Racism’s effect on students

Malavika Santhosh, Reporter

In a hateful world already geared against them, minority students face even more racism and hostility at school. Racism in schools can impact students mentally, physically, and socially. Racism occurs at three levels: institutional, structural, and personal, according to a scholarly article published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.

Institutional racism is “a system of cultural messages and institutional practices and policies that give advantage to some, based on race” defines the Journal.  The article discusses how American schools are established on the values of the white middle-class majority, which function as barriers to those, not of that majority. Examples of institutionalized racism are culturally biased assessments, unfair to students who misunderstand English language norms, and, are discipline referrals/practices that contrast from those directed at the majority.

Structural racism is embedded in the structure and elements of school. The article refers to how many schools and school districts are heavily segregated, even more so now than in the time of the Jim Crow laws.

Personal racism, on the other hand, is based on individual people who act on racist beliefs and personal experiences. This could be anything from teachers holding lower expectations for minority students to aggressive acts toward a student by another student.

Racism directly affects minority students in various ways. The U.S. Department of Education reports that black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. Even black preschool students, who only make up eighteen percent of all preschool students, represent almost half of preschool children suspended. Higher rates of suspension and expulsion in minority groups mean that students spend less time in school, says ThoughtCo, and have their academic careers interrupted or cut short. A study done by the American Educational Research Association found that black and Hispanic students were half as likely as white students to participate in gifted and talented programs. According to ThoughtCo, this may imply racial bias as students of color with teachers of color are more likely to be identified as gifted and talented, meaning white teachers may overlook students of color due to personal racism.

Name calling and negative stereotyping seems to be the more common forms of racism in American schools, while aggressive and violent acts of racism aren’t as common. Experiencing racism is distressing and can be seriously harmful to one’s mental health. Overlooking or discounting experiences with racism can also be detrimental and lead to feelings of hopelessness, something many marginalized students already experience says a scholarly article done by Amy Masko (2008).

The Language Arts Journal of Michigan cites a study in which over 500 students and their parents suggested that students who reported/perceived acts of racial/ethnic discrimination were more likely to show symptoms of depression, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.  In 2009, USA Today said that “Hispanics who report racism are more than three times as likely as other children to have symptoms of depression; African Americans are more than twice as likely; and those of “other” minority races have almost quadruple the odds”.

The above-mentioned studies point to a clear link between racism in schools and the damaging impact it has on students. Racism, institutional, structural, and personal, exists in schools and continues to hurt students in a considerable way, even affecting their mental health.  The only way to combat this issue is to start meaningful conversations about racism, educate people, and encourage inclusivity. Otherwise, this may never end.