Art Munin, dean of students, has published Color by Number: Understanding Racism through Facts and Stats on Children
, a quantitative exploration of the reach of racism in every part of US society: health care, the environment, the justice system, and education.
A funny thing has happened over the past few years.
I’ve been teaching diversity education my whole career, yet increasingly I find that people need to be convinced that racism still exists. It’s become a popular notion that we’re now living in a post-race society. But that’s simply not true. My book makes that argument with facts. Teachers in this field — including me — are very good at telling stories to make the case about racism. But for many people, it’s facts that push the door open; it’s facts that make possible an “ah-ha” moment. For example, consider these findings from my research:
Among Hispanic children, one in five lacks health insurance; among White children, it’s one in 13 (Children’s Defense Fund, 2008)
- Here are the numbers of US children living in areas exceeding ozone standards (air pollution requirements, as delineated by the American Lung Association) by racial breakdown: White 50.8 percent; Black 61.35 percent; Latino 69.2 percent; and Asian 67.7 percent (Bullard, 2005); not surprisingly, the rates of asthma among Black children is greater than average
- Twenty states still allow corporal punishment in school; while Black children account for 17 percent of the total school population, they receive 36 percent of the corporal punishment doled out by “educators” (US Department of Education)
- In 2007, Whites with a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, $58,652 per year — slightly over $12,000 more than Blacks and nearly $14,000 more than Hispanics with the same degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)
My research was interdisciplinary, which is important because that’s how racism touches a person’s life —from the beginning, in every way — starting with inadequate health care and including environmental pollution in poor neighborhoods, negative exposure to law enforcement, and under-resourced school systems. I define racism as the chronic and pervasive presence of factors that disenfranchise people of color. And these factors are interconnected.
I focused on children for a very specific reason: to attack the myth of meritocracy. It’s the American way to believe that anyone who tries hard enough can achieve anything. In discussions about racism in an adult population, this belief comes out as “if they just worked harder …” But when one talks about children, that point of view becomes specious. How can a child “work harder” to get better health care? How can a child “work harder” not to go to a decrepit school? What magic happens at age 18 that makes a young adult liable for the disadvantages of his or her childhood?
Also, I wanted to look at institutionalized racism. While there is high covariance between poverty and racism, poverty doesn’t explain racism. Poor white people have incredible hurdles to overcome — and I would never say that they have it easy — but when one looks at the statistics, they still have more access to privilege than do poor people of color.
Over four years, I looked at data from the US Census Bureau, the Center for Disease Control, the National Center on Education Statistics, and the Environmental Protection Agency. An incredible amount of information is available; all that’s required is a researcher who’s patient and stubborn (and I’m both). To ensure relevance, I focused on data from 2000 (with a few, small exceptions). I also made choices about the statistics I used, keeping them simple and centered on percentages and correlations. One goal was that a reader could flip to any page in the book, read a chart, and use the data.
While the book is not exhaustive, it is expansive. I think I proved my point: after reading Color by Number: Understanding Racism through Facts and Stats on Children
, a person would be hard-pressed to say “racism is not systemic in the United States.” The fixes to this problem also have to be systemic — and that means everyone working together, in ways large and small, to change the institutions all around us.
For video segments explaining the book’s significant findings by topic, for reviews and endorsements, and for ordering information: http://stylus.styluspub.com/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=280842
To find the book on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#!/groups/302815979776715/