Restructuring the Classroom: Race against Time
By Muhammad Zaib
The famous nickname of the United States: The Land of Opportunity.
Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American society, deeply rooted in our greatest strengths of democracy and diversity. Still for far too many, the American Dream remains out of reach. Ingrained imbalances in our rules and regulations, and in our public and private institutions, generally deny equal opportunity to individuals and communities. Today, the United States experiences three factors that have exposed and intensified the historical movement for justice: categories that organize individuals into distinct groups, factions that trigger ingroup loyalty, and segregation that hardens racist perceptions and preferences.
To truly combat systemic racism, one must acknowledge that racism is entrenched within the political and social structure of history, the effects of which remain to this day. Thus, I believe that it’s imperative to immediately restructure the systems at hand, beginning with public and private institutions of higher education. In essence, humans aren’t born racist. Our brains, the “survival machines”, evolved to make judgments of people on the basis of skin color, implying that racism is primarily learned, nurtured through experience and knowledge. In the present day, racism is embedded within our educational system which breeds the atrocious philosophy of radicalizing race.
This problem ends now.
Within the higher educational system of the United States, I propose:
- That all students, both undergraduate and graduate, be enrolled in mandatory coursework that deals with issues of identity, including race. Such coursework will focus explicitly on systems of power and privilege in the United States, centered on the voices of the oppressed.
- I believe that American citizens have a responsibility to learn about the ways in which systems of power and privilege continue to shape the experiences of people of color on both university campuses and around the world. Such mandatory coursework will provide a framework for challenging and dismantling the white hegemony that pervades institutions’ curriculum.
- That all faculty members within educational institutions receive ongoing interactive training that deals with issues of identity, including race. Such training will focus explicitly on systems of power and privilege in the United States, centered on the voices of the oppressed.
- I believe that if an institution truly wants to foster an environment of inclusion for all, we should see support in the institution’s commitment to ensuring that those entrusted to guide our academic pursuits possess a meaningful understanding of genuine respect for the traditions, cultures, and backgrounds of their students.
- That there be at least 2 standing meetings throughout each academic year with the university’s President, Vice President of Student Affairs, and support staff in the Office of Academic Diversity.
- I believe that in order to stay proactive and progressive in regards to racial and discriminatory issues, there needs to be an ongoing dialogue with those entrusted to represent students of color on the institution’s campus.
- That the institution should create an Anti-Racist Initiative where it can centralize its efforts to educate the campus and community about the horror of white supremacy and political education.
- Institutions have a variety of decentralized efforts to address racial biases on campus. Universities must create a centralized department or program with the explicit function of battling racism.
- That the institution develop a plan to increase the presence of underrepresented black students on campus.
- Black student populations at 4-year universities disproportionately represent international and first-generation African students. Although these students have a right to prosper, there is a lack of investment in black students whose families were directly disturbed by the African Holocaust in America. We need to actively work to support students whose families have been affected for generations by white supremacy and American facism.
- That all Greek organizations, including academic and social fraternities, mandate sustained interactive diversity and inclusion, race-based training prior to entering a fraternity or sorority and every year they are in that fraternity or sorority.
- Repeatedly, minority students are subject to racist treatment by members of Greek life organizations. Clearly, there’s a lack of education concerning the respect of minorities on university campuses. By having a diversity and inclusion racial bias training prior to entering Greek life, members will become educated about the intricacies of race relations, and the significance of positive race relations not only on campus, but also in the real world.
- That the institution-wide health initiative hire at least two psychologists, two physicians, two psychiatrists, two physician assistants, and two nurses of color.
- I believe, and research shows, that people of color historically have reason to doubt medical professionals. I believe that there should be qualified medical experts of color to adequately address the ways racism affects the mental and emotional health of black students at predominantly white institutions. Hiring more medical professionals of color could make students of color more comfortable addressing their physical and mental health while at the university.
I believe that short-term solutions will foster long-term cultures of anti-racism; the small actions will add up. In the past, many initiatives proved ineffective, in my opinion, because they tried to address the issues of systemic racism on a global level. An effort to change the way humans have been evolved to think must start on college campuses. Change will occur by making a lasting impact on the students that will graduate and take with them the values and knowledge put forth by the university. Colleges can play a significant part in promoting just and anti-racist environments for students of color. In the modern day, institutions of higher education must eliminate the toxic culture of suppression and prejudice by offering support methodologies and regularly assessing students’ sense of belonging.
Our nation should commemorate the contributions of people of color who dedicated their lives to combat racial justice and by doing so added to the Founding Fathers’ legacy. These individuals demonstrated courage and dedication which should serve as a model for us all. I implore everyone across the nation to act swiftly and stand on the right side of history, because restructuring the classroom is a battle between the present and the future.