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What Diversity Education Taught Me About Systemic Oppression

BY ALEXANDRA MILLER, BLOGGER

Growing up, many white students have very little exposure to the experience and history of Black communities. Instead, they were surrounded by ideologies that justify white supremacy and the oppression of people of color. Students are taught and ultimately tested on the belief that the effects of slavery have been repaired and the idea that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Students are taught the ways in which the Black community has been ultimately “accepted” by white people, but are not taught the ways in which Black populations continue to be systemically oppressed.  

Oppression ultimately begins through social and academic learning, as stereotypes and history are warped in such a way that allows for the continuation of white power. Furthermore, de facto segregation, which exists not because of law or policy, but exists as a matter of fact, allows for oppression to affect the education available to young Black populations. 

Image from U.S. News & World Report via Google Images

Understaffed and underfunded school systems provide a lack of materials as well as a lack of compassion for those children whose families suffer the consequences of oppression, such as incarceration and unemployment. These conditions result in a high school graduation rate of only 69%, as of 2011, for Black Americans, compared to an 86% graduation rate among white students.

Certain media outlets, especially those that are conservatively funded, also work to justify and uphold racism. Black men are often portrayed as dangerous criminals, and therefore, white people learn to accept the mass incarceration of and police brutality toward these populations, under the guise of fairness. 

Even today, with the presence of the Black Lives Matter, a large majority of the white population remains uneducated about the truths behind racial oppression. These justifications for mass incarceration result in Black Americans being incarcerated over five times as often as their white counterparts, even reaching 10 percent in some states. 

This statistic continues the belief that Black Americans are dangerous without the explanation and understanding of how that number came to be. Considering the fact that Black populations make up only 14 to 17 percent of the total U.S. population, such a high rate of incarceration is the result of police targeting and judicial discrimination. 

Image from the Drug Policy Alliance via Google Images

Because systemic oppression exists at every facet of society, it is important that all students educate themselves on the benefits of diversity as well as the experience of others. Integrating social knowledge that breeds fairness and equality into various industries is the only true way to repair the history of social injustices faced by Black communities. 

The protection of Black minds and bodies at every junction of inequality and privilege is the duty of those who ultimately benefit from white supremacy. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone to understand and combat racial oppression faced by American people.

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