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The US Education system props up racism

To all the patriots reading this, please put down your pitchforks and your guns. The U.S., in my personal opinion, is still one of the greatest political entities to ever exist. But that doesn’t negate the numerous issues that it still has. For example, Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, and many children in the area now have learning disabilities. But that’s not what I am here to discuss.

I am here to relay to you that, yes, the United States education system is inherently racist.

Racism most reasserted itself in American society with the election of Donald Trump. And it became dangerous in early August 2017 during the “Unite the Right” rally between white supremacist groups and left-wing counterprotesters. These prove that, despite the civil rights movement of more than 50 years ago, racism is still very much a part of the American identity. But what’s uniquely concerning is how early the current version of American racism starts.

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According to CNN, preschool-age black youth are suspended at 3.6 times the rate of their white peers and 3.8 times from kindergarten to 12th grade. And these are just the discipline statistics.

There are some 1.6 million students who attend schools who have no counselors but do have law enforcement present, especially in schools where the majority of students are students of color. There are also books that devalue African Americans and euphemize the history of slavery, a noted example being a McGraw-Hill textbook that referred to African slaves as “workers” who “emigrated” to the United States, an unacceptable error which was not fixed until 2015, according to Time magazine.

Even with the recent correction, if you open any textbook and glance over it, you will notice something strange: It’s exceedingly Eurocentric. “When Europeans first did —” is a phrase that’s echoed in most history textbooks and even many textbooks in other disciplines. For example, the Eurocentric model of American education implies that Aristotle was essentially the founder of philosophy, neglecting to mention that Aristotle, along with numerous other ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, went to Egypt to study.

It’s not just philosophy, either. It’s also engineering, medicine and politics. Many of the things that Europeans get the credit for starting come from African teachings. Racial bias has gotten so severe that students are often punished for wearing traditional hairstyles and clothing, being deemed a distraction to the other students. Banning clothing like the kente cloth or banning hairstyles such as tree braids are just two of the many ways that Eurocentric education demonizes and degrades African history and culture.

When exposing any problem, it’s fundamental that you bring up possible solutions. Attempting to topple a societal model that’s been in place, such as the whitewashing of Jesus, is no easy task. And, frankly, affirmative action and diversity quotas are not it. By issuing a diversity quota, you’re effectively pushing under-qualified people into positions they shouldn’t be in and it’s systematically just reversing the issue, not actually fixing it.

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The only way to properly fix the issue is to give minorities the resources to compete equally with white students from the beginning. It’s clear that the issue at hand begins in preschool and persists throughout their schooling. The easiest way to teach young students racial sensitivity is through diversity programs, and that goes for all levels of education. 

Thankfully, some of these programs are regularly implemented during Black History Month. But the issue with this is that it still implies that black history began with slavery. It fails to expose young students to the cultures of Africa so that they may be sensitive to them when — if ever — they are exposed. We have to remind our students that other cultures are not weird, but rather important. At higher levels of education, diversity programs can expand students’ perspectives more robustly. 

Diversity programs can take many shapes. They can be as simple as a play presented by students. You can also expand it out: Let’s celebrate the independence days of not only America but also Kenya, Niger or Trinidad. Provide as many opportunities to try foods from other nations and other cultures.

It’s clear that racism still affects the United States educational system long after its supposed “end” with the civil rights movement. Starting with more police encounters and suspensions in elementary, middle and high schools. Upgrading to shocking microaggressions, not just in colleges and universities but in specialized fields such as STEM and Medical. While it may seem that this problem is almost unbeatable, it’s not appropriate to believe so. By encouraging diversity programs and exposing students to other cultures, we can directly combat the racism that is choking black students and other students of color in the US educational system and make a dent in societal racism that chokes this nation.