The role of education in the fight against racism
Initially, I intended to dedicate this blog post to how the covid-19 crisis has led to a huge IT acceleration at Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas). I was going to write about how proud I am of the bottom-up movement of our education innovators. But the Black Lives Matter protests have shaken us all. They have forced us to think about our own position in and contribution to society. Education too, plays an important role in the fight against racism – personal formation is, after all, part of our social responsibility as an industry.
When the protests started, I was hesitant about my right to speak up. However, while I was still analysing about my own “white privilege”, as an institution, we were already receiving questions from students about our position on the matter. One student was kind enough to speak to me about what it feels like to be a student of colour at a mainly white institution. She described as though she was continuously overlooked, she felt as though she wasn’t seen or heard to the same extend as her white fellow students.
Just as we might all think we are not racists; we might also think that racism doesn’t occur in our institutions. After all, the confidential advisor hasn’t received any complaints, and there is ample attention for building intercultural competences. But this is simply not enough.
We shouldn’t hesitate to or shy away from reflecting on our own behaviour and on the errors that ought to be in our systems. This starts with learning about the complexity of racism and the subtle and systemic ways in which it manifests itself. Moreover, we shouldn’t be afraid to identify and address racism when we witness it. There are ways to integrate diversity into our curricula, events, and programmes. Digitalisation of education can be a powerful tool to realise this, within and also far beyond the boundaries of our own institutions.
Racism doesn’t end with a single demonstration, an Instagram post, or an online petition. It has to be tackled everywhere, all the time. In the classroom, during meetings, and at the coffee break. It is up to us to create truly inclusive higher education institutions for everyone.
This blog originally appeared in the Acceleration Plan newsletter of June 2020. Read the newsletter here.