things. (And no we don’t need a White History Month because that’s literally every other goddamn month at this point. We don’t need everything to be about us and our whiteness!!)
I think it’s so important to relearn history and reimagine the ways in which we talk and interact with historical events and people because the way history is often presented, we miss out on so much context and understanding. There are so many examples and things that we miss out on in the whitewashing of history:
- Like how Hawaii became a part of the US because of an extremely illegal military coup that the US was very much a part of over 120 years ago. Many Native Hawaiians have fought for their kingdom back from the US federal government, something that has unfortunately been declined repeatedly.
- What we know about both Christopher Columbus and Thanksgiving are really really wrong. We should be learning more about the indigenous people of the US and the rest of the Americas (aka the people who were here to greet Columbus after he got lost n 1492…) and the history books aren’t doing a great job at that.
- Or even that Oregon was actually started as a racist utopia. The south and bible belt of the US typically have that stereotype of being racist and filled with white supremacy but that’s so not the case because racism and white supremacy unfortunately exist all over the country. Films like Whitelandia and Local Color are looking at and bringing attention to this problem. (The makers of Whitelandia have done an interview with OPB and I share some of the concerns that they are two white producers behind this problem but that’s not completely relevant right now…)
And there’s so much of queer history that exists but hardly mentioned. Being queer or LGBTQ+ isn’t new or some trend – there’s a rich history of this community and LGBTQ+ people. Eboné Bell collected some images of queer pioneers from the past and there’s even a pop up museum of queer history that does temporary art installations celebrating the largely unknown LGBT history.
The Stonewall Inn Riots and the Cooper’s Donuts, and Compton’s Cafeteria riots are all important events in US LGBTQ+ history but hardly ever widely spoken of. The Quist App has a wide range of information and resources about queer history, like how guys found guys before the internet and LGBT history walking tours.
There are some interesting ways to learn about history (because it can be boring at times). I already mentioned the Quist App for LGBTQ+ history but there’s also the podcast Stuff You Missed in History, one that I actually really like listening to!
Recently, White Student Unions have been popping up at different universities – apparently more than 30 universities now have one, including Georgia State University, NYU, UCLA, and the University of Missouri. The one at University of Illinois has been consistently challenged the Black Lives Matter movement, even going as far as to label the movement as ‘terrorism’.
But the thing about white student unions is that they’re completely and totally unnecessary and they are utterly wrong about the Black Lives Matter movement. As white people, we do not need a white student union because we are not oppressed or marginalized because of our race. Actually, it’s far from that because the entire United States is built on white supremacy and white privilege buys us a lot here.
What do u even discuss in a White Student Union? How not to season food? How to make our lips look bigger w/ makeup? How to oppress others?
— IsaJennie (@IsaJennie) November 22, 2015
Things like Black Student Unions, MEChA, and other similar student unions are so important because places like universities can be incredibly isolating for students of color. There are microaggressions and being on campuses as a person of color can be really really difficult. Having these student unions, clubs, and other safe spaces can be incredibly beneficial because they often offer a sanctuary from the world that constantly dehumanizing people of color and fill in the gaps that are lacking in society and on campuses.
what could you possibly need to establish a white student union for when college campuses & reality itself already exclusively cater to you
— mwiza (@COPACETlC) November 22, 2015
White Student Unions, on the other hand, can be a danger for many reasons. White privilege afford us so much within the United States, especially on college campuses. Our whiteness protects us, offers opportunities and safeties that aren’t there for people of color. We don’t need white student unions because the world we’ve created is there for us and we have so much power and position here. The point of clubs and unions like Black Student Unions and others is to provide spaces that we as white people don’t need because that same space is literally everywhere for us.
Education and academia is often a really difficult place to navigate as a marginalized person, particularly as a person of color (although there are other issues!). And there have been plenty of student protests over the past few issues calling out issues like racism, heterosexism, and many types of microaggressions. So today I’m going to address some of the protests that have happened over the past few years.
Today is the fifth annual Spirit Day, one in which people wear purple to take a stand against the bullying that LGBTQ+ youth often face. The fact of the matter is that there are so many LGBTQ+ youth who experience bullying or harassment and make up a disproportionate amount of homeless youth.
Today is Indigenous People’s day not Columbus day.
