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Confronting Racism in Higher Education: Problems and Possibilities for Fighting Ignorance, Bigotry, and Isolation

reviewed by Melissa A. Martinez & Jocabed G. Márquez - July 22, 2016

coverTitle: Confronting Racism in Higher Education: Problems and Possibilities for Fighting Ignorance, Bigotry, and Isolation
Author(s): Jeffrey S. Brooks & Noelle Witherspoon Arnold (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623961564, Pages: 272, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com

While the inauguration of President Obama in 2009 as the 44th President of the United States was considered by some a clear sign that our country had entered a post-racial era, the realities of continued racial inequity and racism in the U.S. were once again brought to light in late 2014. Grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. While these two incidents raised the question of police brutality against communities of color and specifically Black men, they also provided an avenue to revisit conversations about race in society. Young and old Americans from all walks of life were called to action: marching in protest, engaging in economic boycotts, staging die-ins, and showing their solidarity and frustration through social media with hashtags like #blacklivesmatter, #boycottblackfriday, and #crimingwhilewhite. Among the many people voicing their concerns were college students across the country, including the University of Pittsburgh, Texas Womens University, and medical students who organized die-ins using the hashtag #whitecoatsforblacklives.

This type of racial dialogue has continued among the masses, reflecting the need to discuss and address racism in our society at large and particularly in our institutions. In Jeffrey S. Brooks and Noelle Witherspoon Arnolds edited book, Confronting Racism in Higher Education: Problems and Possibilities for Fighting Ignorance, Bigotry, and Isolation, education scholars, student affairs practitioners, and doctoral students speak to this critical concern as it relates to higher education. The volume provides varying perspectives on race-related issues as they pertain to students, faculty, and staff members in the university setting, including two- and four-year institutions, but admittedly does not offer solutions to issues of race or racism (p. xiii). The books premise is instead to draw your attention to the continued pervasiveness of race-related issues on college campuses as a means of provoking action. Educational leadership, faculty, staff, students, and administrators will find the book useful in their own practice as a consequence.

The book contains ten chapters that examine race-related issues in higher education, primarily through the use of a critical race theory (CRT) framework. This critical analysis seems to be the thread that binds these chapters together as there are no other apparent sequences or themes in the ways chapters are presented. Several of the contributing authors use a critical perspective or CRT to examine literature as it pertains to a certain topic area in higher education or to expand notions of critical pedagogy. The chapters by Chad Everett Kee, Evelyn Y. Young, and Claire Peinado Fraczek fall into this category. Kee reviews the literature on college readiness and its relationship with CRT tenets. He focuses on identifying a method to counter the rising number of high school graduates of color who are not college ready. Youngs chapter, Legal and Educational Foundations in Critical Race Theory, provides a general overview of the literature in CRT in both law and educational research and then examines multiple layers of racism present in the areas of curriculum and instruction, educational policy, school finance, and educational leadership. Fraczek speaks to the need to consider multiracial representations within critical pedagogy and discusses the strengths and limitations of using racialized categories for teaching and learning about the oppressive structures of racism.

Other scholars interrogate race-related issues as they pertain to current policy or practice in higher education and secondary school settings, the latter acknowledges a K20 perspective. For instance, Sarah Diem and Bradley W. Carpenter focus on five critical concepts they believe must be woven into the curricula and pedagogical practices of programs seeking to prepare educational leaders for diverse settings. These co-authors believe that educational leadership preparatory programs must carefully examine issues pertaining to: (a) color-blind ideology, (b) misconceptions of human difference, (c) merit-based achievement, (d) critical self-reflection, and (e) the interrogation of race-related silences in the classroom (p. 2). Both conceptual and practical, these concepts could transform leadership preparation programs in regards to how future leaders are asked to think about issues of race and racism. Two other useful chapters in this category include Terri Watson and Jennifer Sughrues Whos Zoomin Who?: A Critical Race Analysis of Floridas Public High School Graduates and Neither Latino nor White Enough: Educational Experiences of Meso Hispanic, Meso American, Urban, and Suburban Public High School Students by Paula Marie Gallegos.

Several chapters of the book primarily focus on race-related issues as they pertain to African Americans. Brandon L. Wolfes chapter presents findings from a phenomenological study focusing on the experiences and persistence strategies used by six mid- to high-level full-time African American administrators working at a predominantly white institution (PWI) in the southern U.S. Their experiences suggest that these institutions must find ways to become more open, inviting, and supportive to administrators of color if diversity is truly a core value in higher education. Tamara Nichele Stevensons chapter contributes to our understandings of the racialized experiences of African American faculty members at public community colleges and there is a dearth of research in this area. Andre Browns chapter provides a literature review of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) and their role in providing Black women and men with opportunities to develop leadership, social, and cognitive skills. BGLOs help increase students campus engagement, enable learners to adjust to the college environment, and provide social networking opportunities that consequently help students cope with stressors associated with pressures to assimilate and conform. Collette Madeleine Blooms chapter examines how the double bind of race and gender informs the current leadership and practice of three African American women principals in urban school districts. Drawing on an Afrocentric feminist epistemological standpoint, Bloom shares themes that emerge in her study and provides suggestions for university faculty and staff members who seek to more suitably prepare African American women administrators in universities and public schools.

Overall, the edited volume Confronting Racism in Higher Education provides an array of insights regarding race-related issues in secondary and postsecondary settings through the critical perspectives of key stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, and practitioners in universities across the country. However, given the increasing racial and ethnic diversity among college students nationwide, including chapters that give voice to the race-related experiences of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous college students, faculty, and staff would have provided a more inclusive perspective. The book also could have benefitted from a concluding chapter to reinforce the books overall premise and call readers to action.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 22, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21517, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 8:13:26 PM

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About the Author
  • Melissa Martinez
    Texas State University
    E-mail Author
    MELISSA A. MARTINEZ is an assistant professor in the Education and Community Leadership Program at Texas State University. Her research focuses on equity and access issues along the P-16 education pipeline, particularly in relation to: 1) improving college readiness, college access, and fostering a college going culture for underserved communities, 2) the preparation of equity-oriented school leaders, and 3) the experiences of faculty of color. Dr. Martinez is working on various projects at the moment including a three-year grant funded project focused on college readiness efforts and the college culture at three high schools in Texas that predominantly serve students of color and students from lower income backgrounds.
  • Jocabed Márquez
    Texas State University
    E-mail Author
    JOCABED G. MÁRQUEZ is a second year doctoral student in School Improvement at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She received an M.S. in Chemistry and her research interests include border culture, youth and community development, and Mexican American women in STEM fields.
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