Racism in the United States

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Racism in the United States

Post by gz839918 » June 19th, 2020, 9:30 am

All of us deeply cherish the value of education and science. However, racism continues to pervade schooling and STEM, as well as numerous aspects of American life. These issues don’t vanish quickly. On this thread, we want a place where everybody can respectfully speak their mind about racism in the United States. We’re proud to have students like you on Scioly.org who choose to trust reason over ignorance. Rationality has made our Scioly.org community strong, and together we can beat ignorance and keep informed.

The only formal guideline here is to act with respect towards each other, but we welcome any relevant post, whether it’s about racism in STEM, or police brutality, or something much broader. Here are a few places to start:
  • How has racism affected you or somebody you know?
  • What questions do you have about racism? What do you want to learn more about?
  • Have you seen any insightful books, articles, or films about race? This list of anti-racism resources offers plenty to browse from, but we'd also appreciate it if you’d like to share favorites from your own reading list too.
  • Most Scioly.org members are white or Asian American, and come from the strongest teams. How can we encourage greater diversity in our SciOly community?
  • Something else? Don’t hesitate to join our conversation!
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Re: Racism in the United States

Post by sneepity » June 19th, 2020, 5:26 pm

Today, I've watched a movie called "The Help" with my dad. Both of us liked it very much, and it was emotional, and stuck close to our hearts. I recommend you watch it.
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Re: Racism in the United States

Post by CookiePie1 » June 19th, 2020, 5:55 pm

The Netflix documentary 13th is available for free on youtube right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8. It deals with the history of systemic racism in America, especially with mass incarceration.
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Re: Racism in the United States

Post by jaspattack » June 19th, 2020, 6:07 pm

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I would encourage others to do the same. This is another Google Doc with plenty of resources organized by where you personally are in your journey to not only be "not racist", but to be actively anti-racist.

Avoid complacency. Confront and extinguish racism whenever you see it, and continue to uplift the Black people in your communities both online and in real life.
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Re: Racism in the United States

Post by EastStroudsburg13 » June 19th, 2020, 7:47 pm

I wanted to share a bit of personal experience that relates directly to diversity in Science Olympiad.

I come from a pretty diverse school. About 40-45% of my high school's population is African-American or Latino. However, in the one season where my team found a (relatively) high level of success, the composition of the team didn't necessarily reflect that. At regionals and states, including myself, we had only 3 Latinos and no African Americans out of 15 competitors. At the time, I hadn't really considered that; I was solely focused on performance, i.e. finally getting the team to states. But looking back now, I really wish we had done more to go out and try to involve people from an African-American background. I had always prided myself on our team not coming from a typical demographic mix, but in retrospect, our team composition didn't really reflect it.

I think this can be a microcosm of what a lot of teams face. It's very easy to get stuck in doing just what's good for performance, that representation can go by the wayside. It doesn't matter if your school has a diverse population, unless you are working for your team to reflect that population. For those of you still competing, I urge you to make an effort to reach out to African-American and Latino classmates and try to get them involved with your teams. STEM representation starts at school, and you can make a difference here and now.
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Re: Racism in the United States

Post by gz839918 » June 20th, 2020, 2:58 pm

It's good to see people discussing already! If you're sharing films or other resources, it'd be great if you all could give a short review of what you learned about racism. Often, we have much to learn from each other, and talking about what you've learned helps everybody learn!

One book I read for a class about race was Despite the best intentions: How racial inequality thrives in good schools by Amanda Lewis & John Diamond. I've written a short review, and a loooooong summary, in the [answer] tag below, but of course your reviews may be much, much shorter.

Riverview High School embraces diversity. The principal embraces diversity; the teachers embrace diversity; the parents embrace diversity. But if everybody at Riverview loves diversity, why do its black students still perform consistently worse than its white students? UIC sociologist Amanda Lewis teams up with UW-Madison education professor John Diamond to uncover how an ordinary American high school came to have such a large achievement racial gap.

This book I pretty much always recommend to understand how systemic racism works (also known as institutional or structural racism). While not 100% jargon-free, the book's clear prose makes it easy to see how racism has endured into today. It also hits pretty close to home, because many of us went to high schools where AP classes had few black or Latino students. The authors interviewed over 150 students, parents, and staff, and collected survey data from students. This book surprised me because of how it defied my expectations. Popular belief holds that black students don't want to succeed, because if they try too hard at school, their peers will tease them for acting white. In reality, the researchers found that white students also tease their peers for succeeding in school, and there was no significant difference between the fraction of white students and that of black students who got teased by their peers for trying too hard. By some measures, black students are even more motivated than their white counterparts (although not statistically significantly more). So if it's not black culture, why aren't black students doing as well as white students?

The researchers found the problem was with the educational system itself. For example, teachers may work more proactively with white students than non-white students, because no teacher wants phone calls from angry parents. White parents are more likely to get involved in their children's education, so they're more likely to phone a teacher. This is because white families are on average more affluent, and so have more time to help their children. But wait, there's more: a teacher can't tell whose parents will angrily phone in, until the call has happened (obviously, they can't predict the future before it happens). So, to escape the very possibility of parent interference, teachers may assume they need to give extra care to a struggling white student, much more than they'd help a struggling black student.

Here, the teachers themselves aren't racist; they just don't want angry parents to bother them. I mean, as an event supervisor, I definitely wouldn't like angry parents either… and imagine avoiding angry parents for an entire school year. The researchers found some teachers did this subconsciously, and even black teachers favored white students. The problem is how American education is structured: parents are expected to get involved in education (even though many working class parents can't); schools are funded by local families' taxes so teachers must try to retain the students from the wealthiest families, who are usually (assumed to be) white; and so forth. The book could benefit from using less jargon, but I'd strongly recommend it for a very readable not-at-all-boring exploration of how racism works in schools.
Also, if you're among the group of people who enjoy privileges like good schools or respectful treatment from police, that doesn't mean you are personally responsible for the long history of racism that existed before you existed. However, it does mean you can use your privilege to fight racism! Everybody is welcome on this thread, regardless of your experiences.
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