— Mr. Credible Hulk (@Pundit_AcadEMIC) October 12, 2015
A few days ago, I wrote about how Christopher Columbus was in fact really cruel and has a particularly bloody history. Because of his cruelty and awful track record, I don’t think that he deserves a national day and instead we as a nation should follow in the footsteps of many cities and celebrate indigenous peoples day. Several cities, including Portland OR, Minneapolis, MN, and Seattle WA, have all declared today as Indigenous Peoples Day.
I’m very much a hands on learner – the times we did labs in different science classes were some of my favorite parts of school. (Science wasn’t a huge strength but being able to actually do and see what we were learning was really fun and helped a lot with my understanding of the concepts.)
That’s why I absolutely love places like the Pacific Science Center in Seattle and Mind Port Exhibits in Bellingham. Both places offer interactive exhibits and are so much fun to go through. I just really love being able to actually see how different concepts play out in real life – like how locks actually work, how tornadoes spin, the impact of climate change on Arctic Ice, among so many other things.
I know not everyone learns the same way but for me, the hands on approach definitely makes everything more interesting and easier to understand conceptually. I think the way the current mainstream education system is set up (at no fault of individual teachers) is inherently flawed in many ways, especially the intense focus on standardized testing. Not every student learns or tests the same – one student might excel at tests while another excels at the hands on labs not offered during many standardized tests.
Plus, there is an entire other level of classism and poverty to consider around education – not every student will have the same resources to excel. Fancy projects with flashy posters or graphics aren’t accessible to every single student and not everyone has access to a thriving and helpful support system.
Ultimately though, I really really think that the education system is inherently flawed because of budget cuts and national uniform policies. Everyone learns differently and with large class sizes, it can be easy for some to fall through the cracks. I love places like the Pacific Science Center that offer fun hands on learning opportunities outside of classrooms (but going can be rather expensive).
Going to college in my family was always a given – many of my family members on my mom’s side have at least a Bachelor’s degree and some have Master’s. From a young age, I was socialized into the idea that I would get no where without a college degree and it wasn’t a matter of if I would go but instead, a matter of what school and what field of study. And as a white, middle class, Honor Roll student with lots of volunteer experience, getting in was yet another given. I had a lot of privilege that helped with my acceptances to several schools so even though I only applied to five schools my senior year of high school, I got into all but one (and the one I didn’t get into, I was wait listed). I had (and still do have) all the odds stacked in my favor for university admissions, despite my mother’s unnecessary anxiety.
I spent the first year and a half at my alma mater with my head down and focused on acclimating to a new school and city and meeting new people. I went to my classes, participated in a select few school clubs, and hung out with the people on my dorm floor. I wasn’t out as queer during this time and I spent so much energy trying to stay in the closet, especially since I went to a Catholic university. The more I tried to be like most of my campus, the more I hated it there.
Finally the second semester of my sophomore year rolls around and as well as publicly coming out as a queer person, I started privately meeting with other students about the issues we were all facing at our school. Through these meetings I realized that I wasn’t alone in how I felt about the school and that there were so many issues of racism, heteronormativity, ableism, classism, and other things that made being on campus incredibly difficult for many minority students.
It was through this smallish group of people that I learned the biggest lessons of my college career and was pushed the most academically. This was the point where I learned about how people with disabilities had issues navigating the system, what microaggressions were, and how my friends who were people of color faced an incredibly different experience than I did. I learned with this group that higher education is not built for diversity, for people who challenge the status quo. But even with meeting with this group of incredible game changing individuals, I still felt alone on campus. We were just a few on campus and the more I pushed back on the rest of the campus (faculty and students alike), the more was pushed back on me. And I thought this was just a problem that my school faced, making the journey even more difficult.
But then I realized it was a systemic issue that was faced by so many other colleges and students. I started getting in touch with several other students from religious universities around the country who also shared experiences of heteronormativity and rejection for being LGBTQ+. Being queer on a religious campus can be incredibly difficult – some schools (like the Catholic University of America) have repeatedly rejected students’ efforts to form LGBTQ+ student clubs. It took several years for Holy Cross affiliated schools like University of Notre Dame and University of Portland to grant official status to LGBTQ+ clubs but even then, microaggressions still exist on the campuses and help reinforce heteronormativity. George Fox University in Newberg, OR has a terrible reputation for how it handles LGBTQ+ students, like how they denied a trans student housing.
The above video is a spoken word poem that highlights the disparities of race at UCLA and the statistics of black men on the campus.
Being on a college campus is hard when you are a minority, especially since the microaggressions from students, faculty, and administration often make it clear that they do not want you there. Not only does higher education need to be more accessible financially but the atmospheres need to be more accepting.