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Examining Institutional Racism

PSU welcomed Dr. Carl Grant from the University of Wisconsin, Madison to lecture at Lincoln Performance Hall on the topic of institutionalized racism Wednesday evening.

“Institutionalized racism,” according to Grant, is the practice of “accepted establishments, respected institutions, policies, systems of social relationships or other forms of government that work to deny minorities equal access of opportunity to material possessions that could determine social standing or happiness.”

Grant touched on many topics of legal racism, such as the three-fifths clause and Plessy v. Ferguson. Soon the discussion turned toward the government’s rhetoric regarding underprivileged minorities during the last half of the twentieth century, from “culturally deprived” in the ’60s, to “at-risk youth” today.

There were no shortages of examples on how Americans discriminated against minorities, past and present. However Grant has a very open mind about the future, and thinks that everything can indeed work out for the best if people “keep talking about what we talked about tonight,” he said.

Institutional racism is not limited to just academics. One PSU student experienced a varied form when she used to run for the track team. Amina Senge, PSU senior, said that everyone on her team expected her to do well automatically simply because she was an African-American.

“They were wrong,” she said, laughing.

The main form of institutionalized racism today working in universities is the “gate-keeping” policy, according to Grant.

“That is a college’s decision on who gets in and who doesn’t, he explained.

He was careful to stress that gate keeping is an integral part of college, because they obviously cannot accept everyone. It becomes institutionalized racism however, when the gate-keeping gives advantages to “favored individuals” and is spawned out of “deep arrogance”.

The lecture was part of an ongoing series, “Emerging Issues in a Pluralistic Society,” held by the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program, an organization that recruits prospective bilingual teachers from twenty-two districts throughout the metro-area.

The event was organized by Julie Esparza Brown, who promised that there would be more lectures to come in the series, but could not disclose who the speakers would be at this time.

It will be hard for her to top Dr. Grant, who she said was “One of, if not the premier speaker on institutionalized racism in the country.”

Among recent accolades, Dr. Grant won the 2002 Outstanding Book Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education for his book, Global Constructions of Multicultural Education: Theories and Realities.