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Overcoming Educational Racism in the Community College: Creating Pathways to Success for Minority and Impoverished Student Populations

reviewed by Brian L. McGowan & Donovan Livingston - June 06, 2017

coverTitle: Overcoming Educational Racism in the Community College: Creating Pathways to Success for Minority and Impoverished Student Populations
Author(s): Angela Long
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, LLC., Sterling
ISBN: 1620363488, Pages: 306, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

Substantiating the call for understanding student experiences in the community college milieu, Overcoming Educational Racism in the Community College: Creating Pathways to Success for Minority and Impoverished Student Populations edited by Angela Long, compiles research, narratives, and promising practices for reimagining institutional culture as a means for helping historically marginalized students in higher education persist and complete community college. This timely text is organized into six parts; five of which are devoted to unearthing the social, emotional, and cultural conditions that characterize community college experiences for Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/American Indian, and Asian American/Pacific Islander students, as well as Caucasian students living in poverty. The sixth part of Longs text proposes recommendations for redesigning the educational experiences of these specific populations.

The aim of this work, as expressed in Longs introduction, is to answer the difficult question: are minority students at community colleges disadvantaged by educational racism? (p. x). This book is unique in that the first five parts are subdivided in three ways, capturing the voice of a national researcher, the voice of a national leader, and cutting edge models for best practice for each racial/ethnic group. This thoughtful arrangement is powerful, namely because it constructs a conversational narrative between each author: all of whom serve in various capacities as college administrators, student affairs professionals, and educational researchers.

The first part explores the experiences of Black/African American populations. In Chapter One, Glenda Bivens and J. Luke Wood offer current trends on Black students and highlight important demographic data on the types of community colleges they attend. A real strength of this chapter lies in their examination of Black student success outcomes based on gender while describing the pervasive economic implications of attrition for community college students. Jamillah Moore and Edward Bush begin chapter two reminding readers that the U.S. has struggled to level the educational playing field and close the achievement gap. Within this chapter lie answers to the thought-provoking question: What are the conscious and unconscious practices that permeate the community college system that must be addressed to create a conducive learning environment for all African Americans? (p. 34). In Chapter Three, Kenneth Atwater and Joan Holmes offer four pillars of academic achievement that they deem critical to the retention success of Black males at Hillsborough Community College.

The second part unearths the realities of Hispanic/Latino populations. Given the renewed focus on degree completion, in Chapter Four, Deborah Santiago reminds us to move beyond deficit-based profiles associated with both Latinos and community colleges, and offers nine recommendations to improve their success, which include incentivizing expanded and coordinated services. In Chapter Five, Maria Harper-Marinick argues that the issues impacting Latino student populations should be everyones concern (p. 80). A major strength of this chapter is the authors exploration of the lived realities facing Latino students with particular attention to their academic preparation, access and affordability, and pathways to success. The sixth chapter advocates for community colleges to foster a culture of completion. Answering this call, Eduardo Padrón highlights comprehensive campus initiatives and curriculum at Miami Dade College in response to a changing society and workforce.

Part Three describes Native American/American Indian populations. In Chapter Seven, Wei Song refers to this population as the least-researched student group in higher education (p. 111). Song ends this chapter posing important questions to extend scholarship on Native American/American Indian postsecondary experiences and labor market outcomes. Cynthia Lindquist begins chapter eight discussing her life as a member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, a tribal member, and a tribal college president. She highlights the unique relationship American Indians and Alaska Natives have with the U.S., and offers recommendations for practice based on 30-plus years of experience working for American Indians in health and higher education. In Chapter Nine, James Utterback discusses and describes the recruitment, enrollment, and retention of Native Students at Seminole State College.

The fourth part observes Asian American/Pacific Islander populations. Chapter Ten, written by Robert Teranishi, debunks existing literature that is heavily influenced by stereotypes and false perceptions, which result in AAPI students being overlooked and underserved at colleges and universities (p. 162). In Chapter Eleven, Lee Lambert describes the model minority myth and its potential to cause harm for Asian students. Within the chapter, Lambert advocates for creating environments that foster a culture of inclusive excellence. I found Chapters Ten and Eleven to be compelling for how complementary they are to one another. Brian Murphy and Rowena Tomaneng end this part in Chapter Twelve, highlighting De Anza Colleges IMPACT Asian American/Pacific Islander program. Similar to Deborah Santiagos sentiments in Chapter Four, Murphy and Tomaneng call for an institutional culture shift from faculty and staff that begins with the assets and capacities of our widely diverse AAPI students and not with what they do not yet possess (p. 183).

