The essay is aimed at the administration and student councils of higher education institutions in the United States. I would like to publish it in one of the academic journals discussing current issues in the higher education field, as well as student newspapers on campus.
Racial inequality and the fight against it are currently on the tongues of our society across all demographics. Over the course of the last century multiple milestones on the way to racial equality have been achieved, yet unfortunately it continues to manifest on the institutional level. Higher education institutions in America are making an effort to improve accessibility to wider population and to diversify the student body. This results in a cross-cultural and cross-racial society on campus where racially marginalized students become exposed to various microaggressions and prejudices about them. As universities continue to enroll more and more non-white students, the necessity of facilitating positive cross-cultural exchange becomes more and more evident.
The Necessity of Mutual Learning
Higher education institutions have the capacity of equipping their students with skills and understanding to function effectively in global world but have faced issues with utilizing this capacity appropriately. Due to the history of denying people of colour access to educational policies and structures, many universities do not possess effective and sufficiently sensitive mechanisms for cross-cultural learning. Research suggests that inter-group dialogue might be the key to increase self-awareness on issues of power and privilege, and willingness to participate in social action after college (Tatum, 2019). The institutions can facilitate the discussion by hosting educational talks and communication-stimulating events, such as round tables and panels. Structural encouragement might be crucial in motivating white students to step outside of their comfort zone and re-examine their actions.
Avoiding Minority Emotional Labour
Such communication, however, can only be used as a learning tool if students of colour are not forced into a position of unpaid educators for their white counterparts. In this case, the power of the institution should be used to prevent students and professors of colour from providing unfair emotional labour. Black educators in particular question the significance behind their attempts of teaching white people more about race and racism (Davis et al., 2021). Dialogue is only sustainable if both parties engage in it with equal effort, and the nature of privilege causes white people to have the upper hand in the discussion. Consequently, while over the course of cross-cultural exchange white people will need more education, people of colour should be provided with greater number of resources. While facilitating the communication on racial topics, universities must ensure the well-being and safety of students and professors of colour, who, naturally, are more likely to be personally affected by these conversations (Tatum, 2019). The introduction of culture specific spaces is a widespread tactic of addressing this imbalance: faculties provide marginalized people an opportunity to recharge and discuss their experiences within their group.
As college campuses are a space where many students become fully exposed to other communities and cultures for the first time, they provide a unique learning opportunity. As white people and people of colour navigate higher education together, difficult conversations are bound to emerge. Despite the overall shift of the collective consciousness towards greater emphasis on inclusivity, white supremacy is still overtly present on the institutional level, particularly in places with history of racial exclusion. Inter-group dialogue and exchange of experiences is the most effective way towards a better, fairer future. Yet when navigating this dialogue, one should never ignore the effects and imbalances of inequality, that has sparked the conversation in the first place.
Tatum, B. (2019). Together and alone? The challenge of talking about racism on campus. Daedalus, 148(4), 79-93. Web.
Davis, C., Hilton, A., Hamrick, R., & Brooks, E. (2021). The beauty and the burden of being a black professor. Emerald Publishing Limited.