Aversive Racism In The Schools

As part of my research in the Education department, I am presenting on a panel about race and education. The goal of the panel is to illustrate the different school districts in the area and the relationship between the prominent race in each school, the average socioeconomic status of students, and overall “success” of the school according to the state. The idea is to start a conversation about why the schools that are predominately African American students are schools that aren’t meeting state standards. This is a complex topic, and a very loaded question, but we want to at least get people thinking about it.

The more I think about our latest conversation in class about aversive racism, the more I realize I see this happening all of the time in the schools and it is essentially what I am presenting in the panel. In class we discussed how aversive racists have negative feelings towards other races, but justify these thoughts or actions with a reason not related to race. All too often I see teachers in the schools and other faculty members justify their reasons for why African American students aren’t doing well, or justifying choices they are making regarding their students. I specifically see this a lot with discipline in the classrooms. Teachers or lunch aids will give black students a more harsh punishment for acting out on the playground or not listening in class. I’ll usually hear them later say something along the lines of, this happens all of time he/she needs me to be strict, or he/she was taking away learning time from the rest of the students. These are examples of teachers blaming their racist actions on completely un-race related issues. These are just a few of my personal observations in the schools of aversive racism and how it effects the students.

Racism can be hard to notice in the schools, especially if you do not know what aversive racism is. I started to think, if for the sake of the students, this movement from explicit racism to aversive racism is good or bad? They are only children, so they cannot really stand up for themselves and some students may not even realize they are being discriminated against. Do you think this aversive racism culture is a step in the right direction for students? What can be done to get this out of the schools? Do you think it would be worthwhile to educate teachers and faculty on aversive racism so they can become more aware and notice when it is happening?



2 thoughts on “Aversive Racism In The Schools”

  1. You’ll have to share your research with us when you’re finished. It does sound really interesting. In addition to the examples of aversive racism you presented, Tim Wise brought up the problems of tracking and honors/advanced classes. From a young age, white children are disproportionately tracked in upper-level classes and programs, while black children are disproportionately tracked in basic or even remedial classes and programs. I think aversive racism works here in the same way as with discipline. Educators may think they’re just going off what they think and feel about the children as individuals, but racial stereotypes likely affect these judgments, especially for kids on the fence.

    It really begins to get frightening when you start to add up all of the problems facing African Americans in education: residential segregation leading to school segregation, the financial disparities that result (ex. Allen vs. Parkland), the growing reliance on standardized tests that have been proven to give biased results, racial bias in discipline, racial bias in tracking to advanced classes, and probably more that I am forgetting.

  2. Lauren, I think your research sounds so interesting! After reading your blog, I thought about when i volunteered in an elementary school and experienced some of the same events that you discussed. Although you are right, these children cannot really stand up for themselves, I do believe that aversive racism is a step in the right direction. If the children were being explicitly punished because of the color of their skin, I could not imagine what this would mean for them as they continue to grow up. When it comes to aversive racism, I think it seems like a much difficult concept to get rid of because it is not something really being acknowledged by the person being racist. But I think that all schools can do is so further educate their teachers and staff in order for them to become more aware.

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