Racism 101 Asked And Answered: Combating Systemic Racism In Higher Education

Demonstrators rally for the removal of a Confederate statue, coined "Silent Sam," on the campus of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on Aug. 22, 2017. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

We've solicited questions from our audience — awkward, tough-to-ask, even silly questions — that they've perhaps wanted to ask people unlike themselves but have been too shy, embarrassed or afraid to ask.

We created Racism 101 to help our audience facilitate their own thought-provoking talks around race, with a conversation "starter kit," and extensive anti-racism resource guides to inform and educate. To field these questions, we assembled a panel of Angelenos willing to answer so folks didn't have to ask their friends, or even strangers.

Here's what several of our panelists had to say in response to the question: "What are some actionable steps professors can take to combat systemic racism in the classroom and on campus in higher education settings?"


Matthew is a multi-ethnic Afro-Indigenous educator, poet and rapper. He co-founded the Spoken Literature Art Movement, an L.A.-based writing and performance workshop series, and currently teaches writing to incarcerated youth.

He says of white educators, even those who have done the work to understand the history of cultural appropriation, racism and injustice:

"You still probably don't know what it's like to be in the skin of a person of color. And so because of that, it's important to know there are still things you can learn. It's important to know you still have to work on educating yourself on different problems and systemic issues that come from being a person of color, especially on a college campus, knowing that so [many] college campus were originally created to be an additional form of segregation."

Listen to Matthew's answer:

Roseanne is a descendant of the Mescalero Apache and Tewa tribes. For many years, she was told that she wasn't "college material." She's currently a doctoral student in a medical anthropology program. Upon graduation, she plans to devote her career to improving Native American health care policy.

"I think what would help, in my opinion, is if we gave more voices to the students of different ethnicities and to not only teach the original theorists, but also to bring in other scholars of different ethnicities into the curriculum."

More from Roseanne:


Higher education has been in the limelight, as campuses across the country released statements condemning racism following the police killing last year of George Ffloyd in Minneapolis. How effective has that response been? Inside Higher Ed reported "few explicitly mentioned Black people, referenced the Black Lives Matter movement or included any concrete action items to address inequities on campus or in wider society."

Administrators at some universities took steps to rename campus buildings with racist legacies — in some cases to satisfy students' demands. Students also have taken matters into their own hands. The Confederate monument known as "Silent Sam" at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was toppled by a crowd of protesting students, faculty and local residents in August 2018.

EAB, a best practices firm that addresses challenges within the education field, conducted an analysis which revealed:

"While some institutions identified longer term initiatives such as developing anti-racism trainings and advancing the recruitment of faculty of color, they did not provide a timeline or specific metrics to measure success. Overall, EAB's analysis showed that few institutions offered substantive and systematic approaches to tackling racism on their own campuses."


The country erupted into protests, unrest and a renewed dialogue about systemic racism following George Floyd's killing. We held the first round of a virtual conversation event series, Unheard LA: A Deeper Listen with a tie in to Race In LA. The discussion repeatedly returned how Black and Brown people were being asked for their opinion, for resources and to answer questions on racial issues — and how exhausting it can be.