Racism in higher education: upheld at every level

    It’s not just administration who perpetuates white supremacy

    Rosa Gómez

    More stories from Rosa Gómez

    Pronouns: they matter
    November 16, 2021

    Unpack why you’re in the position that you’re in, why you believe what you do, and how you have contributed to upholding white supremacy. Photo by submitted

    Let’s talk about racism in higher education. More specifically, how organizations uphold structural racism within their organizations. 

    My peers whose thoughts, opinions and actions have been solely formed within the white-washed walls of primarily white institutions.

    My white counterparts, who walk through the halls of Centennial and Hibbard, oblivious of the privilege that has allowed them to navigate through this institution. 

    An institution that was made for only them in mind and caters to the minor inconveniences they face. The rest of us are left defenseless to deal with outwardly racist actions on a daily basis, the lingering feeling of being “othered” in every class and the understanding that we will never be viewed or treated the same as white students. 

    We all come to the disappointing, stinging realization that we are held to a different standard by those in positions of power– at every level. An expectation for us to speak out about every injustice, but then we are slapped with outcrys when the ways we discuss our lived experiences are uncomfortable for people to hear. 

    We have an entire population of white students, faculty and staff who claim to champion for social justice initiatives and EDI causes but fail to uphold these principles in their lives. They make public announcements that they want to put equity and diversity at the forefront of their initiatives but uphold a cycle in which they remain in power. 

    We have an administration that is willing to accept 70 million dollars towards a new sports facility but fails to properly provide students of marginalized identities with the adequate support and resources they need and deserve.

    We have a campus culture that demonizes students of color who speak out: labeling them as intimidating, aggressive, presumptuous and entitled. Labels that are placed on myself by the very same people who then turn around and celebrate my white peers who have done nothing to fight for racial justice, aside from making empty public sentiments.

    We are placed on a warped pedestal when we do something that is worthy of recognition but then pushed back down when we call for any real change. We are met with roadblocks, hoops to jump through and animosity — just to get a seat at the table.

    A table where the chair is pulled out and a place set for those who are afforded the privilege of whiteness. Whiteness that shields them from consequences, allows them to ignore the very real ramifications of their words and actions and whiteness that makes every word that comes out of their mouths law. 

    White words that set a precedent about how to react to and treat their Brown and Black peers, who have to put up walls just to survive the experience that has been, and continues to be shaped to protect whiteness. 

    Black and Brown students whose every action is received with a double standard; not afforded the prospect of innocence, second chances or the benefit of the doubt.

    Consider this article an opportunity to reflect on your privileges. 

    How have you kept a power imbalance intact? 

    When have you jumped to a conclusion about people of color in your life?

    When have you been a perpetrator of a person of color’s pain? 

    Why are you so unwilling to accept your role in this cycle of injustice and racism? 

    It is imperative that we confront whiteness as it presents itself through discriminatory words and actions. 

    It’s time that we all do better, so consider this my public plea: unpack why you are in the position that you’re in, why you believe what you do, and how you have contributed to upholding white supremacy. 

    Gómez can be reached at [email protected]