The fifth part of Longs work explores Caucasian students in poverty. Early in this volume, Long calls our attention to the fact that 44% of all Caucasian students attending community colleges are living daily in poverty (p. xix). In Chapter Thirteen, Christopher Mullin provides both a comprehensive overview of poverty rates across racial/ethnic groups and compelling insights into the impoverished white population. A noteworthy aspect of Chapter Fourteen, authored by G. Edward Hughes, is the description of two types of poverty: situational and generational. Hughes views community colleges as a pathway out of poverty, and details specific resources available to community colleges to learn about students from impoverished backgrounds. In Chapter Fifteen, using Amarillo College as a site, Lowery-Hart and Cara Crowley highlight institution-specific initiatives aimed to eliminate institutional barriers impeding student success. A noteworthy addition to the chapter were Amarillo Colleges six Cs of a No Excuses professional, which entail being committed, courageous, collaborative, creative, character centered, and completion focused.

Finally, from adopting learning community cohort models to proposing pedagogical practices which tap into students multiple intelligences, Long (2016) equips community college personnel with a set of actionable approaches to ensure cross-cultural student success in Chapter Sixteen. Long concludes this book by introducing five essential tasks community colleges should strive to complete before the year 2020: to establish a clear and directive education mission statement for the future; collate data and proactively assess minority student populations; implement the six fundamental factors for improving student retention; hire more diverse faculty; and increase funding options as needed for select groups.

It is worth noting that this book is the first of its kind, bringing together a contingent of voices to analyze in depth the enrollment, retention, and completion patterns and experiences of five key student demographics navigating Americas community colleges. The focus on Native American/American Indian, Asian American/Pacific Islander students, as well as Caucasian students living in poverty is significant, as these populations are understudied in the broader community college literature. I particularly appreciated how some authors were intentional about creating synergy among the chapters, responding to and complementing the work of other contributors. While chapters written with the voice of the researcher primarily relied on empirical measures to communicate the current trends in enrollment, retention, and completion for each respective demographic, many national leaders responded with counterhegemonic narratives, anchoring these data with lived experience. Storytelling, as noted by Soloranzo & Yosso (2002), has a rich continuing tradition in African American, Chicano/a, and Native American communities, and oppressed groups have instinctively known and historically implemented stories as an essential survival tool. The presence of these narratives evokes in the reader a deeper connection to the issues facing minoritized students, as well as a sense of urgency in addressing the inequities in community college completion.

Furthermore, faculty interventions were also essential to ensuring minoritized student success. This represents a paradigm shift within higher education, placing more of the onus for student achievement in the hands of faculty rather than the students. Because minoritized students often perceive college as a hostile environment, faculty initiative to understand their students cultural experiences and expressions as well as their socioeconomic circumstances lays the foundation for trust.

Long (2016) introduces a new universal conceptualization of educational racism, in the conclusion, referring to it as a cultural bias manifested either overtly or covertly by a system of education and educators that benefits or punishes/inhibits students based on their culture, race, ethnicity, ideologies, and/or socioeconomic status (p. 236). Because educational racism is regarded as a pervasive impediment to student persistence, this term, in my opinion, should appear much earlier in the text rather than in the conclusion. By leaving educational racism undefined, the content as well as the title has the potential to alienate the very population the book aims to help. Defining educational racism from the onset would allow those readers who are apprehensive or adversarial when discussing race, poverty, or educational inequality, to consider its significance throughout the text.

Taken as a whole, this book makes a valuable contribution to the literature and can act as an important resource for institutional leaders looking to understand and improve the experiences of community colleges most vulnerable populations. The 20 contributing authors of Overcoming Educational Racism should applaud themselves for this timely work, as it can help institutional leaders eliminate structural inequities that impede minoritized student success in our nations community colleges.


Solorzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counter-storytelling as an analytical framework for dducation research. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 2344.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 06, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22018, Date Accessed: 2/28/2022 12:31:41 PM

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About the Author
  • Brian McGowan
    University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    E-mail Author
    BRIAN L. McGOWAN, Ph.D., is assistant professor in the higher education program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. McGowan’s research interests focuses on Black men’s achievement, engagement, identity development, and interpersonal relationships in higher education; and examinations of race, gender, diversity, and social justice within postsecondary institutional contexts. His recent publications include a co-edited book entitled, Black Men in the Academy: Narratives of Resiliency, Achievement, and Success (Palgrave MacMillan) and Interpersonal relationships: Exploring race and relationship decisions among African American college men (Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice). His current work explores how college student affairs educators incorporate student development theory and social justice in their praxis.
  • Donovan Livingston
    University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    E-mail Author
    Donovan Livingston is a Ph.D. candidate in educational leadership and cultural foundations at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Donovan Livingston is an educator, spoken word poet, and public speaker. In 2016, his Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation address “Lift Off” went viral, reaching over thirteen million views and prompting Hillary Clinton to praise, “It’s young graduates like [Livingston] who make it clear that America’s best days are still ahead.” His convocation address was published as a book by Spiegel & Grau in 2017. In his future work, Livingston hopes to examine the pedagogical power of hip hop and spoken word poetry as a means for social and civic engagement and developing mindsets necessary for academic success in college. He currently serves Wake Forest University, as its Program Manager for Pre-College Programs.
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