Institutional Racism and Its Effects on Latino Students

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Institutional Racism and Its Effects on Latino Students
Patricia Mendia
Argosy University
English 101- Composition
Lauren Higgins
07-04-13

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to examine the detrimental effects institutional racism in education has on Latino academic achievement. Consideration is given to the role of educators in perpetuating racist attitudes; the ineffective acculturation measures and the adverse effects resulting from the diminished academic expectations. Latino children exit K-12 systems deficient of the necessary skills to thrive in higher education or in the workplace; facts which foster complacency. Qualitative and quantitative data are used to support arguments and observations. Additionally, this paper is intended to promote dialog about a problem that will have long lasting implications on society at large and the growing role Latinos will play in affecting the trends in educational paradigm shifts. Institutional Racism and Its Effects on Latino Students

The idea of institutional racism in education conjures up visions of the Plessy vs. Ferguson era of segregation, when common practice was “separate but equal” institutions. It was 1954, with the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, that the practice of legal racial segregation was deemed unconstitutional. Its passing represented an end to de jure segregation for Blacks, but had little impact on the segregation of Latinos, who were considered demographically White. It was not until 1970 when the Supreme Court in Cisneros vs. Corpus Christi Independent School District ruled that Latinos comprised a separate ethnic group, that the full effects of Brown vs. Board of Education also encompassed Latinos. Although de jure segregation was outlawed, white flight has, by default, led to de facto segregation, which has resulted in a new breed of institutional racism. A more subtle racism but equally insidious that indelibly changes the lives of Latino youth by allowing the perpetuation of inferior instruction, by stripping students of their ethnic pride, and ultimately culminating in fostering an attitude of mediocrity. It is irrefutable that most educators have students’ best interests at heart when imparting instruction; however, this does not diminish the fact that racial bias affects the manner in which it is done. Garcia (2001) explains the Pobrecito Syndrome as the inclination of many educators to lower the academic expectations of Latino students because of perceived disadvantages, such as language and poverty. While not intentional, the prejudice becomes so ingrained in the perception, that it becomes increasingly difficult to extrapolate it. The lowering of expectations begins early in the academic tenure of Latino children and creates progressive achievement disparities between them and White peers (Garcia & Jensen, 2009). Indeed, the intention is to protect and unburden those whom educators perceive as underprivileged, however it is this over- coddling that sets Latino children up for failure by undermining their ability to compete academically, and later professionally. In a 2009 focus group conducted by the National Council of La Raza, 60 Latino youth ages 15 to 17 from Maryland, Tennessee, Rhode Island, and California “…reported significant ethnic stereotyping by teachers, administrators, and peers. Such stereotyping, they feel, often leads Hispanic students to be overlooked, excluded, or negatively tracked and results in unequal educational opportunities” (p. 15); a fact which clearly demonstrates the pervasive and detrimental effects of institutional racism; intentional or not. A combination of factors has been effectively employed to systematically strip Latino youth of their ethnic identity, in particular the process of Americanization and the notion of color-blindness. For purposes of clarity, ethnic identity will be referent to the self-concept one develops as a result of...
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