The Effects of Systemic Racism on Predominantly Black High Schools

Author(s): Kennedy Wood

Mentor(s): Davis Kuykendall, Philosophy


With systemic racism in our education systems, many individuals are asking the same questions and are full of the same concerns. The main question being asked is “Why, after all of these years, is there still not equal education for all students regardless of their ethnicity?”. Many individuals also inquire about that with fewer lower-quality educational resources, are black students set up to fail? Despite efforts made by the civil rights case Brown vs. Board of education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, educational resources are still unequally distributed across racial groups.  The question that I intend to answer with my research proposal is whether or not the lack of funding in predominantly black high schools in the Henrico County Public School system acts as a barrier for African American students. Evidence has shown that it is true that predominantly minority schools receive fewer, lower-quality educational resources. In contrast, it is found that predominantly white schools were more likely to have newer computers, buildings, media centers, technology, and even more advanced classes.  In all, the studies have shown that the difference in resources in predominantly black to white schools accumulate a major difference in psychological health and educational experiences. Many individuals tend to overlook that systemic racism in the education system has long-term effects on black students in America. Many individuals today believe that all students receive equal education, a claim that has been proven false. It is a topic that people choose to disregard, which suggests that more research needs to be conducted. With my research, it is my intention to bring more awareness to this issue. My intention is to create a generalization for all predominantly black high schools in the United States and to possibly change policies in place regarding school funding.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone my name is Kennedy Wood. I’m a freshman at George Mason University on a Bio Pre-health track, and for my honors 110 research proposal, I’ve decided to assess the effect that systemic racism has on the graduation rates of predominantly black high schools. To get started I’ll provide a brief background of systemic racism seen in the United States. Systemic racism is structures or barriers put into place, embedded as normal practice, that serve as a disadvantage for African Americans. It was first seen and identified as segregation in the early 1800s. These laws dictated where black people could live, where they could work, public places they could go, and even schools they could attend. During this time, black schools had worse buildings, underpaid teachers, and less educational resources in general. In 1896, the case of Plessy versus Ferguson upheld segregation. This case lawfully developed a separate but equal society. This society was created because White Americans believed that Black Americans were not able to coexist. In 1964, with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, and with help from landmark civil rights case Browns vs Board of Education of 1954, segregation was ruled unconstitutional. So what are other scholars saying in response to the difference of education between Black and white students? From a sociological approach, with identifying an academic achievement gap between White and Black students, many scholars claim that the Brown vs Board of Education case was unsuccessful in dismantling systemic racism in the United States. From a psychological approach, many scholars have identified that systemic racism serves as a psychological stressor which hinders African Americans from being able to equitably compete with White Americans. From an educational approach, many scholars have identified that Black students are more likely to be placed with novice or less experienced teachers, with lower quality books, less classroom space, fewer laboratories, and less technology. Something that all the scholars acknowledge and recognize is that the differential educational experiences between Black and White students has led to an academic achievement gap, or in other words, a disparity in academic performance between these two racial groups. They also acknowledge that if systemic racism in the education system is not identified and eliminated, this academic achievement gap will continue to grow. I decided to conduct my study on the Henrico County Public School system located in Henrico County Virginia. I was motivated to choose a schooling system being that I was previously enrolled in it. This system contains nine high schools. I’ve listed them here from highest academic achievement to lowest levels of academic achievement. I’ve also identified whether they were predominantly White institutions or predominantly Black institutions. Being that all students should receive an equal education regardless of their circumstance, many individuals are beginning to inquire about the correlation between high-income neighborhoods and high levels of academic success-which brings us back to the 1896 issue of a separate but equal society. With all of this information in mind, it brings me to my working research question. My working research question is, does systemic racism in Henrico County Public School system affect the graduation rate of predominantly black high schools. With this proposal, I plan to look at the funding of schools in correlation with academic achievement. I plan to utilize an educational disciplinary approach along with a longitudinal study. With this study I will look at the academic achievement of schools with high levels of funding in comparison to schools with the lower levels of funding. I am extremely grateful to be able to share my research proposal with you all and I thank you all for your time.

3 replies on “The Effects of Systemic Racism on Predominantly Black High Schools”

This topic and your intro video is GREAT! I’m mixed (half-black, half-white) and I noticed this problem myself when I transferred from Henrico high school to Mills Godwin here in VA. I agree, it’s very topical and definitely a social issue worth looking more into. Really nicely done 🙂

Hi Kennedy! I love that you spoke about this topic as I think this is one of the sources of generational disadvantage that Black people fall victim to. In my opinion, systemic racism and its impact on the state of educational institutions where the students are predominantly Black is as if society is setting up Black people for failure, or at least trying to. Without proper supplies or funding, Black students that attend these schools are not as equipped for college which poses as yet another obstacle for them. I think it is critical to talk about this and I am glad you are looking into following the impact this issue has on academic achievement. I want to keep up with what you find in the future!

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