Racism exists. Racism exists within communities and within colleges. Overt racism is repeatedly on display with news of the latest attack on or deaths of Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, but it is also ever-present in the structures that professionals in the California Community Colleges system work within and that students of color must navigate. Striving to achieve equity is not enough and is not possible within the current community college system. Policies, processes, and other systemic structures built on a history of racism must first be dismantled and then rebuilt with a focus on equity and inclusion.
Dismantling racist structures requires a review of the history that created those structures. It requires understanding the history of the construct of race as a culture, the white supremacy ideology, the centuries of laws intended to maintain positions of power for whites, and the ways in which the equity and diversity efforts within California’s community colleges have fallen short. Constructing anti-racist structures and developing anti-racist campus cultures require an understanding of the tenets of antiracism education and principles for professional development.
This paper provides foundational information for California community college practitioners to better understand the origins of today’s racial conflict and reasons why gaps in achieving equitable educational outcomes for students, particularly for students of color, cannot be closed within current systems. The paper is intended to engage college practitioners in self-reflection and critical consciousness as they develop and deliver the strategic anti-racism education and professional development needed to reconstruct campus cultures and learning environments built on principles of equity and inclusion.
This paper does not purport to provide solutions to classroom challenges, nor does it provide strategies specific to instruction and support of students. Instead, to work on re-constructing a community college system based on tenets of anti-racism, one must consider how to progress along one’s own anti-racism journey while also working to educate and move others along their own journeys. This paper provides historical and foundational information to aid in those journeys.
The paper concludes with recommendations for individual growth, for local academic senates, for colleges and districts, and for the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.
Anti-racism education is necessary to respond to the current moment in time and to ensure the transformation of the community college system, districts, and colleges. The following recommendations are intended to guide faculty and system leaders to facilitate the development of anti-racism education as an integral part of the equity-driven systems movement. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges offers these recommendations for individual self-growth, for local academic senates, colleges, and districts, and for the Board of Governors.
Recommendations for Individual Self-Growth
- Use the work and scholarship of Black scholars to recognize and address challenges of Black students and Black colleagues.
- Participate in implicit bias training in the context of oppression and racism.
- Learn the history of discriminatory laws and practices that contribute to the stratification of U.S. society by race.
- Actively explore various methods of assessments to adapt to technological disparities exacerbated by COVID-19.
Recommendations for Local Academic Senates
- Convene Black, Latinx/Chicanx, indigenous, and other people of color to understand lived experiences and to inform cultural climate and structural updates to academic senate constitutions, bylaws, rules, policies, and processes.
- Intentionally increase representation on the local academic senate by identifying, including, and empowering missing voices.
- Create a local academic senate goal focused on anti-racism and no-hate education.
- Hold a series of discussions of structural racism and colorblind culture and address the topics
of race consciousness, lifting the veil of white supremacy, danger of the good-bad racist binary, dilemma of dismantling the “master’s house with the master’s tools” and what this means for shared governance, and the need for calling-in culture.
- Enact culturally responsive curricular redesign within disciplines, courses, and programs and with curriculum committees.
- Acknowledge, without assigning blame, that the structure of the college houses the institutional biases and prejudices of its founding time. Those biases have privileged some and disadvantaged others, particularly African-American and Latinx/Chicanx communities.
- Partner with administration and faculty collective bargaining leadership to transform faculty hiring, onboarding, evaluation, and tenure processes with an anti-racism focus.
- Work with the administration and students to offer constructive ways for students to express themselves about their lived experiences and the structural and historical biases that exist for Blacks, Latinx/Chicanx, indigenous, and other minoritized groups and to center student voices more predominantly in governance and decision-making.
- Provide organizational and transformational leadership faculty training and support and ongoing online faculty development, including racial literacy education.
Recommendations for Colleges and Districts
- Explicitly make a commitment to anti-racism and incorporate it into guiding institutional documents such as diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, values statements, and mission statements.
- Conduct a racial climate survey to better understand racial attitudes and issues.
- Implement restorative justice practices into district and college culture.
- Fund and create a professional development program in culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and andragogy.
- Scale up and appropriately fund programs and services dedicated to advancing racial equity through a holistic approach.
- Provide professional development in equity-mindedness and anti-racism.
- Provide resources and professional development opportunities to critically interrogate and reflect on the impact of key discriminatory laws and practices in the U.S. in higher education.
- Examine and update current policies and procedures using both an equity and anti-racist lens.
- Incorporate explicit anti-racism training in new faculty onboarding processes and programming as well as existing professional development.
- Center student voice more predominantly in governance and decision-making.
- In partnership with unions, conduct an audit of collective bargaining agreements through a lens of equity and racial and social justice.
Recommendations for the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges
- Make anti-racism a focus of the board’s goals underlined in the California Community Colleges Vision for Success.
- Explicitly state a commitment to anti-racism within the board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement.
- Incorporate anti-racism and equity minded language in the system’s regulations, policies, plans, and areas such as finance, institutional effectiveness, educational services and support, digital innovation, and other areas identified.
- Establish an anti-racism policy to drive the assessment and evaluation of racial equity.
- Support anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion policy making and funding allocation to provide professional development and learning at the system and local levels. Allocate resources at the state level to partner with expert organizations in the provision of professional development and learning.
- Provide intentional incentives to institutions that move beyond complicity towards anti-racist reform.