Youth of color living in rural and suburban centers often have similar experiences with identity-based exclusion, which often leads to depression, lower academic outcomes, and a decreased sense of belongingness for being culturally deprived. How do we solve this problem?
why We need to Work.
Exposure to racism and racial microaggressions have been found to have unfavorable effects on African American student’s learning outcomes across secondary and college contexts that are primarily related to academic and social-capital-accruing experiences. These experiences disrupt the acquisition of academic and social capital by African American students (Feagin, 1992; Loo & Rolison, 1986; Steele & Aronson, 1995; Strayhorn, 2010). High school educational environments find Black males experience systemic racial microaggressions in the form of discipline policies (e.g. zero-tolerance), academic tracking and hegemonic curriculum (Allen, Scott & Lewis, 2013). Black female collegians endure deficit societal role expectation (Diekman & Eagly, 2000), the double oppression of being African-American and female leaders (Hill-Collins, 2000) and face stereotypes portraying females as less capable leaders than males (Sczesny, 2003). Deficit perceptions about African American students as held by teachers, professors, and administrators across within K-20 contexts, and serve as sources of racial, and gendered trauma.
Although the aforementioned treatment of African American students across K-20 learning environments represents larger systematic dilemmas adversely influencing academic and leadership development, we are mindful that these impediments can be overcome. We also understand that while parts of a student’s holistic identities (e.g., sexual orientation) may be under attack, other segments are simultaneously privileged (e.g., gender). We also recognize that due to the largely homogenous demographics of the greater Midwest some students rarely interact across cultural boundaries until entering college. A lack of cross-cultural interactions allows for an unfettered misunderstanding of cultural norms, which can reduce bigotry, heterosexism, xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
Finally, we understand that being involved in leadership roles and organizations facilitates socio-cultural exposure across gender, race, and sexual orientation, which provides students opportunities to disrupt stereotypes, advocate for other oppressed groups and develop understandings about how oppression is enacted and expressed (Harper & Quaye, 2007; Renn, 2000). However, if there is no catalyst for leadership opportunities to occur within K-20 environments, outside of extracurricular sporting activities, where do students learn cultural, gendered and sexual orientation acceptance? The creation of “safe spaces” as outlets of cultural expression is essential for the development of leaders who are skilled in enacting social justice, and interrupting discrimination.