Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Pervasiveness of Racial Prejudice in Higher Education in the U.S: Raising Awareness and Solution

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Pervasiveness of Racial Prejudice in Higher Education in the U.S: Raising Awareness and Solution

Article excerpt

Racial issues are significant in the United States of America because of the racial diversity in the society. Diversity is one of the greatest strengths of America's higher education system, and has helped to make it one of the best in the world. Diversity: (1) enriches the educational experience by fostering learning and appreciation of those whose background and experiences are different from ours; (2) promotes personal growth and a healthy society by challenging stereotypes and prejudices (3) encourages critical thinking as well as sensitivity; (4) strengthens communities and the workplace in its preparation of students to live effectively in an increasingly complex, pluralistic society, enhancing respect and teamwork and giving birth to a society whose members are judged by the quality of their character and their contribution to the good of all; (5) boosts America's ability and strength by maximizing the many talents and potentials of all citizens for the general good. The author has personal experience in both predominantly white and historically black institutions and has observed that:

* Racial prejudice remains a major problem in the United States society and its institutions of higher learning,

* Racial prejudice is entrenched and pervasive,

* Its persistence and pervasiveness seem like grounds for despair,

* It is so deeply embedded that it seems almost impossible to eradicate, reduce, or manage, and

* Racial prejudice is not restricted to a race because each race has formed some prejudices about other races.

Racial Prejudice--Definition

Prejudice means prejudging. But the classic definition of prejudice is the one put forth by the famous Harvard psychologist, Gordon Allport, who published The Nature of Prejudice in 1954. He defined prejudice as "an aversive or hostile attitude toward a person who belongs to a group, simply because he belongs to that group, and is therefore presumed to have the objectionable qualities ascribed to that group ... Prejudice is an antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group or an individual of that group ..." (Gordon 1954, 9). (1) Racial prejudice could also be defined as the tendency to make an automatic connection between race and certain moral or behavioral traits (Goodhart 2005). (2) The disturbing reality of this definition and view is that some of these connections are in part correct. For example:

1. Jews are more likely to be successful in business than Pakistanis;

2. Young African Americans (Afro-Caribbeans) are more likely to succeed in sport or popular culture than young Chinese;

3. Some racial groups possess a stronger work ethic than others.

Illuminating this is not an expression of racial prejudice; it only becomes so when the explanation of the trait is racial rather than historical (Goodhart 2005). (3) Foster (1991, 203) defined racial prejudice as "an ideology: a representation of the 'other' in terms of negatively evaluative content." (4) Institutional racial prejudice can be defined as unequal treatment based on race that is entrenched in institutions and it also refers to those practices in institutions that favor one group over another based on race.

The origin of racial prejudice can be traced back to human migrations. Without these migrations, different races and ethnic groups would probably never have come into contact (USAG-Hessen Equal Opportunity). (5) When humans from different races came into contact their physical differences such as skin color and other physical features become social visibility variables. Difference is often perceived as wrong, and all other groups become the out-groups. When different racial groups interact, they continually vie for scarce resources and each group tries to maintain or enhance its self interests. One group will inevitably possess more power than the others and becomes the in-group while all other groups become the out-groups (USAG-Hessen Equal Opportunity). …

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