Historically, ethnic minorities are at a disadvantage in comparison to their White counterparts in real society. Living in poverty also plays a role in being considered a disadvantaged individual. According to Boyle (2008) and the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 25.3% Black/African-Americans, 21.5% Hispanics, and26.6% Native Americans and Native Alaskans live under the poverty line (Boyle 2008).In comparison, 10% of Whites and Asians live under the poverty line (Boyle 2008). The percentage of Black/African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Native Alaskans living under the poverty line is doubled in comparison to Whites and Asians. For every one White or Asian individual living under the poverty line, there are two more Black/African-Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans and Native Alaskans that are living under the poverty line.
There is no coincidence that individuals living under the poverty line also live in areas where schools lack resources (Boyle 2008). The percentage of individuals who did not complete high school and are living under the poverty line is 23.7% (Boyle 2008, U.S. Census Bureau 2006). In comparison to Whites, most ethnic minority students not only have a lower SES, but are also living in a single-parent household, and attend public high schools with fewer resources (Cancian, 1998). Ethnic minorities, in most cases, also perform lower on the SAT's (Alon & Tienda, 2007). It has also been criticized that standardized tests like the SAT's are racially biased (Alon & Tienda, 2007; Nasim) because of incomparable resources that Whites may have access to due to their SES, living area and better schools. Ethnic groups have different life experiences in comparison to each other. If test-makers assembled a test assuming that all ethnic groups have the same life experiences like similar economic and living conditions, the test-makers will present a bias towards the majority White group. Thus, individuals living under the poverty line who are more likely to be ethnic minorities (with the exception of some Asians), are also more likely to attend schools with fewer resources, finish high school at a lower rate, continue to college at a much lower rate, and work for lower wages.
Even though the differences between minorities and Whites are apparent, there is still a difference in perception of Black/White inequality (Hunt 2007). According to the General Social Surveys in which data was collected from 1977 to 2004, beliefs of Black/White inequality are changing among Black/African-American, Hispanic and White groups. As late as the 1970's, most Whites believed that Black/African-Americans were disadvantaged due to their inherent inabilities. Whites believed that Black/African-Americans could only perform menial tasks and could not further themselves with an education because they were mentally incapable of doing so. This form of thinking was termed "traditional individualism" (Hunt 2007). As late as the 1980's there began to be a shift in thinking among Whites. Whites believed that Black/African-Americans were now capable of attaining a comparable life to Whites; however there was a lack of motivation among Black/African-Americans. This form of thinking was termed "motivational individualism" (Hunt 2007).
A shift in thinking is observable in Black/African-American and Hispanic groups (Hunt 2007). In the past, inequality between minorities and Whites was attributed to "structural" causes including institutionalized racial discrimination and lack of access to resources such as education. More currently, Black/African-American and Hispanic groups are also voicing similar views to Whites, attributing inequality between ethnic minorities and Whites as motivational. Put simply, the belief is that ethnic minorities are not succeeding because they are unmotivated.
This perception snowballs into the notion that ethnic minorities have the same access and opportunities in comparison to Whites. This can further snowball into what some researcher's term colour-blind racism (Zamudio & Rios, 2006; Neville, Worthington, & Spanierman, 2001; Ponterotto et. al, 2006, p. 39). A colour-blind society is one where people of all colours are treated equally and are not judged on the basis of their skin colour. With a colour-blind society, brings colour-blind racism. People are stripped of their individual qualities including their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Even though Black/African-Americans, Hispanics, and Whites perceive that inequality between these groups is a lack of motivation, the perception may be skewed. For example, Boyle (2008) notes several reasons "Why Americans can't talk about the poor." Among the common reason is that the American Dream of rags to riches is still a contemporary objective. Furthermore, Americans also have a wide range in perception of the middle class. Boyle (2008) cited a study conducted by the National Opinion Research enter in 2003 at the University of Chicago, 50% of households producing $20,000-$40,000, 38% of households producing $40,000-$60,000 and 16.8% of households producing over $110,000 all considered themselves middle class (Boyle 2008). This means that a janitor and a CEO working for a large corporation both consider themselves middle class, even though there is a sizeable gap in produced income (Boyle 2008). This type of distortion in perception is not limited to economics.
Racism has changed form in the many years passed. As a result, perceptions of racism have also changed. Prior to the Civil Rights movement, traditional racism, also known as overt racism, was legal (Sydell & Nelson, 2000). Examples of overt racism include, but are not limited to, restricting students of colour access to attending a public learning institution or getting into a fight with another individual because of his/her skin colour. Traditional overt racism has evolved to modern subtle racism. In the context of educational institutions, modern racism can be as simple as being ignored in a classroom by a professor of a different race or even being avoided in the cafeteria by students also of a different race (Marcus et al.,. 2003). In many cases, it has been found that because of this type of treatment, students of the same racial and ethnic background are more likely to associate and befriend other students of the same background (Suarez-Balcazar, Orellana-Damacela, Portillo, Rowan, & Andrews-Guillen, 2003). This type of behaviour is another form of segregation. However, instead of the government implementing the law, like what was done in the past, minorities are doing it on their own without the extra push. As a result of modern racism, ethnic minorities have become accustomed to being second-class citizens (Nora & Cabrera, 1996). Racism has become normalized.
Purpose of the Study
Through this study, the researcher intends to explore the educational experiences of students of colour by using previous research. The study will focus on exploring views of students of colour to determine whether they perceived that they received the same public school experience as other students in the school who were not students of colour. It is also intended that to explore whether students of colour are unheard or disregarded. This would be unfortunate because students of colour, indeed all students, have important and potential insights to contribute to both academic quality and social environment in public schools.
Significance of the Study
The study will benefit four main groups: educators and school administrators, future students as well as future researchers. Specifically, this study will be beneficial for educators and school administration by aiding them in their problem solving of behavioural problems demonstrated by students of colour. Significantly, this study will lead to a better understanding of the student experience as it relates to their perspective in a school setting.
Need for Increased Understanding
Racism can be formed on the singular idea that some people are inferior to others. It can be seen as a system of power around which other supporting ideas like racism are based. Research conducted in the United States, in schools where up to 60% of students are from ethnic minorities; found that differences in the interactions between teachers and pupils could be related directly to race, ethnicity, and gender (Dee, 2004).
Researchers could argue, such as myself that many examinations and tests were biased in favour of White middle class students as White middle class teachers, who may have a limited understandings of ethnic culture write them (Massey & Fischer, 2005; Patcher, 2010). These biases served to compound the frustration felt by many ethnic minority pupils, which led to confusion and caused what many teachers perceived were behavioural problems (Donaldson, 2001).
Such biased tests and examinations patronizing and dismissive of other cultures (Donaldson, 2001); thus begins the move towards cultural pluralism or multicultural education. The primary idea of multicultural education is aimed at, releasing our education system from its mono cultural prison and opening it up to the liberating influences of other cultural perspectives" (Troyna, 1987, p. 186). The researcher aims to address the problem of bias in schools so that school personnel might begin looking inward, as opposed to solely outward, for solutions.
U.S. Historical Racism
After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the thirteenth amendment was ratified and slavery was abolished. In 1868, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were ratified. The fourteenth amendment gave former Black/African-American slaves U.S. citizenship. The fifteenth amendment gave former Black/African-American slaves the right to vote.…